The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - Travel

St Pancras Renaissanc­e Hotel Gloriously gothic

Mark C O’Flaherty finds little to fault at this London classic – and takes a selfie on that staircase


The staff are lovely, with tailoring to match… My only gripe was the rumble of Tube trains below

Back in the mid-1990s, when I lived a louche, nocturnal existence mixing vinyl on twin turntables, I toured as the warm-up for DJ Barbie, a superstar of sorts at the time. She told me with amusement how she and a friend had been cast as dragged-up extras in a video for the debut single of a new girl group, being shot at the old Midland Grand Hotel. “No one will ever see it,” she said. “Money for old rope.”

Reader, she was wrong. That first appearance of the Spice Girls, dancing on the hotel’s gothic revival staircase, lodged in the public consciousn­ess an image of what is now the St Pancras Renaissanc­e Hotel. Since said hotel reopened in 2011, restored to the grandeur architect Sir Gilbert Scott first conceived, I have stayed numerous times and still can’t resist a photo on it.

The hotel itself has been the same landmark eye candy since guests first checked in 150 years ago, but the clientele is very different. When Wannabe echoed through the halls, the place was virtually derelict. Today, it has found a new beat. Marcus Wareing’s Gilbert Scott restaurant was put out of its misery a couple of years ago, and with an eye on a new scene, society Svengali Harry Handelsman – who owns the whole block – has opened the Gothic Bar and Midland Grand Dining Room. Where there used to be red leather and Victoriana, there are now rich velvets, textured glass and the patterns of a lavish Venetian palazzo. Parisian designer Hugo Toro created the spaces, which are as ravishing as his last project at the hotel, Booking Office 1869, one of the most beautiful restaurant­s in Europe.

After breakfast there, I spent a couple of hours in the basement spa. The changing rooms really need to be connected directly to the pool, and towels should be in abundance rather than rationed, but I had an hour-long Aromathera­py Associates facial which I’d recommend in a heartbeat. The pool itself – in an old steam room – is an architectu­ral oddity worth visiting for its weirdness alone. The tiling is highly decorative in brown and orange, recalling the 1970s. I love it. Few designers would sign off on this right now. There is barely any daylight, and the mood is unsettling. But then, the whole hotel is, in a way. The dwarfing proportion­s and haunted architectu­ral detail have a melancholi­c quality. As you stroll past vast oil paintings of ships wrestling with stormy seas, it feels as though you are as likely to see a phantom as you are a businesspe­rson.

I stayed in the huge Sir John Betjeman Suite, full of gorgeous Victorian detail and also giving you access to the Chambers Club one floor below (lovely for gratis wine after 5pm). My sole gripe was the rumble of the Tube trains below. But then, this is central London, and the hotel does provide ear plugs.

The cultural shift from sleaze to chic in this part of town is why Mr Handelsman is rolling the dice. The Midland Grand Dining Room is here to take a slice of the action that the Standard, directly opposite, has generated since opening in 2019. It is bringing a Mayfair/Marylebone vibe to NW1, quite different from its neighbour. Note that the Standard brand was created and sold on by André Balazs, Handelsman’s partner at Chiltern Firehouse when they launched it 10 years ago. The duo know how to create a buzz.

The staff at Midland Grand are lovely, with tailoring to match, and, refreshing­ly, no attitude. The crowd is a mix of wealthy LA types with dazzling dentistry and baseball caps, and It girls wearing Aläia. As for the food, chef Patrick Powell (an alumnus of Chiltern Firehouse) is bringing serious substance to the style. You need the comté gougères (cheese puff bites) in your life, followed by half a dozen juicy, creamy oysters, then snails with ’nduja and guanciale (that lush bit of pig cheek used for proper carbonara). The polenta with hake is as luxuriant as Robuchon’s 50/50 butter mash, and my vibrant orange trout with sorrel, smoked butter and vermouth beurre blanc felt as special as it did virtuous. You are talking £30 for a main, which for this level of cooking is as it should be. By the time you read this, either rave reviews will have generated a buzz, or London’s critics will have crucified it, as they are wont to do for click bait. Either way, these will be tough tables to get this summer – but worth it.

Doubles from £300, room only. Chambers Wing rooms from £600, including breakfast in the Chambers Club. There are 13 fully accessible rooms

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Room is sumptuous, with rich velvets, textured glass and patterns befitting a lavish Venetian palazzo
The Midland Grand Dining Room is sumptuous, with rich velvets, textured glass and patterns befitting a lavish Venetian palazzo

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