Great Northern, the re-birth of London’s first railway hotel – a new luxury lifestyle concept

When selected in 2009 to redevelop the Great Northern Hotel, a Grade II listed building, financier Jeremy Robson set out to fulfill a dream of his lifetime – to create a different concept of a luxury hotel, both ‘real and lasting value’. Beyond the extensive renovation and restoration works, Jeremy’s has also re-created a brand new luxury hospitality concept.

Driven by his ultimate goal to offer guests an enhanced luxury hotel experience based on simplicity, comfort, functionality and service, he succeeded not only in transforming London’s first railway hotel (originally opened in 1954) into revolutionary hospitality concept, by maintaining the heritage spirit of the hotel. The G.N.H. (the branding used throughout the hotel) will surely lead the way for other hotels – probably a chain but will surely provide inspiration to other hoteliers seeking to differentiate nowadays growingly similar hospitality offering.

Jeremy’s attention to detail has clearly been the secret to success – evident throughout the entire hotel: interior design, facilities and service. Archer Humphryes Architects (also developed the Sans Souci Hotel in Vienna worked with yoo Furnishings who delivered for G.N.H. hand-crafted, bespoke furniture, fixtures and fittings, for the bedrooms and public spaces of the hotel - all manufactured by traditional artisans and crafts people.

The location is ideal for train travellers both international and domestic – being virtually situated within the Kings Cross station and across the street from the St Pancras International (Eurostar). The Kings Cross Tube station is one of the main hubs of the city, the Piccadilly line taking you direct to Heathrow airport. Both stations have developed extensive dining and shopping spaces, with a wide selection of highstreet brands, including some premium – fashion, accessories, cosmetics etc.

Although the rooms feature some of the basics of a luxury standard hotel, they lack other essentials – extremely small closet space even for single use, no place to store luggage, no working space (the coffee table is very low). And I stayed in the largest type of room (Cubitt)…I wonder how a couple could manage the space of a Couchette room…. The featured luxury basics in all rooms, include a very comfortable bed with finest quality linen, impeccable sound-proofing, bathrobes and slippers, quality natural bathroom amenities) Nespresso coffee machine, generously sized walk-in shower, LCD Tv for the rooms. There are no suites.

The intention with the rooms, to evoke the romance of rail travel has not been entirely achieved, for two reasons: the decor of rooms is very sleek contemporary, dominated by bright colors and lighting in over half of the room inventory (the Cubit and Couchette types of rooms); the interior design of the rooms comes in rather sharp contrast with the lavishness and grandeur of the Bar and Restaurant. However, for a business traveller spending an overnight, rooms are perfect – no need to store much luggage and no need to work in the room and use the Bar or the Restaurant.

The beautiful details at the Great Northern Hotel – G.N.H.

Food & Beverage

Mark Sargeant (owner of The Rocksalt in Folkestone, Kent and formerly at Gordon Ramsey, Claridge’s) is overseeking the entire F&B of the hotel.

GNH Bar takes up almost the entire ground floor and opens directly into the new western concourse of King’s Cross Station and onto Pancras Road, featuring a unique take away ’Kiosk’ open onto the station.

The Pantry (open 24 hours) on each floor resembles a private home kitchen, with a complete kitchen set-up, offers guests a complimentary selection of home cooked snacks and drinks, daily newspapers and books and space to read/work.

Plum+Spilt Milk, the restaurant of the hotel, is truly impressive. Daylight streams into the stunning dining room through 17, three-metre floor to ceiling sash windows; a  total of 120 hand blown pendant lights create an ethereal atmosphere and the handmade furniture adds an air of understated sophistication. The menu has been created for breakfast, brunch and all day to evening dining – a la carte – with classic British and European dishes. (video preview)

Food is delicious! Breakfast includes incredible home made pastries and excellent sellection of fruits, not to mention the traditional English breakfast. Less than 3 months since opening, I found the restaurant full at dinner, with a mix of leisure and business travellers, hotel and non-hotel guests as well. Service is extremely efficient and staff are genuinely intuitive and attentive.

Branding the graphic identity for GNH was created by Caz Hildebrand and the team at Here, a multidisciplinary design studio in London Fields. Soar London fashion label created staff uniforms (tasteful smart casual with a young British twist) – I loved the cutler mix and plum painted plates in the main restaurant.

Technology Wi-Fi throughout the entire hotel(complimentary) of the highest speed (500 MB), complimentary music libraries and movies in all rooms, 40-inch flat screen HD Loewe TVs, Bose surround sound in the Bar and Restaurant, power sockets with USB chargers near each table at in both the restaurant and bar, as well as in the Pantry on each floor - encouraging guests to use their personal pads or laptops.

Music and FashionA global music consultancy working with boutique hotels and leading fashion houses, has curated and inspired the music which is an integral part of the G.N.H.’s distictive lifestyle experience . Guest Dj’s warm up the atmosphere at the GNH Bar is buzzing every evening.

Furniture and furnishings: All of the furniture and furnishings are bespoke with items sourced from artisan producers for their exceptional quality and story including Fratelli Boffi  and Rothschild & Bickers. Bathroom fittings are by Lefroy Brookes. Benchmark provided furniture for the guest rooms to designs by Archer Humphryes Architects.

A comprehensive dedicated photo gallery is available on our Facebook page.

Oliver Petcu in London