Arrival/Check-in: After an all-night flight to London, we zipped over to Paddington Station on the Heathrow Express, where we hailed a black taxi. Within 10 minutes, we were outside one of the most spectacular buildings in the city. On the quiet Sunday morning when we arrived, a gentleman in a jacket and tall hat stood outside ready to welcome us. I almost wished he was not so helpful, since I needed a moment to take in the beauty of the exterior, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1873. The block-long building is one of London’s most romantic landmarks.
Natural light from the glass ceiling and arched windows pours into the huge space of the hotel’s lobby, changing the color of the iron work from pale blue to a purple hue depending upon the time of day. At check-in, we were not surprised to find our room unavailable at 7:30 a.m. The staff expressed concern and began searching the computer for another room. They took our cell phone number and assured us they would ring as soon as something became available. While they worked on the arrangements, we slipped into the restaurant for coffee. In less than an hour, our room was ready. (30/30)
Guest Quarters: Our third-floor Chambers Suite is one of only 38 guestrooms housed in the original hotel space. Before reaching our room, we passed the stunning grand staircase, restored to its 1901 splendor with a domed ceiling and walls covered with gold fleur-de-lis patterns. The spacious suite with a king-sized bed had a tall ceiling with detailed crown molding, a non-working fireplace and expansive windows that looked out onto the exterior of St. Pancras. The ample desk included several outlets to accommodate American or European electric devices. A coffee/tea service, television with several international channels, bathrobe and safe completed the amenities. An especially nice feature was the wardrobe with a motion-activated light and a full-length mirror. (29/30)
Services/Amenities: Our stay at the hotel was a few weeks prior to its grand opening, so the spa was not yet operational. The fitness center has cardio and free weight equipment. Dining options include the Booking Office Bar and Restaurant inside the original ticketing office, and the ground-floor executive Chambers Club, serving drinks and light meals throughout the day. Chef Marcus Wareing’s new restaurant — the Gilbert Scott — completes the dining options. Ever patient and thorough, the concierge assisted us with directions and taxis every day. He discovered in advance that Windsor Castle was closed on the day we planned to visit, preventing us from being disappointed.
Hotel historian Royden Stock conducts informative and entertaining 90-minute tours of the property. We learned that the Spice Girls shot the “Wannabe” video on the steps of the grand staircase and that the Ladies Smoking Room was the first public area in the country to allow women to smoke. The completely restored room has two marble fireplaces, granite columns and magnificent views. (39/40)
The Experience: It’s hard to believe that this Gothic Revival masterpiece was nearly destroyed in the 1960s because it was considered an “old-fashioned eyesore.” The hotel’s grandeur is timeless.
Total Score: 98/100
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London
London NW1 2AR, U.K.
tel 44 207 841 3540
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