Moving to London is a dream come true when you realize that some of the world’s greatest treasures are right in your backyard. Yesterday, I started chronicling the history of one such treasure that is among the most beloved of structures in London, St. Pancras (see “Moving to London – The Preservation of St. Pancras (Part 1)“). Whatever neighborhood your London Relocation agent takes you to for searching for London apartment rentals, you’ll likely end up close to a tube station that can ultimately connect you to Kings Cross, a major hub of Underground and Overground rail transport. Well, Kings Cross is right next door to St. Pancras, so you can access its international rail station for high-speed UK trains or the Eurostar to Paris via a pedway. This classy and enormous brick rail station also houses dozens upon dozens of places to eat, drink, and shop. I, however, simply love to visit St. Pancras for its atmospheric Renaissance Hotel.
Originally the Midland Grand Hotel from the 1870s to 1935, today’s Renaissance owes both its internal and external stately grandeur to designer Sir George Gilbert Scott. He went out of his way to allow as much natural light in as possible by giving the rooms large windows, Gothic fanlights above the doors, and arched stairwells. Arguably the grandest staircase in England is the aptly named, “Grand Staircase.” (Tip: take the elevator to the third floor to get an amazing vantage of the staircase from above and walk down the steps from there to really feel like royalty!) This stairwell and the hallways are notably wide to allow for two women in wide dresses to pass through side-by-side. And when you gaze upward at the vaulted ceilings throughout this impressive structure, it’s no wonder that Scott had helped to design hundreds of Britain’s churches and cathedrals.
Among the lavish Victorian decor are intricately painted ceilings, grand fireplaces, carved stone, and limestone and granite pillars. This site has hosted the likes of Johnnie Walker (yes, as in the Scotch), Commodore Vanderbilt, inventor/industrialist George Pullman, and Jesse Boot (as in the Boots pharmacy stores found on every high street today—for Americans moving to London, Boots is the UK equivalent of Walgreens). Places where you can sit and take in the wondrous eye candy are the hotel’s sweeping lobby (furnished with seating where you can order a beverage), the Booking Office Bar (serving Victorian cocktails, light bites and meals and with direct access to the international rail platforms), and The Gilbert Scott restaurant and bar.
The Gilbert Scott restaurant is run by celebrity chef Marcus Wareing and exists in the space of the original exotic Coffee Room. The Bar at The Gilbert Scott occupies the former original entrance to the Midland Grand Hotel where one of the first revolving doors was ever installed in the UK (provided by the actual inventor of the revolving door, Theophilus Van Kannel, in 1899). This is where I hung out Thursday night with fellow expats who moved from the US, and in addition to a fine wine and cocktail selection, we were enchanted by the colorful patterns painted on the ceiling and large-scale bell chandeliers. It truly transports you into a glamorous, romantic past, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for a pleasurable day or evening out after your relocation to London.