When I lived in London, back at the turn of the century, I would go to Kings Cross for two reasons and two reasons alone. To dance at Fiction in a rather memorable club called The Cross or to catch a train. And even then I’d get in and I’d get out; there’d be no hanging around London’s Kings Cross for the fun of it.
Oh how things have changed. On my most recent visit to Kings Cross I not only loved what the area had become, but I stayed in a hotel I adored and never wanted to leave.
Since planning permission was granted in 2006, Kings Cross has been going through a transformation, from industrial wasteland to a vibrant London hot spot.
They now have 20 new streets, 10 new squares and a long list of new and refurbished office buildings, including Google’s new London headquarters.
Kings Cross railway station is so beautiful following its £550m redevelopment a couple of years ago it literally stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it. I just looked up and muttered something like ‘wow’. Or possibly ‘oooh’.
And then there’s the Great Northern Hotel.
The Great Northern Hotel originally opened back in 1854, but last year a very different GNH opened its doors to guests for the first time following a four year, £42m redevelopment.
The new hotel is filled with design touches that celebrate the romance of rail, including a public area between the GNH Bar and the bathrooms with a curved ceiling and leather seats that feels like you’re stepping into a vintage train, and gorgeous side tables in the rooms which are based on vintage women’s vanity cases.
The GNH’s restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk is named after the livery of the Flying Scotsman’s dining carriage, the oldest dining car in the world. As well as enjoying a delicious breakfast I met a London friend at Plum + Spilt Milk for lunch and we soon decided this would be the perfect place to meet people for a meal before hopping on one of the intercity trains in Kings Cross, or on the Eurostar just over the road at St Pancras.
Having seen the entertainment selection in my gorgeous Cubitt room I also knew The Great Northern would be a great spot to collapse after arriving in London. With more than 70 free movies on offer including new releases, classics and adult films for those so inclined, it would be easy to curl up with room service and just chill with a film.
And then there’s one of my favourite touches: The Pantry.
Located at the end of each hall, the pantry has a coffee machine, a range of Tea Pigs Teas, big jars of tempting treats like Tunnocks, Wagon Wheels, lollies, and fresh cakes which seem to magically appear during the day.
Each level has their own supply, and there are no pantry raids in this hotel as your room key only gives you access to your floor, and thus your pantry.
After having dinner at nearby Shrimpys with friends I gave them a little tour of my room and this special spot at the end of the hall. The next morning I woke up to a text from them saying how they had Pantry Envy. At home in Sydney I felt the same.
Being a tea drinker, my only criticism is that while the rooms have individual coffee machines there’s no kettle or tea making facilities. Mind you, it was kind of fun to pop on a robe and potter to the end of the hall to get my tea from the pantry, but I was the only person there at the time. It may have been less fun for anyone who saw me fresh out of bed before my first cuppa. And I may not have made the best pre-breakfast dietary decision when I found the cake there.
Although I could easily have become one of those people who just decide to live in a hotel and stayed at The Great Northern for years to come, there were places to go and people to see so I had to check out and move on.
Around 150,000 people a day go through Kings Cross Station, and as I walked out into the hustle and bustle to join them I said farewell to the Great Northern but not goodbye. I have a feeling I’ll be back there again someday soon.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of the Great Northern Hotel and Visit Britain and travelled with assistance from Virgin Atlantic, but as usual all thoughts and opinions are her own.