My family moved to London from New York with the intent to stay two years for my husband’s career. Well, it’s been three years and we’ve fallen in love with this dynamic, vibrant city. Since we never know when we may leave, we live like tourists and our extended time here has allowed us a level of expertise visitors rarely achieve. The goal of this new column is to share our best discoveries with the Luxury Travel Advisor community. Please feel free to email me any comments or questions about London on twitter at https://twitter.com/em_goldfischer or [email protected].
King’s Cross. Have you rushed by this area en route to the Eurostar? Until recently, London cabbies wouldn’t even drive through as it was rampant with drugs, prostitutes and crime. Thanks to a two billion pound investment, King's Cross is the largest urban redevelopment in Europe with 50 new buildings, 20 new streets, 10 new public squares (including the biggest public square since Trafalgar Square in 1845). It won’t be complete until 2016—when Google will be relocating their headquarters— so expect construction, but don’t let that keep you away!
As a historic hub for both domestic and international travel, King’s Cross is well positioned for stays of a night or two as you can get everywhere with ease.
Connected to King’s Cross station, the Great Northern Hotel considered the first “great railway hotel” when it opened in 1854 has just been reborn after a five-year renovation, retaining all the glamour and grace of Victorian masterbuilder Lewis Cubitt’s curved original. Intimate with just 91 rooms, we love the classy, contemporary interiors and floor to ceiling windows. Across the street, connected to the St. Pancras station, is the Gothic style former Midland Grand Hotel designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, which reopened as a Marriott Renaissance in 2011. When it opened in 1873 the hotel was the most expensive of its time and it’s been refurbished at a cost of nearly £200 million. No detail has been overlooked, from the 173 individually hand-carved diamonds in the wood paneling in the bar to the gold leaf wallpaper in the suites. The space is of such historic significance they offer 90 minute guided tours daily for £20 (booking essential). The 245 room five-star property now feels like two hotels in one—38 amazing historic suites with butler service and the rest standard Renaissance guestrooms. All guests have access to fabulous public spaces, pool and spa, delicious food by Marcus Wareing.
A blazing dining scene is the main draw to King’s Cross. Behind the 1,000 colorfully-lit choreographed fountains in Granary Square is the Grain Store. Fresh off his success with Zetter Townhouse in east London, Chef Bruno Loubet along with cocktail master Tony Conigliaro have created an energetic space around a large, open kitchen with a long bar that spills onto the square for alfresco fun (weather permitting). Vegetables are the star of the show, from cocktails (we loved the earthy Pumpkin Bellini)—to starters and mains, most of which are made for sharing. The sprouting bean and seed salad with miso dressing came with a light and crunchy sheet of paper-thin, pressed baked potato, possibly the first healthy potato chip? The proteins are also out of the ordinary with delicate quail and rich duck heart on offer when we visited. To finish: a white chocolate rice crispy that came with indulgent dark chocolate mousse and almond ice cream. Needless to say, we’ll be back soon to try breakfast or lunch. Next door is the equally impressive Caravan, another all-day dining option in a big, industrial space great for people watching. The original Caravan café is in foodie hotspot Exmouth Market, so at this larger branch you’ll find their own roast coffee, artisanal cheeses and homemade pizzas topped with toppings like chili-roasted butternut squash and feta or anchovy, fennel and marscapone.
Regent’s Canal runs through the area and alongside during lunch Tuesdays through Fridays is the “curated” street food market KERB. Choose from a selection of mobile vendors. On our recent visit, we found foods ranging from hand tossed Biang Biang noodles with spicy pork belly or braised lamb shoulder at Mama Wangs to hand-brewed tea and light, airy crumpets at Good and Proper Tea.
Who’s eating all this food? The area is the new home of renowned Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, so it’s teaming with hip, attractive students; intellectuals from The Guardian newspaper (also headquartered here); plus the residents of 2,000 new apartments and houses that are part of this emerging development.
What to do besides eating? Check out the British Library to see the Magna Carta (1215) and Shakespeare's First Folio, or head over to the main location of cutting-edge Gagosian Gallery. Plus there are regular events and festivals along the canal and nearly 30 acres of redeveloped parkland.
See you at the Cross. From London with love, xx