The past 10 months have been the most exciting in over a decade for the London luxury hospitality market, with spectacular re-openings of landmark luxury hotels such as The Savoy, Four Seasons on Park Lane, Corinthia and more recently, the Renaissance St Pancras.
With several unfortunate previous experiences in Marriott Hotels, I was a rather sceptical and reserved in my expectations. My perception of the Renaissance brand (part of the Marriott Group) as a ‘’standard’’ five star hotel was once again confirmed by a quick browse through the website of the St Pancras Renaissance, before my stay.
Upon my arrival, I was amazed to discover a most unique property. Reading through the press coverage of the much anticipated opening, I grasped on the importance of the history and architecture of the building which were highlighted in all materials, yet, I did not gather the grandeur of the building from the photos.
My stay at the St Pancras Renaissance was less than two weeks before the official re-opening of the hotel, on May 5th 2011, exactly 138 years since the historical part of the hotel was inaugurated as the Midland Grand Hotel, a legendary hotel which had a defining influence on luxury hotels, marked by several novelties which it introduced, such as first privately-owned building in the world to include ‘’hydraulic ascending chambers’’, or water driven lifts; toilets that flushed (unheard-of in hotels at the time, who relied on chamber pots); fireproof floors made up of thick concrete slabs; The Ladies’ Smoking Room, the first room in Europe in which women were allowed to smoke publicly; a unique electric bell to summon service; a system of tubes which allowed servants to communicate between themselves. The hotel’s main restaurant, the Booking Office also made history, with the widest selection of bespoke and seasonal cocktails, at the time, mixed drinking being most fashionable. The selection of wines has remained unique ever since, today, the wine list including the most unusual cuvees from undiscovered regions and mature classics from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhone, the latest Spanish wines from regions such as Bierzo or Costers del Segre and a wide selection of classic champagnes.
The historical part of the hotel, called The Chambers, has been meticulously restored to the smallest details, using the finest materials and craftsmen, in a lavish Victorian style with Gothic influences. The Chambers building has been perfectly blended with a modern section, which includes contemporary rooms, maintaining an impeccable synergy between old and new. The renovation and restoration works took almost 8 years and followed a long derelict period of the hotel, which was used as an office building for the national railway company.
Today, state of the art technology such as high speed wireless internet throughout the entire building, large LCD screens with a wide selection of TV / movie channels as well as an integrated lighting system are just some of the main modern features of the St Pancras Renaissance. Rooms feature Ren natural amenities, Italian cotton sateen linen, thick German made towels and fresh royal orchids flower arrangements.
Throughout my stay, I was most impressed by the energy and feel of the hotel, instilled by the St Pancras railway station, which is London’s international rail gateway, connecting the British capital with major European cities such as Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt etc. With the launch of the EuroStar London – Paris high speed train connection, St Pancras underwent major renovation works, which have maintained its historic architecture, many comparing it to a cathedral. The development of the retail section of the station, which includes a well balanced mix of various stores (fashion, books, souvenirs, cosmetics) and a generous selection of restaurants was key to recreating a stylish and comfortable space for international and national travellers, otherwise rarely seen in other capital cities in Europe, which have yet to develop a railway station of St Pancras’s calibre. I could see the excitement of a guest just arrived on EuroStar train from Paris who was able to check into such a grand luxury hotel, within steps from the tracks, right in the heart of London…
Among the original features of the hotel are: Gilbert Scott, Marcus Wareing’s second London restaurant, hist first being the two Michelin starred restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel, the Melogy barber salon by men’s grooming expert Carmelo Guastella and the hotel’s full time historian which provides tours of the hotel, including the residential unit.
Upon my check out, I could not help but wonder whether the choice of the owners for Marriott’s Renaissance brand will be pay off in the long term and whether the St Pancras will manage to improve the positioning of the chain worldwide. Or it could be that the hotel will have an outstanding performance regardless of the chain or brand it is attached to.
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