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Thursday, 9 May 2013

GNH Bar, King's Cross



Located in Cubitt’s elegant Victorian crescent, once grand, The Great Northern Hotel at King's Cross station had fallen on hard times when I first visited it aeons ago. My godmother had arranged to meet me there after I'd come off the Flying Scotsman from Edinburgh. A former Bluebell Girl, she wafted in, fashionably late, in a cloud of Sobranie smoke and Mitsouko, glamourous as ever in a vintage topaz shantung silk swing-back coat and colour-matched kid kitten heels. All Kim Novak chic, she looked seriously out of place in the terminally depressed, shabby hotel lounge. Over afternoon tea - all chipped cups, sad curled up sulphuric egg and salad cream sandwiches and Elastoplast pink stale fondant fancies nobody could remotely fancy - she reminisced how the place had been an elegant spot for brandy blazers with boyfriends back in her glamourous high-kicking prime. Fast forward to 2013, I'm invited back for the Great Northern's re-launch. After a £40 million refurbishment, is it really once again a hotel fit for a (similarly regenerated) major London railway terminus? Its £300+ per night rooms sure look smart; there's a handsome brasserie, Plum + Spilt Milk, and, at street level, a new lounge that reckons itself  ‘a railway bar without rival in Europe.’ Ah! Somebody send GNH's marketing bods an InterEurope Railcard! Compared to Alter Wartesaal at Cologne's main station, say, or all spell-binding gilded Belle Époque opulence, Le Train Bleu at Paris's Gare De Lyon - to name but two railway grandees that might contest their hubristic claim - faux Art deco, mirrored ceilings, glitzy glass chandeliers and twee drinks presentation feels slightly small town and passé - an impression not helped by (sweet)  staff in black cling mini-dresses looking like the girls backing  Robert Palmer in his iconic Addicted To Love video, and a housey soundtrack my style arbiter date describes as 'like the wrong bit of Ibiza... in 2003.' Cocktails such as Portobello gin Northern Sour, and Woodford Reserve cardamom and smoked pineapple stir, 1854, are fair enough at £9, but an off-menu request for something mezcal-based elicits 'what's mezcal?' in reply from one friendly amateur barman. As for the bar food, let's hope Mark Sargeant - drafted in to oversee it, I'm told - had no hand in lame launch night canapes. If you're King's Cross bound, drop in: anything is preferable to the catering on East Coast's trains but if you're looking for a London railway bar without rival, try the gorgeous Gilbert Scott at St. Pancras.
King’s Cross N1C 4TB 3388 0800 http://gnhlondon.com/