One of the country’s great railway hotels, long derelict but reopened in 2011 and thriving since, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel still exudes the same decadent luxury it was built to represent in 1872. Its spa, housed underground in the former steam kitchens, is perfect for unwinding pre- or post-Eurostar.
When you’re feeling less wholesome, roll into the Booking Office bar for wining and dining in atmospheric style. This is also still known as the setting for the Spice Girls’ Wannabe video, so watch out for — or join in with — the other guests taking selfies on the staircase.
The hotel towers over St Pancras International railway station, with direct access to the platforms so it’s especially convenient for a pre- or post-Eurostar stopover. Domestic trains go from adjacent King’s Cross, and the Underground connects you to the Victoria, Northern and Piccadilly Lines.
The British Library is just next door, should you fancy some culture post-pampering. You’d never know, once immersed in subterranean tranquillity in the spa, that the traffic of busy Euston Road was thundering overhead — though it can be heard from rooms.
The hotel’s Sir John Betjeman Suite CREDIT: BEN DUFFY
This neo-gothic masterpiece wows from inside as well as out. The busy lobby gives a real sense of place with its red-brick walls and industrial-glam glass roof, and is dotted with indoor trees and dramatic flower displays. Among the hotel’s most impressive features is its famous imperial Grand Staircase, a real sight to behold.
It snakes up multiple floors and is covered in intricately patterned carpet and backed by fleur de lis wallpaper; crowning this atrium is an extravagant ceiling reminiscent of a starry night sky. Décor in rooms is less impressive, with inoffensive colour palettes and some glitzy touches in velvet scatter cushions and elaborate mirrors. Marble bathrooms are stocked with full-sized REN products; a nice touch.
The spa’s pool CREDIT: BEN DUFFY
The spa is housed in the hotel’s original steam kitchens and, despite being underground, feels like a cocooning retreat rather than claustrophobic. The beautiful Moorish-style tiles covering the walls set the tone, alcoves house suitably stylish literature which can be read while lounging. The mosaic-tiled central pool is midnight blue.
Seating (in the form of coloured-wicker cushioned pods) is also tucked away and so there is a reasonable feeling of privacy, though the overall space isn’t huge and can be very echoey. The relaxation room has more of a pared-back, south-east Asian style, with low wooden beds, orchids and herbal teas and snacks on offer.
Spa facilities 6/10
The pool (which isn’t long enough to swim laps in) is kept between 31 and 33 degrees and houses a whirlpool and bubble beds, though unfortunately during my visit it felt colder than this and so wasn’t a space in which it felt comfortable to linger.
The steam room is enhanced by herbal scents and a pretty, twinkly-lit ceiling; saunas are found in the changing rooms. There is also a gym. This is very much an urban spa in that facilities do not extend to multiple pools or rooms; it’s more suited to a morning or afternoon session (treatment with a few hours’ use of facilities) than a visit spread over a full day.
The spa’s relaxation area CREDIT: BEN DUFFY
The treatments 7/10
There are five treatment rooms, including one couple’s suite. Packages and themed «journeys», including English Garden, Inner Strength and Indonesia offer a combination of treatments if you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.
I began my 60-minute Ultimate Aromatherapy «hero» massage by choosing from three Aromatherapy Associates oils — relaxing, soothing or energising. I opted for the first, a comforting blend of lavender and frankincense. My therapist worked on my upper back, arms and legs, with attention paid to hands, feet and scalp.
Temperature and pressure were checked to maximise comfort. I came close to drifting off to sleep a few times, which I always think is a good sign during massages; this is a treatment more designed to de-stress than do any hardcore muscle work.
The Booking Office CREDIT: ©J FILIPE WIENS 2017
Food & drink 8/10
Although it contradicts the preferred post-treatment advice, a cocktail in the grand Booking Office bar, which used to be the King’s Cross ticket office, is a must here. The Gilbert Scott restaurant offers more formal dining, but the Booking Office has a varied and extensive menu that includes creative mains such as roasted wood grouse with buttermilk mash, coffee, vanilla, chicory and hazelnuts, and classic dishes — steak, burgers, fish and chips and the like.
Breakfast is also served here (£19 continental; £26 full). The impressive buffet includes perfect pastries, homemade granola, a tempting selection of cheeses, a Middle Eastern section with hummus, halloumi and more, and the thoughtful addition of turkey sausages and bacon to the hot selection. Pancakes, kedgeree and eggs royale are also available to order at additional cost.
Station views from a junior suite CREDIT: ©J FILIPE WIENS 2017
Favourite thing: The set-up of having a couple’s suite, as opposed to a specific couple’s massage, means you can mix and match treatments if you’re with a partner.
Could be better: Signs encouraging quietness in the main spa area would enhance the atmosphere, as hotel guests simply coming to use the pool can disturb the peace.
Double rooms at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel (020 7841 3540) cost from £199; junior suites from £295, both year-round. Facials from £105; massages from £70. Ultimate Aromatherapy massage from £105