For those who have been reading awhile, you’ll know I love trying new things. If you’re new here – I love trying new things *smile*. It’s what I enjoy most about London and what makes the city so special. There is always something to discover, whether it be a new food market, latest pop-up, show, or event.
Needless to say, when I was invited to experience London and Paris with Renaissance Hotels to celebrate their fourth annual Global Day of Discovery, I was pretty excited. Combine my love of travel and new experiences – I’m there.
The Global Day of Discovery is an initiative set up by Renaissance Hotels, to help inspire travellers to explore the local culture and quirks in different ways. They’re passionate about giving guests a truly authentic experience when visiting a destination.
Arriving at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, I stood outside and marvelled at the scale of the hotel and it’s beautiful, Victorian Gothic architecture. No doubt about it, this is one spectacular hotel that deserves every bit of awe and admiration.
Originally opened as Midland Grand Hotel by Queen Victoria in 1873, it closed in 1935 before being used as railway offices for many years. In the 1960’s it was set for demolition, luckily it was petitioned and given a Grade 1 heritage status.
What a shame it would have been to lose such a striking landmark! The building has gone through years of restoration and refurbishment to become the luxury, 5-star hotel that stands today.
You’re right in thinking it looks like something out of Harry Potter – it was used in two of the films, as well as quite a few other well known movies and television series.
Walking through the entrance, a sense of calm instantly came over me after the hustle and bustle of rush hour commuters at Kings Cross. Natural light streamed in along the length of the atrium through a high glass ceiling making me feel like I was still outdoors rather than in a hotel reception area.
I later learned that this was actually where the drivers of horse-drawn carriages used to pull up, dropping passengers off at the station. An interesting history fact that made sense of the indoor/outdoor feel.
A beautiful sweet, floral and wooden scent filled the air, while guests scattered around tables in the foyer were busy typing away on their laptops and finishing up meetings for the day. No doubt hurrying to get to the adjourning hotel bar!
After checking in and being led to my room, the view on the other side of the door took me by pleasant surprise.
Awaiting was a spacious, open-plan suite with its own lounge area, fireplace, separate office space tucked around the corner and my favourite, a gigantic marshmallow bed. It was so big, it was nearly possible to get lost amongst the plush, squishy pillows.
There’s nothing I love more than melting into a comfortable, oversized bed with luxurious bedding at a hotel and the St. Pancras Renaissance certainly delivered and exceeded all expectations.
After a quick freshen up, it was time to meet for canapés in the Booking Office Bar & Restaurant. Another impressive space in the hotel, it is actually what used to be the ticket hall of the original station. Behind the 29m-long bar, glass panes protect the detailed woodwork of the old ticket booth windows.
A very grand spot to perch for an evening cocktail, or two.
After all the introductions were made, we toasted to the evening while plate after plate of mouth watering food kept being brought out and placed in front of us.
Flat bread topped with melted cheese, vine ripened tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, rocket and shaved parmesan.
Mini burger sliders with wagyu beef, crisp lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomato and smoked bacon relish.
Grilled chicken and garden leaf salad with mixed lettuce, shaved cucumber, carrot and pomegranate, but…
…The star of the show for me were the delicious confit pork croquettes served accompanied with an apple mayonnaise. Perfectly golden and crispy on the outside, the tender pulled pork inside was soft and flavourful.
While we were nibbling away, one of the barmen came over to make us our own sharing bowl of punch in the centre of the table.
While he went about mixing, he enthusiastically explained the history behind the opening of the original railway hotel, Midland Grand and the popular punch culture at the time during London’s Victorian era. Honouring the building’s past and flavours of that period, it’s a tradition that the St. Pancras Renaissance is reviving, right down to details like the hand-made copper bowls.
Old school becoming new school?
He certainly wasn’t shy with quantities as bottle after bottle of cherry liqueur, orange liqueur, brandy and champagne were poured in.
And made sure every last drop was added.
Ladled into our cups, it tasted delicious, but certainly did pack a punch!
With our bellies full and thirsts quenched, the evening still wasn’t quite over and there was one more event lined up for our group.
Waiting to be picked up to be taken to our next location for the evening, I couldn’t help myself and had to get a photo in the hotel’s brightly painted tuk-tuk. Fond memories of past holidays in Thailand came rushing back sitting at the entrance.
As we pulled up outside Carousel in Marylebone, the last surprise we discovered was a secret Sofar sounds music gig. Holding intimate gigs in over 100 cities worldwide, they’re hard to get tickets to due to limited ticket capacity because of venue size and popularity.
When you apply, you don’t find out if you have been lucky enough to secure a ticket until a week before the gig and you have no idea of venue, or who you will be seeing until a couple of days prior.
Performed in all sorts of spaces from bars to people’s living rooms, the aim is to bring the best new music to intimate and unusual venues to a dedicated audience.
Following the staircase underground, we came to an open concrete room where film and light crews were setting up for the first act of the evening. The vibe was laid back and the crowd was varied, but everyone was there for the sole purpose of enjoying good music by talented musicians.
We saw four acts, Ella Martini, Orlando Seale & the Swell, the energetic Andreya Triana, and Halfpenny Pass who each played a short set of several songs. If you’re passionate about music, sign up and get yourself along to one of these gigs.
As we pulled back into the hotel’s entrance after our outing, the facade lit against the dark night sky welcomed us back and I happily retired to my suite, flopped into my marshmellow bed and spread like a starfish and drifted into a peaceful sleep ready for the following day’s trip to Paris.
I was a guest of Renaissance Hotels, the hotel brand helping people all over the world Live Life to Discover. All excursions were planned by the hotels’ Navigators, who are dedicated experts in suggesting different activities and booking exclusive events for guests.