Staggering from the Eurostar with a quantity of French cheese and a sourdough loaf the size and weight of a well-fed baby we are no way ready, mentally or physically, to deal with the rigours of the return journey to Cambridge. Rather like returning astronauts needing decompression time we too need a period of assimilation back into Blighty after a Paris trip.
So with malodorous plastic bags and wheely case in tow we think to belly up to the 'Booking Office Bar' at the spanking new St Pancras Renaissance hotel. Not so easy, my friends. A welter of smart, smilingly efficient staff descend upon us blocking our path: "would sir and madam like to leave your case and the uh plastic bags in the cloakroom?"; "no, I'm afraid there is nowhere to sit just now"; "yes, you can stand at the bar, if you like"; "yes, I'm afraid it is rather busy". Anywhere else we would have thought, "sod this, let's go to the pub", but the space is beautiful and I do want to have a nosey around the refurb.
The bar is built around Victorian ticket booths (I'm presuming this is an original feature), the brickwork, soaring ceilings, windows and doors all point to a very sensitive restoration and like all good restorations it has retained the essence of the past. I somehow sense an echo of the hubbub and air of expectation of a busy booking office in the late 1800s in the general hum and excitement that surrounds a new opening. I trot to the ladies and catch a few glimpses of other public rooms; the hotel is not officially open but it certainly looks stylish, high-spec and gracious. The original Victorian hotel, apparently, had only 3 bathrooms for about 200 rooms ... ewww... Not so here, I imagine all rooms in this 5-star hotel are en-suited up to the eyeballs.
On my return to the bar, Geoffrey, the attentive and observant bartender has found us bar stools and some light and sparkling wine along with some crunchy things in a miniature silver pail. There's much attention to detail here, the nod to the past is subtly and tastefully executed, there is no Little Dorrit tea room, Magwitch Mead or naff cocktails named after eminent Victorians.
Ah well, back to to reality, we board the 8.15 to Cambridge and behold there are at least 3 people eating Mcdonald's, the smell is overpowering and nauseating, but when it comes to olfactory weapons we have nuclear capability. The neck of the plastic bag opens...we unleash the époisses.
See our review of the Gilbert Scott Brasserie, Macus Wareing's new restaurant now open in the St Pancras Hotel complex here: