Hotel Review: Great Northern Hotel

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Good Things editor Zoe Perrett revels in vintage glamour and stellar modern British food at London’s Great Northern Hotel

With dinner booked at Plum + Spilt milk in just a couple of hours, we equally curse and celebrate the proximity of our room to the pantry the Great Northern Hotel has located on every floor.

Open to all guests, this pleasure room offers not only tea and coffee making facilities but also home-made cake, Tunnock’s teacakes, and nostalgic confectionary – i.e., all the things those looking to keep appetites intact should avoid like the plague.

But we’re #eventprofs and so, with wistful backward glances at an ornate glass jar of Jelly Babies and only a few rogue lemon sherbets making it into LB’s increasingly-sticky palm, we retreat to our room… only to find a tray of macarons and truffles lying in wait alongside a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Dream decor

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Hoping that out of sight really is out of mind, I stash them in the fridge and busy myself admiring the decor. Named for the hotel’s master builder, our Cubitt room is smartly decked out in olive green and cream, with vintage glam leather-and-walnut furnishings and a fancy cut glass mirror above the kind-sized Hypnos bed. It’s handsome rather than whimsical; if it were a woman, it’d be the kind who favours a well-cut suit over a dress.

One can only covet the furnishings for so long, so eventually I succumb to watching part of the film LB has selected from the Great Northern Hotel’s extensive and complimentary library – Baywatch. He obviously needs a break from the non-stop glamour.

With the hypothetical dinner gong about to strike, though, that break can’t last too long. Washed and brushed up and suitably attired, we descend to the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Plum + Spilt Milk, where the menu is overseen by Mark Sargeant.

Winner dinner
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The dining room’s a stunner, all old-school railway chic, the centrepiece provided by a medley of hand-blown glass filament bulbs suspended at various heights. During the day, floor-to-ceiling windows flood the room with light; in the evening, they afford harried commuters a glimpse into a world they’d far rather be a part of than the 18.27 to Luton.

We debate which room of the Big House we’ll surely one day possess will be best suited to the attractive petrol shade of a wall littered with ornate picture frames, before remembering all the sweet treats we’ve passed up and the fact we’re starving. Then our attentions turn to the menu.

An all-day, seasonally-changing modern British affair, this impressive document deserves one’s full concentration. It’s a ‘would eat’ from start to finish but, alas, we must narrow our selections.

Thus, LB commences with a crispy duck salad – a dish upon which he casts his judgement of all restaurants which serve it. The verdict? The best one yet – featuring cucumber, spring onion, jammy poached plums and, critically, moist meat.

For me, the comfort dish to end all comfort dishes: creamed smoked haddock with hollandaise and a runny-yolked poached hen’s egg. Resembling a crusty-topped ultimate fish pie, it’s supremely rich and I’m thankful for its diminutive stature. Any larger and that’d be my dinner all done.

But as it goes, I’ve ample room to do my 280g Mey Selections ribeye steak. The medium-rare meat is flavoursome on its own, but a dousing of smoked garlic and parsley butter certainly does no harm (well, perhaps to the arteries…), and nor does a good sluice of deeply umami blue cheese and whisky sauce.

LB’s main is just as meaty but a little more Middle Eastern – a pair of pink lamb cutlets with a spiced lamb croquette, a slick of smoked aubergine puree and a dollop of garlic yoghurt. Choosing from beef dripping chips or rosemary fries is impossible, so we plead equal opportunities and order both, plus a garden salad and some hispi cabbage that don’t just assuage guilt but also taste good.

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It’d be churlish to eschew the restaurant’s eponymous dessert, so we order ‘Plum + Spilt Milk’ and are rewarded with a trifle-like assembly of plum compote, vanilla cream and cinnamon dusted toasted brioche. For LB, it’s the clearly-Snickers-inspired ‘iced peanut and salted caramel mousse’ – a dark chocolate-topped ingot whose sweetness defeats both of us in the end.

It’s late and the dining room has gone from bustling to ‘we’d really like to clean down for the night but we’re far too polite to ask you to leave’. But we can take a hint even before there’s a hint of one, so we take our leave and retire for the evening – succumbing only a single (very good) truffle apiece before bed.

The brunch bunch
Brunch is a zeitgeist it seems will never come to an end, but few places do it so well as Plum + Spilt Milk. Again, the restaurant’s morning menu closely resembles a bucket list of things you’d like to eat before kicking the proverbial, and the food it delivers is every bit as good as the previous night’s dinner.

A plateful of smoked free-range bacon, Paddock farm sausages, chunks of Stornaway black pudding, and poached eggs from the delightfully-named Cackleberry Farm sets us up for our arduous post-checkout journey very nicely indeed. If only sitting in a car burned a few more calories…

Make it happen
Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, London N1C 4TB
For more information and to book, click here

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