I’ve previously glanced at the clock tower of St Pancras to check the time, but never from the bath. However, here I find myself on the terrace of my eighth-floor accommodation at The Standard, London, submerging into the bubbles and gazing at its intricate spire as it ascends into a gray city morning. I’m optimistic that if anyone is lodging across the street (you can now rent an apartment inside the clock tower), they haven’t awakened yet. Nonetheless, a touch of exhibitionism is undeniably in line with the style of this new hotel. It’s a bit mischievous.
This marks the inaugural UK outpost for the US chain The Standard, which already boasts hotels in New York, downtown Los Angeles, Miami Beach, and Hollywood. And what a location it has chosen. Beyond the gothic embellishments of St Pancras, the vistas extend to the Shard, St Paul’s, and the London Eye. Euston Road bustles below, and you can discreetly observe people’s gardens.
Constructed in 1974, the building once housed Camden council when King’s Cross wasn’t the coveted office locale it is today. It was, as Amar Lalvani, CEO of The Standard, describes it, “a brutalist finger to the Victorian pretensions of St Pancras.” Dubbed “Nelly the white elephant,” it wasn’t particularly cherished.
You may have walked past it without a second glance. Now, it’s impossible to ignore. A vibrant red exterior lift enlivens the concrete, and three steel and glass floors have been added to the top, granting the squat block more prominence and room for terraced rooms with views. By September, the lift will whisk visitors to the 10th-floor bar and restaurant, helmed by Bristol chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. If it matches the allure of the Top of the Standard, the elevated bar in the chain’s New York High Line hotel, it promises to be a delight.
Internally, Shawn Hausman, the interior designer behind all The Standard locations, has had a playful approach. Relocating to London for the project, he drew inspiration from the Underground’s primary palette. From the moment you step in, it feels like you’ve stepped into an Austin Powers movie, with retro accents everywhere. The lifts feature a control pad that might make you feel like you’re about to push the nuclear button, while blankets from the British studio Wallace Sewell pay homage to the Tube’s upholstery.
They’ve embraced the original coffered ceilings, and the custom-made windows miraculously keep out the traffic noise. If you desire the clamor of screeching buses, you can open them—an uncommon feature in city hotels. The curved corners of the windows create a sensation of being on a ferry, heightened by the dizzying carpets in the corridors.
My room is situated in the new section of the building on the upper floors, and it’s expansive. The bed is equally so. For once, there are no accusations of duvet-hogging from Rob, my partner. There’s a well-stocked wooden bar trolley—useful if you need a bit of courage to bathe outdoors.
Fortunately, it’s challenging to pilfer the taps, as guests might be tempted. I especially appreciate the yellow one in the ground-floor bathroom near the gym, where a collection of old exercise videos, including “The Bicep Bombshell” by Tonya Knight, is sure to get you motivated.
There are single rooms and windowless rooms—more snug than claustrophobic, with tubs of ferns in the shower room. The ground floor effortlessly combines trendiness with a welcoming, stylish, and comfortable ambiance, entirely interconnected. The Library Lounge, a nod to the building’s former library, houses bookcases arranged in opposing pairs—hope and darkness, order and chaos, romance and… tech, featuring everything from Betty Shine’s “Mind Magic” to “Principles of Refrigeration.” Lalvani describes it as the “living room you wish you had.” He’s right; I do. If you wish to settle in and delve into the intricacies of thermal conductivity over a ginger fizz (€12), now’s your opportunity.
Dining is a moveable feast, with various options available. There’s an all-day menu in the Library Lounge, the glamorous Double Standard bar and diner, Isla—the healthier but by no means formal restaurant—and the courtyard garden. For me, the prime spot is at the corner window of Double Standard, where you can observe the world and its wheelie suitcases pass by while enjoying fried chicken bites (€7). With red lacquer, mirrors, and a palm tree growing out of the bar, this is destined to be an instant Instagram hit and a lively venue. The Library Lounge boasts a performance space where, during my stay, trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi had everyone on their feet.
The lighting exudes glitzy gloom—perfect for romantic rendezvous. The menu at Isla (more imaginative than Double Standard’s) is designed for sharing. We sample zesty crab with samphire, a salty sea kale Caesar salad, and Iberico pork (dishes from €8, sides from €6). The staff are all smiles and attentive to the point of refilling your water glass after each sip. But it’s early days, and everyone will likely settle into it.
At brunch the following morning, American favorites such as jalapeño cornbread (quite spicy first thing), french-toast bites, and duck-egg hash are on offer. I spot someone ordering the superfood salad, but no one dares take on the bloody-mary burger. The real partying evidently has yet to commence.
Michael Trajan was a guest of The Standard, London, where doubles start at €230.