Where to eat out in London?

Friday, December 18 2009

Charing Cross Hotel. Photo © Guoman Hotels.

(Click picture to go to hotel website.)

The Winter holiday is traditionally celebrated with feasting. So if you wanted to eat in a good restaurant with a railway theme, which London railway terminal would you choose? It is not a straightforward choice. None of the old grand railway hotels have had an easy passage through history. Much more than great names have been lost. Perhaps the old Great Western Hotel Paddington had the smoothest metamorphosis. Built by Philip Charles Hardwick in 1851–54 it was initially managed by the Great Western Royal Hotel Company (chairman Isambard Kingdom Brunel) and subsequently managed by the Great Western Railway Company. Under British Railways it lost a great deal of its gloss, but now as the London Hilton Paddington, and only 15 minutes away from Heathrow it is emerging as a smart place to talk business in London.

However, business talk is not what I am after today. I want ambiance and style and individual atmosphere, a real railway hotel, not just a hotel that just happens to be next to a railway station. If I want to walk off a platform, and find myself in a four star hotel with a intimate atmosphere, then the Charing Cross Hotel (restaurant seats 28) is a surprise and the food a delight. Sir John Hawkshaw’s 1864 building is still a great Victorian hotel even if the two top stories are a post WW II replacement of the original Mansard roof which was damaged by German bombs. If you are after something a bit more grand then how about the  London Landmark? Originally opened in 1899 as the Great Central Hotel, a companion to the Great Central Railway’s Marylebone Station, it served as a convalescent home during the Second World War and then for many years was headquarters of the British Railways Board. After extensive restoration re-emerged in opulent late Victorian splendor as the five star Landmark London Hotel in 1995.

But perhaps none of the four restaurants of the Landmark are to your taste? You would like something bolder, modern but flavoured by history. Then the former Midland Railway Grand Hotel at St Pancras International Station could be just the ticket, but you will have to wait a couple more years before reconstruction into the Renaissance St. Pancras Hotel London will be complete. However, if really good food is what you are after why not just hop onto a Eurostar and head out to the best railway station restaurant in the World?


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