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During a recent trip to London, TPG Contributor Adam Kotkin and his partner stayed at one of Starwood’s newest properties, the Great Northern Hotel — here is his review. (All photos by the author.)
Set in the King’s Cross neighborhood of London, The Great Northern Hotel is near three train/Tube stations — King’s Cross, St. Pancras and Euston, the latter of which is home to the Eurostar. One of the most redeveloped areas in Central London, King’s Cross has a great food scene (including the delicious Dishoom) and global companies like Louis Vuitton, Auto Trader and Havas have established offices here.
Getting to the hotel from Heathrow Airport (LHR) via Uber X will cost you a flat rate of £40 ($61), or you can take the Underground’s Piccadilly line almost directly to the Great Northern’s non-flashy front door. Five other nearby Tube lines allow easy access to the rest of London, including most of the city’s popular sightseeing attractions. During my entire stay, there was always a taxi line directly in front of hotel, but I recommend Uber, as it will cost you far less to get around town. For example, a taxi ride to dinner cost £20 ($30), while the return trip in an Uber was only £7 ($10).
As a Tribute Portfolio hotel with only 90 rooms spread across six floors, The Great Northern manages to maintain an intimate, boutique feel. Depending on the dates, you can expect to pay £329 ($502) for a Wainscott Room and a one-bedroom suite is £529 ($807). As a Starwood Category 5 property, it’s 12,000 points per night for a Couchette Room and 13,500 points per night for a Cubitt Room, which my partner and I chose. The hotel’s site currently shows available SPG Free Nights in December 2015, but availability for SPG Cash & Points nights begins in January 2016, and only on Sundays.
With the SPG Amex card’s current sign-up bonus of 25,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within the first three months, you’ll have enough points to book two nights in a base room at The Great Northern.
Check-in was seamless and efficient. There were no upgrades available upon check-in, but our Cubitt Room was perfect, anyway.
As a Starwood Platinum, I was eligible for:
- 9am check-in and 4pm check-out (both of which were honored)
- Breakfast daily at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Plum and Spilt Milk
- Free bottled water and sparkling water (KingsDown is the brand; it tastes like Evian)
Spotless hallways and a clean-smelling interior made it a pleasure to be in all parts of the hotel. I didn’t see one mark on any wall, anywhere around the property. There are various seating areas along each hallway of rooms, and all these hallways require key access, which provides a good sense of security.
Each floor has a complimentary pantry that was open 24 hours a day and included Nespresso coffee machines, tea service, candy, chocolate, apples and cakes, all on proper plates with beautiful flatware. There was a sign stating that the pantries are cleaned every 45 minutes and while we did not verify this, they were always clean, organized and well stocked.
Named for the hotel’s master builder, Lewis Cubitt, our Cubitt Room was on the fourth floor (which would be the fifth floor in the US). Like the hotel’s public areas, the room was spotless, and we immediately noticed that a great deal of detail and care had been put into its layout and design.
Our room had real wood floors and custom furniture, including wood and leather nightstands that combined contemporary and Art Deco design. All over the room there were plenty of outlets and built-in USB chargers – including next to the bed, which I find very important when traveling.
The Wi-Fi was excellent – and free! All 90 guest rooms share a 500 Mbps connection (as stated by the hotel), and a ping test revealed speeds of roughly 22 Mbps for download and 8 Mbps for upload, which was plenty to meet all our needs and more. It was the fastest connectivity I’ve experienced in Europe.
This has to be the quietest hotel room in London, with extra soundproofing everywhere. Not a sound, neither outside nor in the hallway, was ever heard.
Although our room had a Hypnos king bed, this one felt smaller than the king-sized beds we’ve experienced in the US. But it was at minimum a queen, and more than adequate for two people to have a wonderful night’s sleep.
The room also had a comfortable seating area with a table that was great for enjoying take-out food from Kiosk (more on this later). The TV offered plenty of cable channels, audio books, music playlists and free movies on demand; all of the movies were recent, similar to those you’d expect to find on an overseas flight.
In the bathroom were double rain showers, a fog-resistant heated mirror and a heated towel rack.
The switches for these latter two amenities were hidden in a closet that also contained a Nespresso machine, electronic safe and fully stocked minibar.
The Malin + GOETZ bath products were plentiful and smelled natural and wonderful.
Just off the bedroom was a water closet with a separate toilet and sink — a nice touch for a couple traveling together.
Plum and Spilt Milk is the main restaurant on the property. Many area businesspeople seem to use it as a location for lunch meetings. The a la carte menu was a little on the pricey side — including extra charges for toast — but the service here was fantastic.
We enjoyed the free breakfast without restrictions as Starwood Platinum guests. While lots of properties limit this benefit, the Great Northern encouraged us to order juice, tea, coffee and several dishes.
On the first day, we both had the English Breakfast, which consisted of eggs any style, bread pudding, tomatoes and bacon. All this added up to more than £60 ($91), which was covered in full by our Starwood benefit. On the second day, we ordered avocado toast and a fruit salad that had a sweet syrup on it; both were also amazing, and the service was consistently on point.
The other dining option is Kiosk, located just outside the hotel and serving delicious hot sandwiches (we shared a large salted beef Reuben). We inquired if we could charge our meal to our room (more Starwood points!) and were told that although we could not, as hotel guests we would receive a 20% discount. That’s even better than the points — but of course, I put it on our Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express to get the points, anyway!
GNH Bar has live music in the evening, and it was packed with lots of businesspeople stopping in to have a drink before they boarded the train home. Other bars on the property include the tiny Snug Bar, which is attached to the hotel’s restaurant and offers only a few seats, as well as signature cocktails mixed with homemade bitters. (A snug used to be a staple of English pubs and is traditionally for people who don’t want to be seen in the main area, or to be away from revelers.) There’s also the cozy Mezzanine bar, which features a cool bar counter made of pewter.
Service at the Great Northern was among the best I’ve ever experienced at a hotel. The staff here are extremely discreet, with a split-second reaction time. The attention to detail is impressive — for instance, our room was cleaned twice on the day we checked in — and the property was gorgeous, well appointed and in a great location. I’d definitely recommend it for a trip to London, especially with its generous Starwood benefits. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.