When a hotel is as alluring as The Standard, always remember the full experience isn’t only the preserve of the overnight guests, says Tom Kihl
Hotels of all stripes, from the glitzy to the grubby, have always held subversive and hedonistic promise. But it was only when the likes of Studio 54 nightlife empresario, Ian Schrager, and Chiltern Firehouse visionary, André Balåzs, actively celebrated this previously unspoken naughtiness that a whole new sector was born. Balåzs, also a former nightclub man, founded The Standard, the steadily growing collection of party-starting hotels that helped define this approach, turning industry logic (as well as their own logo) completely upside down. Offering choose-your-own-checkout times, condoms in the bedside draws and toilet cubicles built to seat four, they encouraged all the delicious kinds of goings on that hotel guests had previously attempted to hide.
Two decades on, the very first Standard venture outside the USA opened last year, inside Camden Council’s uber-brutalist former town hall annexe. The hotel brand has form when it comes to converting unlikely buildings, having reimagined an oil company corporate HQ and previously reinvented a crumbling Sunset Strip motel in LA. Orchestrated sauciness is then hardwired in, be it the live female models famously sitting in a box behind the reception desk of the original, or the full-length bedroom windows that give passers-by an occasional exhibitionistic eyeful in New York. Some of the rooms at the King’s Cross outpost have outdoor terrace bathtubs with views across to St Pancras station,
Fortunately, the mischievous spirit of The Standard isn’t restricted to the guest floors; the hotel has plenty to divert the casual drop-in visitor, too. Swing by, slip into a comfy seat at the Library Lounge and not only can you spark up a conversation about the wittily curated shelves of tomes from the 1970s (older locals may even remember putting their nose in a book here when this space actually was a council library), but there’s a fully-fledged DJ booth, with residents and guests often broadcasting their sets via the Standard website. Suitably subversive for a library, Standard style. This is spot is where to catch podcasts and live interviews, book launches to specialist talks. Pub quiz with edge, Quiz Quiz Bang Bang, are also regulars, giving locals further reason to treat this as, well, their local. Check standardhotels.com/london/happenings for what’s coming up.
You may also want to visit for food from the tempting counter at Isla, (they’re particularly big on brunch every Sunday) and serious cocktails, perhaps best enjoyed amidst all the urbane hoopla of Double Standard, the thronging bar room round the back. When the weather is playing ball, it backs out into a large garden terrace, a welcome outdoor oasis from the thunder of the Euston Road out front.
Pleasing attention to detail can be enjoyed everywhere, from the staff outfits to the swirling and curving 1970s colour schemes, including specially commissioned ceramics from artist Lubna Chowdhary. For those venturing into the bright red bubble lift which whisks passengers up the front side of the building, fire pit cooking and yes, loos with views, await on the tenth floor at Decimo. The swanky restaurant is worth including on your 2020 culinary experience wishlist – certainly one for special occasions rather than the kind of easy drop in and hangout zones of the ground floor – where the 360-degree views out across King’s Cross are as good as the fire-cooked suckling pig shoulder.
Nice as taking a room with an outdoor bath would undoubtedly be any day of the week, most locals probably aren’t going to prioritise that kind of splurge (although now you’ll know where to come if events ever do take a turn towards the wild side). It’s therefore excellent to know that The Standard still holds so much potential to titillate all our cultural/foodie/boozy selves regardless. The lounge and other areas feel like a great addition to the neighbourhood hangout scene, albeit one that often feels a lot closer to Manhattan or Miami than the Midland Main Line.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below.