Of all the major railway terminal hotels currently in operation in London, the Great Northern is the most distinct—and the smallest. Its crescent-shaped building went up quite early, in 1854, and as a consequence isn't as giant as its brethren, although it swaggers with the high ceilings and wide corridors of its epoch. The front door is so inauspicious and the reception so closet-like as to make you wonder if you're going in the delivery entrance, but since the original lobby has been converted into a buzzy cocktail bar, I think the trade was just. Rooms aren't capacious, either, a quirk the designers have made up for with smart modern design that includes—daringly for a high-traffic hotel—cream-colored carpeting. The smallest rooms are now called "Couchettes" because the sled-style queen beds, attached at head and foot to the walls, are said to have been inspired by railway sleepers. (Don't worry—they're a lot more comfortable, immeasurably quieter, and have much more space for your luggage, although the result is something less than ideal for families.) Etched glass and cute little curved banquettes complete the allusions to trains. A few of the rooms on the first floor peer into the soaring modern waiting area shed of King's Cross Station. Other high-standard perks pack the other spaces—a good British restaurant, Plum & Split Milk (named after a color scheme), a top lobby cocktail bar with hidden crannies, and a "Kiosk" facing the train station that makes fantastic salt beef sandwiches, an East End staple brought here for the hipster effect. The combined effect of boutique hotel, affordability relative to similar properties, historical import, and unparalleled transport connections (six Tube lines downstairs, northern trains and Eurostar to either side) makes the Great Northern pretty adorable.
- Jason Cochran