Unusually for London, King’s Cross and St Pancras are two major railway stations located next to each other. King’s Cross provides public transport from the English capital to the rest of the country right up to Scotland; the Eurostar links St Pancras to mainland Europe. A transport hub in its fullest sense. Little wonder such a dynamic location has attracted a miniature galaxy of five star hotels. But one stands out: it’s wild, whimsical, and whacky. And that’s just the mural cloaking the building’s exterior like a psychedelic Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors.
The Megaro Hotel appeals to the luxury traveler with a sense of fun and an appreciation for the novel. An inscription across mezzanine windows overlooking the entrance foyer reads: “Our hotel was inspired by Victorian quack doctor James Morison who in 1828 opened the British College of Health just a few doors down from here…” The interior is based on, “An alchemy lab, esoteric literature, and an anchoring in King’s Cross heritage.”
“Retro-futuristic steampunk” is the official hotel style. A reimagining of olden days but with advanced technology. Public spaces are filled with cabinets of curiosities and illuminated by neon signs. Chain curtains in one of the Design Room bedrooms continues the engineering theme while stage lights, minibars disguised as speakers and stage platforms acting as headboards pay homage to the nightlife tradition of King’s Cross. Charcoal grey tiled wet-rooms are a pure indulgent touch.
Charcoal is having a fashion moment in culinary circles and The Megaro Hotel’s recently opened restaurant Magenta is on trend. Charcoal steamed sourdough bread is the first item out of the kitchen for dinner. Magenta has a northern Italy inspired menu curated by Executive Head Chef Manuele Bazzoni. It is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday with an à la carte menu of two courses for £32 ($40), three for £42 ($52), or four for £52 ($64). But ‘when in Rome’, it would be rude not to opt for the four course evening menu with matching wines for £85 ($105). In the mornings, walk-ins are welcomed for an unlimited portioned breakfast costing £25 ($31).
There are four evening menu choices for Antipasti, Primi and Secondi, and five for Dolci (four desserts and a cheese board). Beetroot amuse bouches come on charcoal grey plates. Wild sea bass tartare and Sicilian orange gel provide splashes of color and lightness against black sesame ice cream. Smoked buffalo ricotta and egg yolk ravioli with English asparagus and black truffle contrast texture and flavor, emphasizing the kitchen’s prowess. Good looks and great taste continue with Cornish monkfish cooked over charcoal, barbequed leaks, rock oyster tempura and Amalfi lemon gel. Maldon sea salt and caramel ganache with Vecchia Romagna jelly and Piedmont hazelnut form an edible sculpture. Dinner is all about fresh British produce revved up a notch or two by Italian additions and style: London meets Milan.
The phrase ‘poison of choice’ is played out in The Megaro Hotel’s basement bar. Hokus Pokus Alchemy Lab takes the James Morison theme to its extreme. Staff work their magic conjuring up torched and fizzing cocktails. It’s like being in a time machine reversing to the future. ‘Tempered Prescriptions’ are on standby for those guests who want to enjoy the alchemy without the alcohol. Bar Manager Greg Chudzio explains, “Today, at Hokus Pokus we like our botanicals to be distilled and served with a large lump of ice or at room temperature. While we make no claims of health benefits, we are confident that our potions and elixirs might do wonders for your mood!”
Service in The Megaro Hotel is international, very attentive and well informed. The evening waiter from Seville, Spain, confirms, “We only serve Italian wines. Our restaurant interior was designed by British artist and designer Henry Chebaane. A magenta colored butterfly is the restaurant motif.” The Londoner mixologist advises, “I can offer you five different types of ‘potions’. Our flamed potions are heated with fire to bring out the finest aromas! We’ve 41 cocktail recipes and 18 types of gin.” The breakfast waitress from Marash, Turkey, relates, “This building used to be a Barclays Bank. The yellow brick former bank vault is now a wine cellar. We’ve two first floor private dining rooms: The Mauve Private Carriage takes its cue from a view of St Pancras Station; The Victory Room is named after the state rooms of HMS Victory with a table made from the timber of that historic ship.”
The inscription in the entrance foyer ends with, “What is time? Time is free but it’s precious. You can’t own it but you can spend it. You can’t keep it but you can use it. Time is priceless don’t waste it. It’s time for the weird and the wonderful. It’s time for a drink with friends.” The weird and wonderful Hokus Pokus is the place in London for a drink, Magenta for a timely meal, and the timeless Megaro for a luxurious night’s sleep.