I’m not 100 per cent clear what happened the first time I visited Le Bain at The Standard High Line in New York, but I have a kaleidoscopic recollection of smoke machines, Nancy Whang from LCD Soundsystem playing records, swimming in open air bathtubs and vertiginous bathroom vistas overlooking southern Manhattan.
I remember the next morning better, sadly, as it comprised a cringing, torturous hangover.
Since then, the hotel chain has always been synonymous with a certain brand of licentiousness in my mind; a sense compounded by a particularly raunchy game of bingo at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach; a few hazier weekends patronising the hotel’s Boom Boom Room and rooftop bar, Le Bain; and news snippets touting various acts of exhibitionism in the High Line’s floor-to-ceiling windows – as well as the filming of Steve McQueen’s film Shame on the premises.
In spite of my better angels, my ears perked up when I heard that The Standard would be arriving in London, and I was keen to catch an early glimpse of what the hotel had in store for the unwitting denizens of King’s Cross.
The Standard King’s Cross has taken over the 1974-constructed building that formerly housed the Camden Town Hall Annexe and has supercharged it with incredibly ‘extra’ 1970s interiors by Shawn Hausman Designs (Hausman similarly oversaw five other hotels in the Standard chain: Los Angeles, New York East Village, New York High Line, Hollywood and Miami).
Over the past two decades in London, brutalist architecture has come back into vogue and The Standard not only conserves its striking brutalist exterior but also outfits it with the technology and panache that it always deserved.
In the words of my guide, Teamy, “it’s Stanley Kubrick through the colour lens of Wes Anderson”.
This is evident from the ground floor up. Here, you’ll find two restaurants, a recording studio, a stage for live performances and, perhaps most notably, a carmine-red exterior lift that will whisk visitors up to The Standard’s rooftop restaurant and terrace helmed by Pete Sanchez-Iglesias of Casamia fame.
There’s also a lending library and resident librarian, Carrie MacLennan, with whom I crossed paths during my visit.
Paying homage to the original library that spread across the ground floor, MacLennan has rummaged through local shops such as Skoob and Judd Books for texts with 1970s graphics and typography.
This adjoins the recording studio, which hosts podcasts, recorded interviews and live performances, which in turn adjoins Isla, the all-day restaurant headed up by executive chef Adam Rawson, who trained under Nuno Mendes before making his mark on London’s culinary scene with Lucky Chip and Pachamama. Guests can enjoy a nutritious array of food with an emphasis on fermented products such as kombucha and pickles all made in house, as well as a minimal intervention wine list.
Isla spills out onto an outdoor terrace with a retractable awning, which is sure to be an alluring spot during the summer months, if second fiddle to the amazing 360-degree rooftop terrace that takes in views of pretty much every notable London landmark.
The other ground floor restaurant and bar is Double Standard, caters to those with more indulgent appetites, splitting the difference between traditional British pub fare and New York City bar staples.
They’ve got a slew of events lined up including The Standard’s infamous bingo evenings.
All in, there are 266 rooms in the hotel, ranging from immense suites overlooking the prepossessing gothic architecture of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel across the street to ‘Cosy Core’ rooms in the centre of the building, which do not feature windows.
At first I thought this might be a bit off-putting, but then I remembered the state of my head post inaugural visit to Le Bain in Manhattan, and realised to whom The Standard is catering with its blacked-out rooms.
10 Argyle Street, WC1H