Originally built in 1906 for the North Eastern Railway (NER) company, The Grand in York is aptly named. At that point, NER was one of the richest businesses in Britain and the architecture of this headquarters, built to be “a palace of business” and using the best materials available at the time, from Belgian marble to Huddlestone stone, certainly reflects that.
Converted to a luxury hotel in 2010, that reinvention restored much of the splendour and kept many of the original features intact. Subsequent additions – a new wing, a cookery school, the impressive basement spa and pool, its new restaurant, Legacy – are suitably sympathetic and have helped keep The Grand as, very probably, the best place to stay to explore its historic home city.
Why come here?
Basically, because The Grand, York is a fine hotel. As its street name and origins suggest, it’s enormously convenient for the station – a two-minute walk, if that – and just as convenient to explore York, with the Minster and The Shambles very short strolls away.
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The location, however, is not the only selling point. Should you just need a break, you could happily wander through the doors on a Friday afternoon, wander out of the doors on Monday morning and have had a suitably chilled, fun and varied break without leaving the building. The building itself is spacious and impressive, with much natural light in the bedrooms and public spaces. There are varied food options and comfortable rooms, both old and modern. As well as many lounges, quiet spaces and an indoor swimming pool and well-appointed spa. And all of it is run by a team of exceptional people.
In my admittedly bizarre career, I worked with someone hoping to launch a Southern US-style restaurant in London. On a research trip to New Orleans, we met a legend of that city’s hospitality who told us that you can do the food anywhere – the trick is getting the welcome and the service right, that mix of efficiency, formality and/or friendliness, and the ability to tell which of the last two you dial up or down depending on the customer. Trips around the UK showed us that “Southern” hospitality is possible in the UK: it’s just we call it “Northern” hospitality. And, basically, the team at The Grand get it spot on every single time.
Eating and drinking
The majority of meals, including a very good breakfast (dotted with many locally-sourced ingredients), an excellent modern afternoon tea (a Condé Nast Johansens’ award-winning tea, in fact, and one where tea can be switched out in favour of gin or champagne), and an array of crowd-pleasing, well-cooked dinner options, can be found at The Rise Restaurant Terrace and Bar, the Grand’s AA rosette winner. You can also enjoy a drink here or, perhaps more stylishly, at the 1906 Bar.
And then there’s Legacy, the hotel’s most recent addition, a fine dining restaurant celebrating the best of Britain and Yorkshire through an eight- or five-course tasting menu, under the guidance of head chef Ahmed Abdalla, who, frankly, is one to watch.
Things to do
Recently put forward for Unesco World Heritage status, York is not short of attractions. As mentioned above, the beautiful Minster is a short walk away, ditto the river, the medieval streets (and modern shopping) of The Shambles, some great local museums and the celebrated (and highly enjoyable) Jorvik Viking Centre.
York’s dining scene is ever-improving, too. From bakeries (nearby Brew & Brownie and BB Bakeshop are certainly recommended), to the Michelin-starred brilliance of Tommy Banks’ Roots (located just the other side of the station) and other city stalwarts, such as Skosh and Star Inn The City. One of the country’s best named bars – craft beer specialists House of the Trembling Madness – is also just around the corner.
Neil Davey was a guest of The Grand, York. Station Rise, York, North Yorkshire YO1 6GD; thegrandyork.co.uk. Train tickets between London King’s Cross and York on London North Eastern Railway (LNER) start from £22.50 in standard and £48.30 in first class; lner.co.uk
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