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Hotel Highlights

  • Drastic, attention-grabbing artworks on every wall
  • Perfectly positioned springboard for Eurostar breaks
  • An unforgettable shabby-chic design statement

Overview

There's, quite simply, no place like Rough Luxe. This is the antithesis of a conventional luxury hotel: an unprepossessing Georgian building in King's Cross where cracked, peeling paintwork and shreds of faded wallpaper sit alongside attention-grabbing artworks both ancient and modern and weathered retro areas give way to sumptuous designer comforts. From the moment you step inside, you're really not in Kansas anymore.

Smith Extra

Here's what you get for booking Rough Luxe with us:

A bottle of sparkling wine on arrival

Special offers

Exclusive rates, packages and special offers at Rough Luxe

Non-refundable

Facilities

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Rough Luxe hotel – London – United Kingdom

Need To Know

Rooms

Nine, three of which are en-suite.

Check–out

11am, but this can be flexible; check-in: any time between 1pm and 9.30pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $254.51 (£158), excluding tax at 20 per cent.

More details

Rates include Continental breakfast.

Also

In addition to what's on offer in the small spa room, staff can arrange visits from reflexologists, beauticians, stylists and personal shoppers.

At the hotel

Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: free bottled water, hand-made toiletries. Skype phones are available if you ask in advance, but note that there are no TVs (bar the occasional ironic vintage one).

Our favourite rooms

Don't expect masses of feline-flinging space – Rough Luxe's rooms are small and on the basic side – but that, of course, is the point. Generally, rooms get bigger the higher up the house you go. Rooms 1,5 and 8 are en-suite; the others share one bathroom between two rooms – but you'll never be sharing with strangers as Rough Luxe only books paired rooms to friends. Bedroom 8 at the top of the hotel is that largest and has a free-standing copper bath tub.

Packing tips

Pack light – there's not much bag-stashing room. Do slip a guide to contemporary art in your bag, though so you can nod knowledgeably when you're confronted with the arresting artworks that line every room.

Also

Parking is at a premium in this part of London; the hotel has a few free spaces, but most cars will have to be stashed in the local NCP (£6 an hour). Pets are allowed by arrangement.

Children

Baby cots can be provided. Rooms 2 and 3, 6 and 7, and 9 and 10 can all be combined if you have young ones with you.

Food & Drink

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Rough Luxe hotel – London – United Kingdom

Hotel Restaurant

There’s no restaurant, but an afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cakes (£30 a person) is served Monday to Saturday in the outdoor café or in the dining room – book in advance. Make sure to try something with honey: the hotel get their own from the bee hives on the roof.

Hotel Bar

The hotel opens up its liquor cabinet on an honesty bar basis, and is happy to provide tea, coffee and alcohol at any time. Wine is usually served in the evening before guests go out for the night.

Room service

Teas, coffees, and light snacks are available throughout the day.

Smith Insider

Dress code

The clue's in the name. Anything goes, but if you're anywhere near Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club, you've got a winning ensemble.

Top table

There's a communal table in the Dining Room for afternoon tea.

Local Guide

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Rough Luxe hotel – London – United Kingdom
Eat, drink, see, do: local favourites and more…

Worth getting out of bed for

With the Eurostar less than a minute away, Paris is a realistic day-trip. The 14 million books of the British Library (www.bl.uk) are over the road, and the million odd knick-knacks of British Museum (www.britishmuseum.org) are a 15-minute walk away. King's Cross is in the middle of the mother of all facelifts, and though there are still some iffy bits dotted about, there are also world-class attractions springing up, such as the gleaming new King's Place  arts centre (www.kingsplace.co.uk), which houses concert halls, art galleries, two orchestras and The Guardian newspaper.

Local restaurants

The King's Cross area is dotted with restaurants, some more salubrious than others, and nearby Caledonian Road is home to a string of Ethiopian eateries that are well worth sampling. The St Pancras Grand Restaurant and Oyster Bar (+44 (0)20 7870 9900) alongside the station's Eurostar platform serves a shamelessly retro caviar-studded British menu for real Age-of-the-Railways decadence. Acorn House (www.acornhouserestaurant.com) on Swinton Street is a fully sustainable training restaurant, which has an excellent seasonal menu. Both ingredients and staff are locally sourced.  Smithy's (www.smithyslondon.com) is a pubby hideaway in a former stableyard, which has a daily changing menu of gastro greats, such as scallops, ham hocks and sweetbreads.

Local bars

St Pancras Station's new Champagne Bar (+44 (0)20 7870 9900) is the headline act in these parts; it's the longest in Europe and an excellent place to pass a decadent breakfast or an opulent evening.Hidden behind King's Cross in Varnisher's Yard is Camino (www.camino.uk.com), a lively Spanish bar and tapas restaurant. Also nearby is The Fellow (www.thefellow.co.uk), a laid-back Manhattanite cocktail lounge-style bar which serves European-tweaked British fare.

+ Enlarge
Crux of King’s Cross

Rough Luxe

1 Birkenhead Street, London, WC1H 8BA, United Kingdom

Planes

London Heathrow is 18 miles away. You can catch the Heathrow Express to London Paddington and then take the Circle or Hammersmith & City line to King's Cross.

Trains

The hotel is just across the road from King's Cross rail and Underground stations, and a minute's walk from St Pancras International (for the Eurostar).

Automobiles

Limited free parking is available. Local car parks charge from £6 an hour.

Reviews

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Rough Luxe hotel – London – United Kingdom

Anonymous review

by Addie Chinn , Urban junkie

Shortly the front door will swing open and Mrs Smith and I shall discover a world of bold colour and relaxed decadence. But for the briefest moment I find myself hesitant to ring the bell. First of all, there's the fact that we’re in 'up and coming' (read: still pretty shady) King's Cross: a neighbourhood known when we were children more for its red lights than boutique hotels (when I first …
Read more

Rough Luxe

Anonymous review by Addie Chinn, Urban junkie

Shortly the front door will swing open and Mrs Smith and I shall discover a world of bold colour and relaxed decadence. But for the briefest moment I find myself hesitant to ring the bell. First of all, there's the fact that we’re in 'up and coming' (read: still pretty shady) King's Cross: a neighbourhood known when we were children more for its red lights than boutique hotels (when I first revealed to Mrs Smith that we were off to King's Cross for a spot of 'Rough Luxe’, I'm sure you can quite imagine the eyebrow that raised). Then there's the yellowing hostel sign above the doorstep declaring 'No Vacancies'…

But every inch its name, Rough Luxe is about playful contradictions and theatrical misdirection. And suddenly, as though by magic, there’s the proprietor beckoning us with a beaming smile into the adjoining living room – a joyous explosion of grandmotherly chintz and bold, contemporary design. Beside the blood-red sofa a large wicker basket holds a back-catalogue of Monocle, Wallpaper* and Slightly Foxed book review. Beneath it Spud, the house Jack Russell, twitches in his sleep. While holding pride of place above the fireplace is an enormous portrait of the iconic art duo Gilbert and George. In this last is perhaps an outline of the entire Rough Luxe premise: artistic, unique, but with a sprinkle of indulgent classicism. The manager claps his hands, grabs our bags and hits the single, mostly stripped wooden flight of stairs that corkscrews up through the hotel (we soon discover that everything in here is ‘mostly’ something, whether it be stripped, painted or wallpapered).

The very embodiment of the 'shabby chic' aesthetic, the old building is narrow and tall almost to the point of caricature. Expect no Jacuzzis here. No treadmill-strewn gymnasia or three-acre breakfast halls. Hell, there isn't even a TV in our room (a fact that Mrs Smith observes with some bemusement). In many ways, it’s like the ultimate boutique B&B. But we wouldn't change a thing. Our ruby-red bedroom is a respite from the cold minimalism of so many urban retreats and the hustle and bustle of the cities that house them. With its lack of contemporary distractions (unless you count the Collected Works of Sir John Betjeman as modern) this is a place of peace and passion in equal measure. A space for nothing but talk and play, for fun and escape and, in wretched Oprah-speak, ‘us time’. It's like the mad-cap artist friend you never had, with art and literature at every turn.

It’s like a tower of fairytales: every room with its own voice, its own playfully contradictory story to be imagined. Take our bathroom: the left wall is all beautifully ornate fleur-de-lis tiles that shimmer in the afternoon sun, while the right is a pleasing stretch of tastefully half-peeled wallpaper. Its glass-doored rainfall shower is a perfect example of chic modernism, while the bath beside it – an impossibly deep free-standing behemoth of copper – is a testament to timeless indulgence.

After an afternoon of settling in and poking our noses about the place, Mrs Smith and I ponder the question of food. There is no in-house restaurant or even bar here, so Rough Luxe might not be the best destination for debauched gluttons (there’s also all those stairs to consider). But craving something a touch less depraved, the Mrs and I take it on the manager's recommendation to saunter through the tree-lined sides-streets to Acorn House, one of the many lauded local restaurants. While we’re out, he seeks to facilitate as much of the signing-in procedure for us as possible with a little cursory Googling of his new guests (how’s that for service), and somehow stumbles across a reference to an old thesis of mine on Brazilian capoeira. So when we get back to our room, there’s a book by his favourite Brazilian author on the table, bearing a simple welcome note scribbled on the inside cover. The gift feels neither trite nor false. Rather, like so much here it seems honest and unrelentingly personal. As Mrs Smith turns down the sheets on the bed, I ponder that little book by our bedside and how rare such details and gestures have become.

In the winter, breakfast is apparently a talkative, social affair served amid the hotel’s quirky frescos and irreverent art. But since our stay is blessed by that rarest of beasts – the fabled English summer – we’re out on the peaceful cobbled patio behind the hotel in the shelter of a vast canvas parasol. Croissants are fresh from Ottolenghi, the famed brasserie up the hill in Islington. And as it seems that all the other guests are already out investigating the city, our sole breakfast companion is Spud the dog, scampering about on a joyful mission to rid this fair isle of flying ants.

We had planned to test out the Rough Luxe afternoon tea that a friend had recommended. But after a long, leisurely walk into the West End and back, we learn that the hotel's chef is sadly stuck in Whitstable sourcing oysters (tough job, I suppose). By way of apology we’re treated to a complimentary 'liquid tea' of crisp, cold prosecco and a rather adorably ad-libbed cheese plate to see us through. One bottle soon becomes two. The afternoon drifts comfortably into the evening. A local bar round the corner puts on a round of tapas and cocktails. And before we know it, it’s home time: back to the spiral staircase, up to the ruby red walls, our crow’s-nest refuge and that impossibly tall copper bathtub.

Ah, the bath. Mrs Smith has never been much of a bather. Which isn't to say she isn’t clean – just that she generally prefers the modern attractions of a large rainfall shower over a long, languishing soak. I, by contrast, am every inch a languisher. Not all the rooms have a bath like this, but as we do and with another chilled bottle of prosecco by the side of the shimmering tub, a backdrop of shabby make-believe all around us, my better half begins to falter in her conviction. Five minutes later, both of us chest deep in its cavernous embrace, chilled glass in hand and she's sold. Hook, line, and prosecco’d sinker.

So when I tell you that I'm currently soaking in the biggest bathtub on Earth, a flute of fizz by my side and my beautiful partner sliding beneath the mountain of bubbles at the other end, you'll understand why I'll be signing off here. They say that some things are best left to the imagination. Thankfully that’s a currency in which Rough Luxe is rolling.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel with us, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Rough Luxe's Guestbook below.

 

BlackSmith

Stayed on

We loved

I loved the shabby-chic style: it's cooler than anything else around. We were on the top floor looking across the London rooftops – it reminded us both of Moulin Rouge (the film) somehow.

Don’t expect

It was not hyper expensive, but if I knew there were offer rates I'd stay more often.

Rating: 9/10 stars