For years, this concrete landmark facing St Pancras was part of the all-pervading greyness of King’s Cross. Now, though, the former Camden Council offices have been transformed into the first UK outpost of Standard Hotels, with a jaunty red external lift symbolising the fact that King’s Cross has been treated to a glow-up from grim to gorgeous.
Inside, things are as designer-led as you would expect from a hotel group originally founded in West Hollywood by André Balazs of Chiltern Firehouse fame. The whole hotel looks like a retro living room from the late 60s or early 70s, the kind of place Austin Powers or Ron Burgundy might call home.
The same can be said for The Standard’s ground-floor restaurant, Isla, which is a mish-mash of geometric patterns, random knick-knacks and walls clad with blue shag pile (there’s a buzzy street-side terrace too, with less in-your-face theming).
Despite all of the camp and kitsch, Isla manages to feel frighteningly cool. Isla’s look may be vintage, but its approach to dining is thoroughly modern, a mood established by the edgy young staff and the decision to hire chef-to-watch Adam Rawson, who previously headed up the kitchen at Marylebone’s Pachamama and was crowned Young British Foodie’s Chef of the Year in 2015.
Rawson’s menu takes in a selection of small sharing plates which are divided into ‘snacks’, ‘from the sea’, ‘from the soil’ and ‘from the land’. Several of the dishes come with unexpected twists – take the burrata, which arrives at the table dressed with slices of pickled courgette, combining the dish’s traditional creaminess with a sharper edge that makes for an intriguing contrast of flavours.
Rawson’s bold way with flavour is repeated with a sweet crab salad draped with intensely saline seaweed, while elsewhere clean-tasting, crunchy slices of daikon cut through the lush fattiness of Iberico pork slices.
The star of the show however is the fuzi – diamond-shaped pasta which has been showered with black truffle and cep mushroom shavings. It’s filling and indulgent, and is probably the closest thing to comfort food on an otherwise health-conscious menu.
Desserts include sticky miso-slicked fudge, and a bowl of strawberries and cream that tastes like summer in a bowl, finished off with a layering of crunch from crushed biscuit, while drinks are covered by cocktails and a predominantly natural wine list.
If you don’t have time for dinner, head to Double Standard (Isla’s neighbouring bar) for quirky cocktails and far-from-average bar snacks. Come September, meanwhile, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias of Casamia in Bristol is launching a restaurant on the hotel’s top floor.
Despite its name, it’s clear that this hotel, and the food it serves, is anything but standard.