Here’s the good news: you don’t need to book a room at The Standard hotel in King’s Cross to enjoy a meal at its ground-floor restaurant Isla, one of the finest joints in town.
Here’s the better news: you can enjoy a meal at Isla and book a room at The Standard hotel in King’s Cross, one of the chicest hotels north of the river.
As we noted in our previous review, written in the faraway mists of 2019, The Standard is a godsend for any frequent visitor to London – here for a short time and a good time. It’s situated bang opposite St Pancras Station, meaning you can be polishing off your cocktail at the bar mere minutes before your train departs to whatever inferior city you are bound for. A bright red lift runs up the outside of the building, instantly recognisable and also just really cool.
The lift takes you to Decimo and its rooftop bar, but instead let us pass through the entrance and into the Library Lounge. A very stylish enclave of bookshelves and leather sofas, the library lounge is a delightful place to either relax with a drink or crack on with some work (or work with a drink, if you happen to be in journalism). But let us focus our attention on the adjacent garden terrace and Isla.
Isla relaunched with a new menu on 30 September but my word most of the dishes taste like established classics. The menu is divided between Snacks, Small Plates and Large Plates – order a couple of each and make sure to wear your fun-size trousers because you really don’t want to sell yourself short.
Now I don’t want to dictate your meal but the nduja mussels are a must, served within a wonderfully rich sauce that will have you beckoning for the bread basket as a matter of urgency. I promise that you will scoop up every drop of that sauce, a gorgeous crimson lake, the colour of hell, the taste of heaven.
The dishes tend to arrive at once: order well and your table will resemble an art gallery. Orange cubes of butternut squash garnished with white feta and green spinach leaves. King oyster mushrooms cut into rectangular stripes and cooked to perfection. Isla makes vegetables sexy and as an avid carnivore, I can’t offer higher praise than that. (My friend is a pescatarian so meat was off the menu. I felt its loss not one jot.)
Finally, the whole lemon sole with seaweed butter. Oh dear lord: the whole lemon sole with seaweed butter, easing off the bone, melting in the mouth, soft and white as a cloud but considerably more tasty. (Although, full disclaimer: I’ve never eaten cloud. Unless rain counts.) Yet again, you will require bread to mop every drop of that buttery, oily goodness in which it swims. I told you to wear the fun-size trousers.
There’s an extensive wine list: our lovely waiter Jacob directed us to the Bodega Colomé that went down very nicely indeed. When you visit Isla, I hope you’re lucky enough to be served by Jacob: he made the whole evening a joy and transformed a great meal into a great experience. Shoutout to Jacob and all others like him.
If you’ve been wise, your commute to bed at the end of the evening consists of nothing more arduous than getting in the lift. The Standard has 266 different rooms, ranging from the snug singles to the opulent terraced suites. All come equipped with Italian sheets, Bang & Olufsen bluetooth speakers, well-stocked minibars and pleasingly sizable TVs. You may be in the centre of London but it will be hard to resist the temptation of a night in.
Several of the suites come with a bathtub situated in the room itself, allowing you to recline in hot water while watching Mad Men (or whatever). I’d call it the height of decadence if it wasn’t for the fact the terraced suites have an outdoor bathtub. Don’t you dare get in one without a glass of champagne to hand.
Enjoy breakfast at the Double Standard bar the following morning (the avocado on toast is especially good) and then be about your day. Or maybe book yourself another night, just because. The hotel may be Standard but the experience is anything but.
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10 Argyle St, WC1H 8EG; Standard London