Birthday Cocktails at The Gilbert Scott Bar


Most people wind down over Christmas and the New Year, and use it as a chance to take stock of their lives.

Unfortunately for Tom and I, however, most of the entrance exams take place over January, so mid-November to mid-January is our busiest time of the year. Often working weekends and 16hr days, we barely have time to breath. Everything is slowly starting to go back to normal though, so I thought it high-time I got my act together and wrote a new blog post. We’re taking the first two weeks of February off, so I’ll have lots of lovely things to share with you then, but for now I thought I’d introduce you all to The Gilbert Scott bar.


Commissioned by the Midland Railway in 1866 and designed by George Gilbert Scott, the Midland Hotel was built to accommodate Kings Cross rail passengers. It oozed extravagance and luxury, with extensive decoration in gold leaf, ornate stencilling and flamboyant wallpapers covering every inch of the hotel. By 1935, however, it had become too expensive to maintain and heat. It also lacked ensuite bathrooms, and the solid foundations made it impossible to add new plumbing routes, so it was closed as a hotel and used to accommodate British Rail staff (who evidently didn’t mind sharing bathrooms) and later as railway offices. They were finally forced out in 1985 by a failed fire-safety certificate, but in 2011 the hotel reopened as the Renaissance Hotel (having passed the fire-safety certificate and undergone extensive restoration and updates, including a new wing).

Renaissance Hotel 1


The rooms are beautiful, the restaurant is lovely, but my favourite part is The Gilbert Scott bar. It’s a fairly small space, and – perhaps as a result – is relaxed and accommodating. Most importantly, the cocktails are just… incredible. I always have a Trade Winds, which apparently contains Bols Genever (the precursor to English gins, as well as being the origin of the phrase ‘Dutch Courage’), elderflower, ginger, lemon, carbonated gunpowder tea, cardamom and cloves. It evokes the romance of the East India Company battling 18th century pirates and the high seas. Never stick to just one cocktail though; that would be silly.

It was my Birthday last week, so we spent a wonderful few hours working our way through the cocktail menu, and taking photos (on my new camera which I have not yet worked out how to use, so apologies for the blurriness). As you can see, we are not a particularly serious lot.


Aidan (who I’ve known since I was 16 and I played Puck to his Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and the lovely Kirsty (who I met on my Renaissance and Early Modern Studies MA, and who has just completed her PhD the clever thing).


My best friend Katy (who I’ve known since I was 11, and who, incidentally, played Helena in the same Midsummer Night’s Dream production).

DSC_0084Tom’s friend Steve and I (posing in the guise of Alice and Luther. I can’t remember why.) I think I’m drinking a Pomodoro there.


Hijacking Dave, who was trying to be sensible. Pah. (Dave was actually the first of Tom’s friends that I met, as they shared a squalid little flat in Muswell Hill at the time.)

DSCF1719We mustn’t forget the cocktails. I think this is an Amber Embers – campfire tea infused scotch, apricot, sweet vermouth and lemon. Delicious and exciting…


Ooo! See! Very exciting. I do love things that come with smoke. Their January cocktail menu below:

Jan Menu

DSC_0110Tom’s friend Andy is practically bent over double to get his arm round me here. He is a very tall man.


My lovely friend Hannah (who I’ve also known since I was 11, and who played Bottom in the SAME  production as Katy, Aidan and I. Hannah has also brought horses back into my life, and rock-climbing, for which I would happily marry her if she’d have me).

DSC_0113Aidan and I being aggressive and street. Innit.


Posing with hair over my face. I’m not sure why I have long hair, only to grab it and put it on top of my head whenever a camera is pointed at me. Perhaps this is why.


Charles, Tom and Neil, all looking like they’re up to no good.

DSC_0180Charles and I pretending to be Russian spies.

DSC_0193The real Russian spies – Sam and Laura, who have moved to Moscow and St Petersburg to teach and anglify small Russian children.

DSC_0194And finally, my lovely Thomas, who organised the evening, and who I’m marrying in 3 1/2 months (panicpanicpanic, must organise a wedding soon.)

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