If you’ve ever been to York, you’ve probably eyed-up The Grand on your way into town, perhaps admiring its gorgeous red brick Edwardian facade. In fact, it’s so regal that foreign visitors may even mistake it for the home of a noble Yorkshire lord or lady. The truth is, it was once the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company and is now York’s only five-star hotel. Since opening in 2010, The Grand has welcomed a host of high-profile guests – from iconic international bands to well-known controversial stand-up comics. What draws the A-Listers here? The top-notch location, serene spa and two exceptional restaurants might have something to do with it. However, the hotel’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its professional, genuine customer service.
If it wasn’t for various obstructions – doors, buildings and an ancient wall – you could probably spot your train arriving at York station, leap out of bed, grab your case and still make it on time. The Grand is that close to York’s colossal grand station, which serves both further north and further south. In the centre of town, York’s famous 15th Century minster is around ten minutes on foot and worthy of a wander. The city’s iconic wall, directly opposite the hotel, is just the ticket for those wishing to stretch their legs and embrace the city’s history. Other attractions nearby include York Dungeons, The Shambles (the city’s famed cobbled streets) and York Races. The waterway that splits the city is also nearby, with plenty of options for riverside dining or cocktails.
Rooms and style
All 207 rooms at The Grand are massive, with high ceilings and blessed with floods of natural light. Suites have decadent, almost Langham-inspired wooden furnishings, regal-looking lamps, old-world sofas and white-marbled bathrooms. Standard doubles come in two styles: heritage or modern, depending on where you are within the hotel. Heritage rooms are more homely, traditional-looking spaces in earthy hues, framed photography and colourful accents – throws, curtains and pillows.
Over in the Roman wing, however, rooms are more contemporary with dark mat grey, wooden panels, and colossal leather headboards. Beds are on the firmer side of things, but come with premium bedding and quality pillows. Both suites and rooms are silent – thanks to an extra pane of glass. Each also comes with flat-screen TVs, desks, two-person seating, baths, power showers and Molton Brown toiletries. Sky Sports is a lovely touch, but there are no screen-mirroring options for Netflix fans. However, old-school pay-as-you-go films are available. Our only slight quibble was the WiFi in the room was very hit-and-miss.
Service and facilities
Many local people are working at The Grand with access to the on-the-ground knowledge you often miss at five-star hotel chains. Each of them, including the charming Rob at the door and the lovely Beth at reception, provides guests with exceptional customer service, advice and insightful recommendations. Classy red umbrellas hang in the doorway on rainy days awaiting guests who didn’t plan for wetter weather. Elsewhere, the concierge team are always on hand to book spa treatments or reservations, and restaurant staff smile their way through busy services. Service is The Grand’s cream of the crop.
That said, the facilities aren’t bad either. There’s a gym, a 14-metre swimming pool, an aromatic steam room, a Nordic-style sauna and a whirlpool. Also, in the spa area, located in the old vault, guests can access beauty treatments – from massages to body wraps. A cookery school in a separate part of the hotel offers courses to guests, novice cooks and wannabe chefs.
Food and drink
For a unique dining experience, Ahmed Abdalla heads up the Michelin guide-approved Legacy. His curated tasting menu is based on local Yorkshire produce and seasonal ingredients – think traditional British cuisine with a modern flourish. The hotel’s other restaurant, The Rise, serves equally divine dishes – from perfectly-cooked steaks and fish dishes to salads and excellent desserts. The chicken with garlic mash was superb, as was the super-sweet milk and honey dessert. Breakfast is also served an The Rise and features a range of a la carte options (avocado and poached eggs on toast) and buffet-style classics. Think delicious Cumberland sausages, black pudding, bacon, eggs, beans, cereals, juices, and artisan coffees.
1906, The Grand’s opulent art deco-style bar, 1906 embossed with red velvet pillows and frilly lampshades, serves bar snacks (don’t miss the fish finger sandwich or Caesar salad) and clever cocktails. You will also find live music every weekend, ranging from acoustic sets to jazz.
Rooms rates: Classic rooms from £205 (room-only)
Address: Station Rise, North Yorkshire, York YO1 6GD