It could be the sheer romanticism of St Pancras International that has a positive effect on its commuters, or perhaps it’s that for once, as you set foot inside one of London’s major train stations – there’s somewhere decent to eat. We all know that food affects your mood, which might explain why the caffeine-slugging, burger-munching crowds at Waterloo will quite happily slam into fellow commuters, only stopping for a second try if you don’t fall over the first time.
There is the occasional sense of urgency at St Pancras, as waiting Eurostar passengers realise they should be checking in, instead of necking a glass of Moet at the Champagne Bar, but that’s about it. St Pancras has done well to establish itself as a destination and not simply a train station, so it was only a matter of time before a restaurant like the St Pancras Grand opened up. The restaurant has taken up position slap bang opposite the 96 metre-long Champagne Bar. Understated grandeur is the mainstay of St Pancras Grand with its gold ceiling and booth style seating. If you fancy being noticed, a bar lines the back of the restaurant where you can grab a bar stool, practice perching and watch the waiters as they shake and stir their way through the drinks orders.
We ate at the Grand on a Wednesday night, which was a little quiet at around 7.30pm, but perked up soon enough as groups of diners filled up the booths. British food is very much the focus at this new opening, and a decent amount of love and care has been directed at the menu, which boasts the likes of Lancashire hotpot, Atlantic prawns and cold Ox tongue amidst its line up.
The butcher’s block starter served up the best surprise, with a decent selection of Welsh charcuterie filling up the wooden slab it arrived on. The mustard fruits that accompanied it were wonderful too, but the Welsh salami upstaged everything else. Yes – Welsh salami, and it was good stuff – all sourced from Trealy Farm. Our other starter of smoked salmon and black pudding was satisfyingly savoury and was stylishly presented before my dining partner’s fork made an impact. There were plenty of other things we wanted to try from the menu, but half a dozen Cumbrae oysters and the Sevruga caviar would have meant no room for pudding.
Skate and steak were our main dishes of choice. The Skate arrived beautifully cooked on a bed of lentils, and the steak was rump and big on flavour. We ordered a side dish of greens and even my dining partner (a friend of many years, with an historically strong aversion to vegetables), had to concede that the samphire, despite being a sea vegetable of all things, was delicious. The staff at St Pancras Grand added what so many restaurants lack in bucketfuls – decent service. Perhaps this has something to do with the advice of the Evening Standard’s restaurant critic, Fay Maschler in her position as a consultant for this new opening, but whatever the reason, it’s a welcome find. Our menu quizzing didn’t ruffle their feathers and their recommendations were worth hearing too.
Our desserts, which we thankfully had room for, were brilliantly British. The Scottish raspberry jelly and ice cream rustled up childhood flashbacks, laced with a streak of adulthood in terms of presentation, whilst the autumn fruit pudding was tart, juicy and so, so satisfying. The Eton mess and English sherry trifle were almost spooned onto our plates, but our shirt buttons just couldn’t have taken it.
If you can’t quite face pudding when you’re waiting for your morning train, it’s worth knowing that the oyster bar opens up in the restaurant from 8am. What better way to get your daily zinc intake, than sitting on a bar stool watching someone else doing the shucking for you as you tuck into a couple of bivalves?
Still in the adjustment period of its early opening months, the St Pancras Grand is already ticking most boxes. Perhaps the best seat in the house would be the one that affords you a view of the Champagne Bar, across the way. You could eat your way through a reasonably priced, quite wonderful menu (around £45 per head, including wine), whilst you watch out for Eurostar passengers laying down £6500 for a bottle of Champagne that they don’t have time to finish.
St Pancras Grand: St Pancras International, London, NW1 9QP. Tel: 020 7870 9900.
Reviewed by: Helenka Bednar