Today I have a review of a smart restaurant conveniently situated about 2 hours outside Paris. Good transport links with easy access to city shops. Superb food and waiters who speak English, and a menu in English as well. Yes, that’s got your attention, my dear Anglophone reader! Even better news is that, if you live in London, you’ll be able to visit sans passport. Confused? Well, you wouldn’t be if you noticed the title of today’s superbly written offering.
St Pancras train station was designed by William Barlow in 1863 with construction starting in 1866. The famous Barlow train shed arch spans 240 feet and reaches 100 feet at its highest point. On its completion in 1868 it became the largest enclosed space in the world. It is still impressive to this day and is a marvel of Victorian engineering.
One of the most recognisable features of St Pancras station is the red brick Gothic front facade which was created as part of a competition and became the Midland Great Hotel. The inside of the station still reflects that same brick along with painted metal beams and lots of charm. The original building had 60 million bricks (Did Queen Victoria ask someone to count them?) and 9,000 tons of ironwork as well as columns of fourteen different British granites and limestones.
Searcy’s St Pancras Brasserie has an associated Champagne Bar which is situated opposite the restaurant itself, on the Upper Concourse. You’ll not miss this amazing sight of a row of booths stretching for yards (it’s Europe’s longest Champagne Bar at 95.8 metres). Each one is thoughtfully provided with blankets and under-seat heating for those with frozen assets. Even if you don’t have time for a civilised meal at the restaurant, a glass of fizz and a plate of smoked salmon is always an option.
An almost art nouveau air
But inside, this brasserie is the brainchild of Martin Brudnizki, the designer behind Scott’s and The Ivy. The restaurant is either casually formal or formally casual depending on your expectations. It has all the style of (in truth, probably more style than) the celebrated station brassieres of La Belle France. The gold-leafed ceiling reflects a subtle and cosy glow. The tables and chairs are in dark wood, and banquettes in soft leather; the large hanging spherical lamps add an almost art nouveau air. The only hint of impending voyaging is an imposing illuminated clock.
We ordered cocktails and they are well-crafted here. A brace of classics in the guise of a Negroni and a Whiskey Sour. A delightful start to a relaxing few hours away from the commuter throng.
My guest started with a salad of Cheltenham beetroots, chicory, watercress, Yorkshire blue cheese, candied walnuts. It was beautifully composed and pronounced a delicious winner by this man who is not usually impressed by veggies. He is from Bridlington, so I guess the cheese tempted him.
Portland crab cake, with spiced brown meat and pickled cucumber was my choice. The presentation was simple and so was the dish. Simple, yes, but perfectly so. The cake was moist and flavourful, and the cucumber spiked this with sharp tang. The brown crab meat was a treat and added so much to this seafood plate.
I don’t cook liver at home, so my guest took advantage of Cumbrian calf’s liver, maple smoked streaky bacon, parsley sauce and Yukon Gold potato. He said this was the best liver dish he had eaten in a long time. That is quite an accolade, as he chooses that meat whenever he has an opportunity. Cooked to medium it picked up char flavour and rather attractive marks from the grill.
A connoisseur’s pie
Creedy Carver chicken pie was my main course. Each pie is finished to order and demands a wait of 20 minutes. No problem if you are comfortably seated with a cocktail and a starter plate. But this pie is worth the short wait. The pastry case was thin and held a filling of piping hot chicken in a well-flavoured and creamy sauce. This was a connoisseur’s pie, not a chip shop pie, not an after-the big-match pie, this was one to savour. That pastry was an integral part of the dish and gave texture and structure.
Caramelised Kent apple tart was served with fennel ice cream. Yes, an ice cream with unmistakable aniseed flavour and it actually, to my surprise, worked really well. It’s an adult taste and added sophistication to the more traditional apple tart.
William Curley Chocolates were the sweet finale to a very fine meal. These dishes were not fussy or over-cheffy and they were all the better for it. Searcy’s St Pancras Brasserie won me over a few years ago, and I am happy to report that my first impressions have stood the test of time.
St Pancras Brasserie is hidden in plain view. It’s there for all to see but one needs to know where to look. A cross-Channel jaunt isn’t necessary. A quick trip on an escalator is all that’s needed for you to discover a thoroughly British restaurant showcasing some of the best produce we have to offer.
7am – 10pm daily
9am – 19.30pm Sunday
Searcy’s St Pancras Brasserie
St Pancras International Station
Upper Concourse, Euston Road
London NW1 2QP
Phone: 020 7870 9900