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.
The St Pancras Grand restaurant 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.
St Pancras Grand 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 the large hanging spherical lamps add an almost art nouveau air. The only hint of impending voyaging is an imposing illuminated clock.
We headed for the warmth of the main St Pancras Grand Restaurant and settled ourselves at the Oyster Bar. There is a Whisky Bar at the opposite end of the restaurant which was almost as inviting on a winter’s evening, but the oysters and champagne found favour with us as The Grand has an amazing offer of a glass of something special and some oysters. (‘Happy Oyster Hours’ from 5-7pm everyday where they give free oysters with each glass of wine or Champagne purchased at the Oyster Bar. Visit here to see other offers.) To the uninitiated an oyster is an oyster is an oyster. Not so, and the knowledgeable staff are more than happy to introduce you to an array of molluscs, all with slightly different characteristics.
A glass or two of Laurent-Perrier later, we found ourselves perusing the restaurant menu. Head Chef, Chris Dines, takes evident pride in his food and has sourced some amazing ingredients. British charcuterie was our choice of starter. The Trealy Farm meats were superb and as good as anything hailing from beyond these shores. The choice of pickled onions from The Real Olive Company as accompaniment was inspired. I am not normally a lover of these vinegar-laced vegetables, I find them too acidic, but I could have happily munched on a jarful of these sweet vegetables. This starter was far more than cold meat and pickles.
I was tempted by the Fish Pie. I had noticed that a few fellow guests (both French and British) who were evidently regulars had ordered this. It arrived as a rustic individual pie with a browned potato lid. The fish in its sauce was tender and delicious and well flavoured. Comfort food at its warming best. A dish of buttered leeks is included so my main meal was complete.
My companion chose ham hock, which was served with well-textured colcannon and a parsley sauce. The meat was falling from the bone in red-pink shreds. A robust plateful of old-fashioned good food. The kind of British food that we are at last returning to. The kind that visitors didn’t know existed.
Amazingly we found space to explore the dessert menu. Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Cream, and Burnt Cambridge Cream and Winter Fruits were amongst the pud offerings. I was tempted by the Bramley Apple and Blackberry Crumble and it was just as one would hope. Plenty of fruit and a topping which was crisp rather than soggy. My guest, a man famously afflicted with hollow legs, ordered Steamed Ginger Pudding with Ginger Ice Cream. This presented ginger in all its guises. The pudding was light, the ginger syrup revived memories of those exotic little jars of preserved ginger one is sometimes lucky enough to receive from Santa, the ice cream was seeded with amber crystallised ginger. My companion was a happy diner.
St Pancras Grand restaurant is hidden in plain view. It’s there for all to see but one needs to know where to look. No need for a cross-channel jaunt. 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 – 11pm daily,
9am – 11pm Sunday
St Pancras Grand Restaurant, Oyster and Champagne Bar
St Pancras International Station
Upper Concourse, Euston Road
London NW1 2QP
Phone: 020 7870 9900
Visit St Pancras Grand here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018