Eating at train stations is usually a desperate affair – rarely does it happen out of choice. Overpriced, lukewarm concoctions in a platform cafe or a day-old sandwich grabbed in a mad dash to the platform are hardly meals you’d make a special visit for. But that was all before St Pancras International became home to the rather striking St Pancras Grand. Now, it seems, it’s perfectly normal to visit a train station platform when you’re not actually going anywhere.
Housed on the upper concourse opposite the Eurostar, this French-inspired brasserie and its shamelessly British menu should be the perfect place to show off Blighty’s best cuisine to international visitors. In terms of food, however, all it shows off is the British public’s endurance for terrible train station food.
In its defence, the restaurant is beautiful. The art-deco design aims to capture the ‘romance of travel in a bygone era’, and for that it scores 10 out of 10. As a diner you feel as though you’ve come to the end of a weekend away in the 1920s and you’re waiting for a time-travelling train to take you back to modern day.
Having been keen to see the charms of this glamorous brasserie since it opened, Boyfriend and I used the wonderful London Restaurant Festival as an excuse to drop in for a midweek dinner. The festival menu was good value, but truly uninspiring and so quickly abandoned for the a la carte.
By this time the restaurant had already lost considerable favour with Boyfriend, whose bottom lip was still sticking out 20 minutes after being told there were no draft beers available because the barrels needed changing. He grumpily joined me with an Italian red but cheered up immensely with his starter of pigeon on a bed of beetroot salad – perfectly combined, juicy and full of flavour.
Underwhelmed with my herring, that was teeny in size and pretty bland, I robbed the last third of the pigeon and very nice it was too.
Had I have known how quickly things would go downhill from there, I would have robbed more than a third. The mains – a double whammy of pie in the form of game and the dish du jour of fish with buttered leeks – weren’t just disappointing, but downright unpleasant. The fish pie was completely void of flavour with a few scraps of salmon and white fish and – bizarrely – a single pea. It was essentially dry, fish-flavoured mashed potato.
While the game pie did actually have some substance, its filling was no more than an inch deep and tasted like it had never met a herb or seasoning in its life. The vegetables it came with were unidentifiable, even after tasting them. In short, it was grim.
In complete contrast to its beautiful setting, the food at St Pancras Grand will meet every one of your expectations of train station food; mostly that it’s overpriced and unpleasant.
My advice? Go downstairs to M&S. They will look after you. With Percy Pigs and ingenious plastic wine glasses of Merlot designed especially for drinking on the train, it’s one British institution at stations you can actually be proud of.
St Pancras Grand: St Pancras Station Upper Concourse, Euston Road, London, N1C 4QL
Reservations: 0207 870 9900