Sunday, 17 May 2009

St Pancras Grand Restaurant and Oyster Bar

Kings Cross is becoming quite a hot spot for pleasurable eating. With Oliver Rowe's Konstam and Arthur Potts Dawson's Acorn House in the vicinity of the station, and the spectacular reconstructed St Pancras (with its Eurostar connection up and running) to admire, it's become a destination in its own right, not just a place to pass through.

Back in '08 I skim-read a lot of marketing spiel about Searcys new oyster bar, and a bunch of reviews, but it was not until I was meeting a friend at the station that I had an excuse to take a closer look. The champagne bar, Europe's longest, sits alongside the Eurostar platform, and is certainly an impressive site, but on the night we went it was completely empty, not a soul enjoying its picture-perfect setting.

Unperturbed, we ventured in to the restaurant. Again, an impressive space, not unlike the oyster bar and restaurant at NYC's Grand Central Station, but woefully empty. They apparently called in Fay Maschler and Richard Corrigan to consult, and the menu does have a cohesive British posh nosh note to it, but looks - dare I say it - a little bland?

We started with some rather lovely native Colchester oysters, served with the requisite tabasco, lemon, and shallot vinaigrette. Our Smoked Finnan haddock with crushed potatoes and poached egg, and Fish pie were certainly satisfying, but both resembled cooking by rote, not a reflection by any means of the grand setting which promised so much more.

The wine list was impressive, however, and I thoroughly enjoyed a reasonably-priced white pinot noir, that is until the waiter replaced it with a different wine for my second glass, insisting it was the same. After an unfortunate spell of disagreement, he reluctantly relented and replaced it. Accommodating isn't quite the word that springs to mind!

Our dessert was odd. A lemon curd crème brûlée with lemon shortbread, topped with a scoop of what tasted like margarine. We were assured this was clotted cream, but I've tasted the real stuff and this wasn't even a distant cousin. In fact, it was frankly inedible, and far too rich to accompany the cloyingly sweet curd: even the two of us, with big appetites, couldn't finish it off. A dud, I'm afraid.

St Pancras Grand is not yet a destination restaurant, but I hold high hopes for it, and next time I'm catching a train, the opportunity to sip a glass of champagne and guzzle some oysters under the glorious vaulted roof before departure won't be missed.


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