Friday, 13 January 2012
I just can't get over my love for the new St Pancras station. (St Pancras International, if you will). About ten years ago, when the hotel was disused and in a state of decay, I volunteered as a guide over the Open House weekend. After hours, I was lucky enough to get a torchlit tour of the dark hotel; chilly long hallways, cobwebbed rooms of fading gilt and tarnished mirrors. It was eerie, the ghosts almost palpable along the grand corridors.
We were told that back in the 1960s, the building narrowly escaped demolition; apparently the problems of updating the hotel to accommodate modern luxuries such as running water in each room were insurmountable. The notion that this glorious building could be just another London ghost, replaced by rat-coloured concrete box-buildings like those down the street at Euston, makes visiting the glorious, painstakingly restored hotel and station all the more sweet.
I needed a place to catch up with a friend as she passed through Euston last weekend, so we grabbed the chance to admire St Panks. After a quick cup of tea and slice of Victoria sponge at Peyton & Byrne (7/10, nice cake but paper cups?), Jenny said she'd been told about an amazing bar in the old booking office. We traipsed off to find it and thank goodness we did!
Greeted by a friendly doorman, we were ushered in. It is a hugely ornate, grandly arched space, with bare stone walls and a high iron vaulted ceiling. An old station clock hangs on one wall, on another, oversized leaded lattice windows look out onto the platform. You can peek down the grand hotel hallways and into the lobby of the hotel; you can't help but stand a little straighter as the formal opulence rubs off. (Although sadly I was wearing my sunday best Converse and day after hairwash hair. Must go back in a frock soon.)
But back to the bar. Huge, low-hung simple chandeliers and oversized plush furniture help fill the space and keep it cosy. Sitting in a bare stone room of that scale should make you shiver, but not at all; the atmosphere was warm and luxurious. Jenny is a cocktail girl, so we went straight to the cocktail list. They were Victorian themed, perfectly calibrated to the surroundings. She settled for a warm arrack punch which smelled deliciously aromatic from where I was sitting. I had an orange juice and blood tonic soda which was satisfactorily sour.
The staff were lovely and friendly and even visiting the loos was a luxurious treat; you get to stroll down one of the hotel corridors, and freshen up in opulent style.
I had to tear myself away from the place and can't wait to go back for a longer visit. I was disappointed when I tried out the champagne bar when the station first reopened: I'd been looking forward to a Brief Encounter romantic low-lit and dark wood station rendezvous spot, but the reality is a chilly, modern bar next to the platforms. The Booking Office more than fits the romantic, cosy station bill.
Remember it's here if you need somewhere to meet in the area; there are snacks and a proper dinner menu of posh, comforty stuff. Or pay a special visit just to experience this stunning revitalised station. I can even find it in me to love the huge Olympic rings, hanging high above the platforms!
[I think I told Twitter a while back that a friend of a friend who lives in one of the apartments in the old hotel told me she can order cocktails from the bar in the hotel to her flat. The only thing that stops me actually dying of jealousy is that she also gets woken up at 7am by platform announcements. But still – the glamour!]
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