St Pancras station was famously saved from developers in the 1960s due to a campaign by John Betjeman and the Victorian Society.
Betjeman vividly described St Pancras as:
“…that cluster of towers and pinnacles seen from Pentonville Hill…outlined against a foggy sunset…the great arc of Barlow’s train shed gaping to devour incoming engines, and the sudden burst of exuberant Gothic of the hotel seen from gloomy Judd Street.”
On my way to Turkey I challenged myself to find a decent cuppa at Gatwick.
I usually go to Pret, whose tea is good, but served in a paper cup, could I find a china cup among the fast-food joints?
Not thinking I would have much luck, I was pleasantly surprised to discover two places serving a decent brew:
Before checking in, just opposite the station exit at South Terminal is Giraffe. This chain has a sort of young groovy backpacker theme, with a ‘chilled-vibe’ and a nod to ‘fusion’.
They offer a good range of Teapigs tea, including darjeeling,rooibos and mao feng green, at £2 but I was curious to try ‘Moroccan’ Mint made with Yorkshire Tea (£1.95). It was very good; served in a lovely cast iron tea pot so managing to evoke Japan, Marrakesh and… Leeds. giraffe.net
Once through check-in, I was very happy with another pot of Yorkshire Tea, this time served in white china from the Bridge Bar.
My flight was early morning, so bleary-eyed, I was in need of tea and toast. This was far more comfortable than being perched at Pret with a cardboard cup. (more…)
The extraordinary redevelopment of the area around Kings Cross Station continues apace. Since the Eurostar terminal arrived at St Pancras in 2007, the area has seen the opening of King’s Place – a canal side arts centre and home of the Guardian newspaper; the restoration and reopening of Sir Gilbert Scott’s much-loved Midland Hotel and an impressive new roof at Kings Cross Station.
Recently Granary Square, an expansive cobbled space north of Regents Canal, has opened, making apparent the scale of the final project (it even has a new postcode, NC1).
Formerly a canal basin where barges unloaded their goods, (more…)
The Fleet River is one of London’s lost rivers. Running underground from Hampstead via Kentish Town, Kings Cross and Clekenwell into the Thames at Blackfriars; it was once a major waterway with healing wells along it’s course.
With the industrial revolution, the once clear waters became polluted and the Fleet was gradually bricked over. There are some extraordinary photos and a brief history of the river here.
The Fleet River Bakery is in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, behind Holborn Station. A welcome independent cafe in this area of chains, they bake everything on site from scratch. Emphasis is on the (more…)
Railway journeys are the perfect time to enjoy a nice cup of tea.
Pootling through the countryside with a cuppa is about as good as it gets.
Finding refreshment at the station, however, can be challenging.
Fast-food tea can mean juggling a paper cup of hot liquid, trying to dispose of the tea bag while hanging onto luggage, tickets etc., perched on an unsuitable stool.
So when taking a train from Liverpool Street, I gave myself plenty of time to explore the area for a civilised cuppa.
It is a beautiful Victorian station with warm brickwork, painted wrought iron (more…)
Sitting on the top deck of the 91 bus one day, my Dad proclaimed that everything on the Cally is called ‘Caledonian’. He has a point. Caledonian Dry cleaners, Caledonian Kebabs, Caledonian Internet solutions.
The caff opposite the prison has it’s own idea – the ‘Breakout’. I imagine a tunnel leading to egg, chips, and a cuppa – the first taste of freedom!.
One day, I spot a new shop; freshly painted in slate-grey with bare woodwork and white tiles. I wait for a name to appear. Nothing for a while, then a small, hand-written sign in the window – ‘Scambled Eggs with Pancetta’. Hey a cafe! They will have tea! (more…)
Kings Cross Station has had an facelift. The concourse to the west now has a stunning vaulted ceiling and mezzanine floor, and is home to several new places to eat and shops, including Patisserie Valerie, Kiehls and the excellent Watermark books.
I pop into Leon for a cuppa. I have always loved this London chain and have use the original Carnaby Street branch for years.
There is a large room at the back with high ceilings, and the decor is artfully done, with exposed piping, bare brickwork, mismatched chairs and some wonderful retro lighting. It is certainly a step up from the (more…)
I do like a railway station so sitting on the platform a mere feet away from the Eurostar train, drinking tea, is really quite exciting.
St Pancras is beautiful, and the upper level is the prime place to sit in the soft light of the wonderful arched roof.
Searcy’s have done a great job of fitting out the Champagne Bar at St Pancras. The quilted red leather banquettes give the impression that you are sitting in an old-fashioned train carriage; you fully expect the whistle to blow and be whisked away to the Continent. The elegant air puts you in mind of a former age, when travelling was a more glamourous and sedate affair.
The forecourt of Euston Station is often crowded and full of fast-food outlets, not a particularly pleasant place for a reviving cuppa on arrival from the North of England. Robert Stephenson‘s statue looks on grimly over proceedings.
Happily, just over Euston Road is Friends Meeting House.
This oasis of quiet and calm contemplation, was the first place Gandhi visited on his trip in 1931, possibly for the very nice cup of tea.
Friends Meeting House Euston is the headquarters of the Quakers in Britain, and home to the Quaker Centre Cafe. All the products are fair trade, and you can buy ethically sourced delicacies (more…)
Henry Wellcome (1853-1936) was a unique and extraordinary individual. ‘Pharmacist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector’.
The Wellcome Trust on Euston Road, a ‘Destination for the Incurably Curious’ is a wonderful place to visit.
An ongoing series of fascinating temporary exhibitions focus on life, science and art.
Medicine Man, a permanent exhibition on 4th floor shows a small selection of Henry’s collection. I felt quite sorry for Mrs Wellcome!
The cafe, run by Peyton and Byrne, has a fresh, contemporary feel. The lights are shaped like laboratory flasks that hypnotically change colour. (more…)
While travelling to Oxford for a short break, I treated myself to a first class ticket with First Great Western railways. For a reasonable £30, the return journey included use of the First Class Lounge at Paddington Station.
Brunel’s majestic and beautiful station was opened in 1854 to serve the Great Western Railway and has been in use ever since.
If you have time before boarding your train, it is well worth exploring – at least walk to the end of the station to take in the incredible structure.
Paddington First Class Lounge is on platform one and is excellent (mind you, I usually use the one at Euston).
There are two areas, each with a different feel. (more…)