Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Magazine article The Spectator

Restaurants

Article excerpt

The new champagne bar at St Pancras Station -- sorry, St Pancras International -- is said to be the longest in Europe, which is fine, although I pity the poor person -- a workie, probably, they get all the duff jobs, if they get any jobs at all -- who had to find this out. 'Hello, this is England calling. Can you tell me how long your champagne bar is, please?' Perhaps it even aimed to be the longest champagne bar in the world but the workie quit after Europe, saying, 'Forget it. Don't you realise work-experience kids are only meant to fool around on the internet while everyone in the office ignores them?' But then, I suppose, if these young people didn't have to work at the experience of being ignored, it wouldn't be work experience, would it?

Anyway, although I am probably architecturally illiterate -- a building is a building is a building to me, pretty much -- I have always had quite a soft spot for St Pancras; all that Victorian, red-brick gothic splendour, parked up on the Euston Road looking so sad and faded and unloved. That, I used to think, is a building which looks as if it needed a good scrub-up and hug. Actually, I didn't ever think that, because I try not to think a lot (it is so very tiring) but I do think it is what I would have thought, had I been more into thinking. Whatever, I am glad it has finally received that scrub-up and hug and what a scrub-up and hug it is. At a cost of £800 million, the station has been restored, reworked, boldly extended and all beneath the most glorious roof of soaring, single-span iron and glass. In fact, as even I can tell it's magnificent, it must be.

However, as this is not an architecture column (thank God, or we'd all be stuffed) let us get to the champagne bar which, at 96 metres, runs almost the entire length of the station and can be found behind a glass partition on platform one. Naturally, to get to it, you must first walk though the retail bit, an area which works like the shops at the airport: you're captive, you've got time to kill, and before you know it you are toying with the idea of a Mont Blanc pen and have entered a competition to win a Lamborghini. Although posh shops are promised here, they haven't opened yet, so all you get for the minute are, alas, Accessorize, M&S Simply Food and W.H. Smith, which used to sell newspapers and stationery but now seems to specialise in offering half-price chocolate oranges at the till. (No, I do not want a half-price chocolate orange and no, I do not have a Nectar card.

Tell me, do I look like the sort of person who collects points so that, after several years, I can get a free drink with a meal at my local Harvester? ) Eventually, but only after resisting a halfprice chocolate orange yet again, I make it to the bar where I am due to meet an old friend, whom I shall cleverly disguise as 'X', even though her real name is Corinna.

I know that the 'X' who would be Corinna if she were not so cleverly disguised is here already because she has texted me as much.

Here, but where? The bar is not just long -- possibly even the longest in Europe -- but also jam-packed. There is even a velvet rope at the entrance, staggering the number of people allowed in at any one time. Even though it's only been open for about ten minutes, this is such a cool destination already. …

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