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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

ST PANCRAS GRAND: KNOW YOUR STATION








HP’s response to the current depressing dining scene in London is pretty straightforward. Whenever I ask him if he fancies trying a new place, his reply is often a succinct

“Why go and spend £X just to confirm what you already know?”

After meals like last week’s at the mediocre Broome & Delancey, it is becoming increasingly hard to argue with logic, but a man has to eat and being of the chirpy, bluebird on shoulder optimistic type, I like to think there is still an opportunity to be surprised even in this moribund city of ours.

I have to admit, however, that I didn’t expect that surprise to come at me from the direction of St Pancras Grand, the new, Searcy’s run gastrodome in London’s recently refurbished Eurostar Station. These are, after all the same people who run that dreadful little champagne bar and the restaurant is located in a building which, while still impressive thanks to its Victorian originators, represents one of the great missed opportunities of modern day London.

It had all the hallmarks of another ho hum experience, the smart but cavernous room was empty bar for one other table, the staff seemed to be distracted by a heated discussion regarding the distribution of their tips and the bread brought to the table as I took a seat was tough and not helped by stale butter.

It rang through my head again

“Why go and spend £X just to confirm what you already know?”

However, the immediate appearance of a charming member of staff with a carafe of tap water (an increasingly welcome trend in the capital) improved matters as did the menu, which is lengthy and unapologetically British. Oysters & Shellfish are on offer along with smoked fish, cold meats and over twenty main courses including everything from Fish Pie, fish & Chips to Braised Beef Ribs with 17th Century Spices and a Lancashire Hot Pot. Prices range from the perfectly acceptable to “F**k me” with soups at £4-6 looking up at 30gms of Sevruga at £75.

Large menus normally alarm me, but given the money Searcy’s have spent on the room and the number of staff front of house, I suspect there is a big enough brigade in the kitchen to cope.

A tempting menu matters nought if the cooking is lousy, and I still had my doubts as my starter of Pickled Herring was presented. But, stone me if it wasn’t actually very good indeed. A thick, meaty fillet of fish, still retaining a bite and served, as it should be with a slice of terrific, dense soda bread. At £4.75 a plate, representing reasonable restaurant value.

The main course too showed that someone knows what they are about. The “Billy” referred to in “Billy’s Lancashire Hot Pot” is Billy Reid the head chef, but, while this was a cheffy twist on the Northern favourite, the taste and texture of the lamb, the correct absence of herbage and the layer of potato, suitably browned to a crisp on top, would have had Billy Clitheroe nodding in approval even if the portion size and price (a whopping £14.75) would have made him throw his balm cake out of the pram. At twice the size and with more lamb this could almost be a “must try” dish in London as it was it was still a sign of a decent kitchen.

I am eating out again tonight, so pudding offerings of Rice Pudding, Lemon Syllabub and Sherry Trifle (at £6.50 each) were turned down and I collected a bill of £22 including an added service charge of 12.5%.

While this represents the very budget end of St Pancras Grand’s menu and the bill would certainly build up if you added sides at £3.25 a pop, the quality of what was put in front of me reassures me that it might be worth spending more money here. Who knows, it might even end up becoming a destination place rather than a place for people going to other destinations.

But, then again, what do I know?

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Lard said...

Barm cake, dear boy, barm cake.

O.E. beorma "yeast," also "head of a beer," from PIE base *bher- "to boil up" (cf. Du. berm, M.L.G. barm, L. fermentum "substance causing fermentation," Skt. bhurati "moves convulsively, quivers," M.Ir. berbaim "I boil, seethe"), from base *bhreue- "to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:06:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Thanks. I did check, but found references to both spellings when googled

S

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:09:00 am  
Anonymous Gary Marshall said...

beat me to it, you've been in that london too long.

is the chef the ex marco 3* billy reid IIRC?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 2:55:00 pm  
Blogger Gavin said...

Not sure Gary, today's Standard review mentions stints at L'Escargot and The Belvedere.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/restaurants/restaurant-313137-details/St+Pancras+Grand/restaurantReview.do?reviewId=23553435

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 6:25:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

>>beat me to it, you've been in that london too long<<

The day Dos Hermanos get aced by dozy northeners is the day...etc.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 10:06:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blimey, were you dining with Jan Moir? How can the conclusion be so different especially since you both seem to agree from time to time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008 8:33:00 am  
Anonymous gary marshall said...

have you ever seen dos hermanos and jan moir in the same room????
the truth is out there....

Friday, September 12, 2008 2:44:00 pm  
Anonymous adt said...

why such a vitriolic comment on the champagne bar? (mark-up? food? queues? clientele? ratio of bar-counter-size to claimed-bar-length...?)

Friday, December 19, 2008 10:31:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

All of the above, but primarily because it seems like such a missed opportunity to do something well

S

Friday, December 19, 2008 10:44:00 am  
Anonymous adt said...

Granted, it could have been done more impressively, especially in terms of bar counter length, but I do like the impressive number of champagnes they offer by the glass, and the way the seating apes railway carriages (not to mention the heater buttons...) Combined with the unrivalled location, not just architecturally but also as a public space associated with public transport yet virtually free of advertising, doesn't this compensate? -- so long as you avoid busy times or trying to eat dinner there...

Friday, December 19, 2008 11:30:00 am  

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