There's a certain terrible transience that necessarily comes with any area associated with transport. I suppose that's a bit obvious really. But stopping to seriously consider the matter, it is a symptom of the modern world that we can never find the time to sit down and relax whenever we try and go anywhere. Consider Heathrow's Terminal 5 - supposedly a multi-million pound luxury hotspot to facilitate the mass transport of holidaymakers, the sheer amount of bloody chain restaurants and overpriced tourist shit make it an even more stressful entry on the bulletin list of enforced foreign relaxation.
St Pancras railway station is similarly marketed as some kind of boutique haven; a place where trendy young women in heels and silk scarves relax before a trip up north by filling their Louis Vuitton suitcases with yet more designer clobber. Instead I find the whole setup rather depressing - as lovely the architecture may be (and so far removed from horrid King's Cross next door) the whole place smacks of desperate consumerism. All the typical high street chains are crammed into brick alcoves; there's only so many Moleskines a man can take.
Upstairs, however, is home to the St Pancras Grand, a restaurant that holds the accolade of being able to rob me of my London cynicism for a few precious hours. It may be yet another chain (part of the Searcy brand) but the restaurant has a notable individuality that extends purely beyond its delightful location. Situated opposite the Eurostar trains bound for Paris, there is a definite Gallic air to the place, and the inside is done up like an old continental art deco establishment. Save for the Chip & Pin machines, you could be mistaken for thinking you'd fallen into a wormhole to the 1930s. I half expected to turn round and see Agatha Christie dining with James Bond at the table across from us.
The à la carte menu isn't exactly cheap (expect to pay £14-20 for a main course) but we were able to take advantage of a seriously good offer by booking through Toptable. £15 for a two course meal with complimentary glass of "pink fizz"? Yes please. The cheap menu was obviously fairly limited, with a choice of three for both starters and main course, but the old adage "you get what you pay for" is fairly appropriate. And since what you pay for is a rather delicious meal, there's no harm in that.
I ordered the Cornish Brown Crab served with toast, but was told sadly that the dish wasn't on the menu that night, replaced by a rather delectable salmon, trout and saffron potato terrine. It was fairly great, if a little mild. Still, an absence of gutsy salt or lemon was made up for by a good whack of chives, bring the meal up to taste.
Roast chicken with bacon, croutons and a poached egg was the main course (narrowly beating a salmon fishcake). The chicken was beautifully soft, clearly slow-roast for a good length of time, and covered in a wonderfully deep and rich gravy that tasted faintly of mushrooms. The mildly vinegary poached egg was a slight anomaly perched on top of the delectable meal, but the yolk provided even more depth of flavour to the chicken.
Desserts are priced at £6.50, but they are (according to my younger brother) bloody good. I wouldn't know; I had an espresso and a brandy in what I hoped was a Mad Men-esque throwback to the days of the liquid lunch, but more likely made me come across as a slight alcoholic. Oh well.
So transient and vaguely corporate it may be, but you could do a lot worse if you feel like chilling out and stepping back in time during a hectic trip out of London.
St Pancras Grand
St Pancras Station
0207 870 9900