Pub/Bar of the Month June 2013: The Parcel Yard, King's Cross, London
The Parcel Yard, King's Cross, London, UK
Station pubs are witnessing a new lease of life – and not before time.
It's obvious really. In how many other places can you find such a captive market of people (probably hungry or thirsty) with time to kill?
In how many other places, too, are there spare buildings awaiting renovation or restoration? Put the two together, combine them with today's ever-increasing fascination with beer, and George Stephenson's your uncle.
What claims to be Britain's largest station pub opened just over a year ago as part of the much-needed redevelopment of London's King's Cross station.
King's Cross has always sat in the shadow of its ornate neighbour, St Pancras, but the grubby 1970s facade looked particularly second class, especially once St Pancras was refreshed in order to become home to the Eurostar service.
Now King's Cross is bright, airy and becoming loved again, not least because of its very impressive new pub, housed in what used to be the parcel yard.
This derelict part of the station has been thoughtfully re-imagined by London's major brewery, Fuller's. It is accessed by a flight of stairs adjacent to the Harry Potter shop and the Platform 93/4 photo opportunity, the word 'Parcels', etched boldly into the frieze above the door.
As you would expect, there is a railway theme throughout, but not to the point where it becomes a cliché.
Instead, railway signing, the odd spot of steam paraphernalia and what appear to be original features from the structure's previous existence add a dash of character in keeping with the transport surroundings.
Fuller's has not destroyed the fabric of the building either, its listed status being fully respected.
What the brewery has created is a bright, airy environment, characterized by stripped wood floors and big, white-painted windows that overlook the trains as they come and go on either side. Reclaimed station panelling and doors add to the authenticity.
A key feature is the central atrium, a simple enclosed courtyard beneath a glass roof, adorned with a couple of potted trees to complete the outdoor effect.
The rest of the pub snakes around, branching off like the rail network in pre-Beeching days, splitting into alcoves and rooms furnished with an assortment of tables and seating. Framed old Fuller's adverts are scattered around the walls.
On the level above, The Loft Bar, has a little less hustle and bustle, and a faint suggestion of a gentlemen's club with its padded Chesterfields, but bars on both levels do the drinker proud.
This is the only pub in London to serve the entire range of Fuller's (including Gale's) beers, hence you can find all the cask favourites, plus seasonals, joined by keg London Porter and Honey Dew. Even the bottled beers are present, with some theatre made of Vintage Ale, which is available in a variety of year dates.
Guest beers and keg Chimay Gold, Meantime Pale Ale and Veltins lager complete the range, so you'd have to be pretty fussy not to find something to please. A full range of Fuller's pub grub, as well as some innovative bar snacks, completes the hospitality.
The Parcel Yard recently played host to Prince Charles and Camilla, who asked for a tour while celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground.
They didn't partake of a drink, but they were impressed – as is everyone, it seems, who has visited this striking pub.
The Parcel Yard, King's Cross Station, London, N1C 4AH, UK
Tel. (020) 7713 7258
Opening Hours: 8am–11pm; 9am–10.30 pm Sunday