For decades, Paris has given travellers something London could not – an iconic station eatery in which to prelude an epic journey with a great meal served as swiftly as necessary, luggage no object.
Now Searcy’s is aiming to create the same experience at St. Pancras with a restaurant and bar overlooking the Eurostar platforms (not to be confused with their concourse-based Champagne bar close enough to virtually leap the glass fence and land on the train).
This is not a place to come for the art nouveau interiors which make Paris’s Brasserie Terminus Nord such a delightful place to pause for oysters before training it back to Blighty, nor the grand, gilded ceilings which make the Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon a visual feast for those taking the train south from the French capital. Searcy’s is dark, modern and understated, its mission clearly to let the food and drink play a starring role.
In that it succeeds with at least some dishes, notably the oysters.The natives – Jersey and Carlingford – were wonderful, but a better bet to order solo than in the plateau de fruits de mer(here patriotically retitled “The British Isles Board”)which looked impressive, but featured over-chilled lobster and prawns on the night of our visit. However, a dish of scallops baked with mussel and leek cream was absolutely delicious, surviving reheating the following day.
The fact the scallops did have to be taken away and reheated throws up the biggest issue with Searcys – the timing. When express dining is promised for the benefit of those taking trains, it should not take more than 20 minutes for mains to arrive after the starters are finished and cleared away. Staff at least wrapped the scallops well and swiftly so we did not miss our last train home.
Given the sweet service, excellent sourdough bread and tempting wine list – helpful staff opened a bottle of Chablis, normally only available by the bottle, for us to have a glass each as the perfect match for our oysters – we chose to put the tardiness down to either shortage of staff in the kitchen, the fact we arrived for dinner close to the end of service and presumably after all the trains had left for Europe, or both. After all, executive head chef Colin Layfield has Michelin-star credentials, not to mention spells in the kitchen of the Four Seasons, Harvey Nix and the late, lamented L’Odeon.
We might have done better ordering Layfield’s signature fish pie loaded with sustainably sourced fish – but it is evidently so popular it was sold out. Naturally, there is posh fish and chips on the menu, and a Creedy Carver chicken pie among the alternatives. There is dry-aged steak and Cornish lamb rump for carnivores, while vegetarians are imaginatively catered for with the likes of ricotta dumplings and broad bean and morel risotto
One tip we should have noted at the outset is that “express dining” does not apply to every dish on the menu; look for the express icon applied to certain dishes only if time is at a premium. And preferably leave enough time to enjoy the oysters and scallops at leisure, without the worry over train timetables which may always dog diners who choose a station restaurant.
Tell me more about Searcys St. Pancras Restaurant & Bar
Searcys St. Pancras Restaurant & Bar
St Pancras International Station
London, N1C 4QL
Tel: 0207 870 9900