“Sod Hogwarts, Hermione, let’s go for a beer,” said Harry, and abandoning his luggage trolley half way through the wall at Platform 9 and 3/4, turned and bounded up the steps to the Parcel Yard: the magnificent new pub conversion behind him.
Or so it could be…
Quietly, almost unheralded, something out of the ordinary has happened at Kings Cross. The remodelling of the station includes a gesture to JK Rowling’s creation, marking the famous in-between platform with sign and a cut-off luggage trolley. It attracts tourists but it’s not what has me spellbound. No, it’s what has emerged from dust and disuse next to the geodesic-like new roof: a contender for the best station pub in England.
The view from Platform 9 3/4
For years, as part of the huge Kings Cross regeneration project, the station that gives its name to the area* has had to live in the shadows of its Gothic and mysterious sister station, St. Pancras. With its giant statue to John Betjeman, it has famously and spectacularly been revamped for Eurostar. St. Pancras may have its champagne bar and, indeed its Betjeman bar, but it doesn’t have The Parcel Yard.
You can find mention of The Parcel Yard on the Fullers website, but the description they give is understated.Fullers don’t do estate agency blurb, but if they did… they’d be fired. The Parcel Yard is a pub refit in the Grand Design class, so why are Fullers hiding its light under a firkin?
“Challenging the notions of a station pub”
…is what it says in the blurb. The Parcel Yard doesn’t feel like a station pub, it feels special. Not in an exclusive, you-can’t-afford-us way, but in a thoroughly tasteful, we’ve-really-thought-about-this way. And it is still very much a pub. Only bigger.
In the olden days before Amazon, The Parcel Yard’s collection of oversized and oddly-shaped rooms was just what it now says on the door: a place for gathering and distributing parcel post for distribution across the land. Sending out mail on the sort of night trains that populate Auden’s poem.
Reincarnated as a station pub, its history has been preserved, with fixtures and fittings from the parcel past highlighted, featured. It’s not over-bright, and it still feels part of the station. I turned up with a few other strays from the Sainsbury’s Beer Hunt, and licensee/landlord Nick Cameron proudly showed us around: the central bright arboretum, the cosy but spacious side rooms, the upstairs bar, the cramped and well-stocked cellar – if you can call something on the first floor a cellar.
The complete Fullers range: will they match it to food?
Which brings us to the beer. Rather than the butterbeer of Hogwarts, Fullers range on cask and keg covers most of the bar, but not exclusively. Butcombe was on when I was there, and Adnams Ghost Ship recently. Happily, they stock a full range of Fullers bottled beers too, including a plenty of Vintage of different, er, vintages. A good move when food is going to play a significant part, and possibly a leaf taken out of the new wave of craft beer pubs.
At the moment, the food menu is typical of Fullers: a mix of unpretentious pub grub and some interesting but unfussy bistro ideas. I hear the food is soon to be revamped soon though. I hope they take the opportunity to add beer and food pairing suggestions to the menu.
The clientele looked a mixture of passengers waiting and pub-goers. Nick Cameron says that this might make you think that standard lagers would be big sellers, but the cask stuff has been “flying out”. Must be the Quidditch effect.
Explanation of the low-key nature of its opening comes via @TheParcelYard, the pub’s Twitter ID, that says they are “building slowly, tweaking as we go”, and “don’t want to sound too obnoxious”. Wise strategy, perhaps, if they see themselves as competing against some other impressive station pub grand re-designs. As well as St. Pancras, there are the two “Taps” at Euston and York.
You might not be able to get to Harry and Hermione’s destination, from the new Kings Cross, but if you are going up the East Coast Line to Leeds, Newcastle, or Edinburgh, or even on the way home to Letchworth or Welwyn Garden City, stop in to The Parcel Yard. It delivers.