By the tracks at the new St Pancras, a run-of-the-mill ‘English’ pub-cum-brasserie, from Geronimo Inns, with ideas above its station.
Yeah it's good... well, it's all right... it's fine."
Our old American chum was hesitating and giving the game away. If it was that good, why was he leaving so much uneaten on the plate? As he was passing through town on the way to Brussels, this just-reformatted pub on the side of the freshly sandblasted Eurostar platforms seemed like a handy rendezvous. And as a regular traveller through St Pancras, I was curious about what had become of the dim-lit, old Shires Bar, now in the hands of Geronimo Inns.
Well, the pub carpet and smell of fags have long gone, swept aside by a shiny new gastro interior. It seemed almost as if the teams from The Apprentice had been written a large cheque by Sir Alan, and tasked with refitting an old pub. Falling over themselves to impress, they'd raided Habitat and decorated the three rooms in a succession of ‘with-it’ styles. First a loungy bar area (the nicest bit), followed by a small, hard-edged brasserie (where we were), on to posh dining room (uninvitingly dead as a doornail of a Tuesday lunchtime).
Our enthusiastic waitress suggested some Betjeman Ale, and we were glad she did. We kept up the traditional-with-a-twist theme of the menu with our starters, both opting for the poached egg and bacon atop bubble 'n' squeak – it turned out to be a comforting, nursery-like dish that would be a good addition to any brunch menu.
It was with the (rather long-awaited) arrival of the main courses that we started to get bogged down. (And it didn’t help that we'd been sold the need for some accompanying chips and veg' when clearly they weren’t really necessary.)
The American's rare tuna steak with beans and vegetables looked very pretty on the plate, but wasn’t as rare as he'd anticipated, and after a few mouthfuls he was starting to push his food around the plate. A chicken and mushroom pie proved similarly problematic. The chicken came in a watery gravy that had a too few many herbs for its own good. Mashed potato was a big dollop of calorific white sludge without much taste. The superflous thin chips and mayo were hard to criticise but easy to abstain from, and the plate of slightly over-cooked buttery veg a duty rather than a joy.
But British food is all about puds right? So we ordered rhubarb crumble. It did get eaten, but whichever rocket scientist thought the addition of a pastry base was a good wheeze should be given a good talking-to. It came in a sea of cream too.
Searcy's are promising big things with their summer opening on the other side of the station in the old ticket office. It will need a sharper focus on the food than you find here if it's to be an arrival worth waiting for.