The main dining room of the revamped St Pancras Station; our (very) early-days visit found an unusually glamorous room and welcoming service, as well as food – from a long and varied menu – of some promise.
There’s some dispute as to when is the ‘right’ time to review a restaurant. Like many discussions about restaurant criticism, it is largely fatuous – all one-man (or even two-men) restaurant reviews are provisional. What’s important is for the writer to convey the feeling of certainty he or she genuinely feels is appropriate. (When any critic says My Word is Law, you know it’s time to call for the men in the white coats.)
We visited Searcy’s new restaurant at St Pancras – a twin to their famous longest-champagne-bar-in-Europe operation – arguably rather early in its life. In fact, it was so early that there wasn’t a menu outside yet, and the man who greeted us turned out to be the Managing Director of the whole Searcy’s catering-to-restaurants empire.
What can we deduce even before we enter the dining room? That this is, for once, a multiple operation where the top people see their rôle as more than reviewing a weekly spreadsheet. Can’t be a bad thing.
First impressions of the restaurant itself? This is one of the the most handsome dining rooms in London. It has that feeling of space you hardly ever get in the West End, and the fit-out is Deco-inspired without being pastiche – ideal for evoking some supposed golden age of travel. It’s also really solid and well-spaced. You have the feeling that – as long as no one buggers it about – this could be some sort of ‘classic’ in, ooh, 30 years’ time.
Service, of course, was a bit slow and disjointed in these early days. Black mark. Was it obviously trying hard? You bet. Rub out that black mark. If they try, and if the head man keeps buzzing around, they’ll no doubt get there pretty shortly.
The food was a bit up and down. Bread was good in conception, but a bit doughy on the bite. A fish soup was rather bland and English when – of all locations in Blighty – this one surely calls for un petit homage to nos amis across La Manche? Roll on the rouille and the croutons, we say. There are some dishes Johnny Foreigner just does better.
Liver and bacon, however, was a triumph. This is no small matter. Any kitchen which can get liver right – about one in three, we’d guess – has got something going for it. And the mash was jolly good too. Take that, Mr Frog.
And then the curtain came down on our early review, as other obligations plucked us away before we sampled a pudding which – after the success on the liver front – we guessed would be rather good. We did have time for a quick slurp of espresso, though, which ended the meal nicely.
So, a very preliminary overview of a restaurant that wasn’t officially ‘open’ yet. But we can already say it’s a splendid room, and there’s every sign that the cuisine and service may (almost) live up. Provisionally, obviously.