The idea of a station pub doesn't tend to get the pulse racing or promote expectations of any great quality, either in offering or service. But just as the renovated St Pancras is a world away from its seedier Kings Cross neighbour, so this gastro pub
is leagues above your standard train station boozer. Not only does it work extremely well as a stand alone venue in a competitive neighbourhood, but it also aspires to be more than just a convenient stop off for transient travellers coming to and from the
Located on the first floor of the station, head up to the Champagne bar and then turn to the south-end of the station. You will find the pub situated beside a Carluccio’s. You enter into a central room with several
corridors leading into a warren of rooms. First, on the left, is a casual, wooden floored room which contains a number of diners. Leading on from there is the slightly more formal dining room, with its high ceilings, gentle lighting and solid furniture all adding
to the sense of it being an established venue with a real focus on client satisfaction.
If you arrive in the evening the chances are most tables will be occupied by a variety of diners. It is perhaps an unusual venue for which to judge a typical clientele, but you will find a broad sweep of ages, from those in suits to the more casually dressed,
couples to larger groups. What is noticeable is that there aren’t mountains of luggage or people downing a quick pint before making a dash for the train. It really does bring to mind memories of more sophisticated times; it is easy to imagine Trevor
Howard and Celia Johnson – from the classic black and white romantic film Brief Encounter - enjoying a final and special meal here, accompanied by a pianist in the background. The room does empty slightly later on, but by then you may forget you
are in a train station and can easily make a longer evening of it. Staff are prompt, smart and know their menu and ingredients. The manager is visible throughout the evening and clearly there is a care and pride taken in their offering.
The menu suggests a good range of offerings, from soup of the day to pate and salads. The duck salad with poached egg (at £6) is extremely generous and could easily have
passed as a main course portion. Thankfully, quantity is no substitute for quality and the egg is as well cooked as one you'd find in much more expensive restaurants in the City
serving businessmen wishing to impress. A poached egg is a tricky ingredient to pull off well, but here the white breaks perfectly and the yolk oozes out beautifully. The duck is crispy but not chewy, and the salad lightly seasoned so as not to compete.
The leek and potato tart is equally well-balanced, the pastry clearly having not been pulled out of a freezer that morning.
With raised expectations, the mains don’t disappoint. The steak is a fair size and fresh. It comes with a peppercorn sauce that’s present as an enhancer, rather than to smother or hide substandard meat or preparation, and the veg is well cooked and
not too crunchy. Alternatively, a fillet of salmon is well prepared, though, depending on your personal preference, you may want it to have been cooked a little longer.
To finish, an English cheeseboard is generous and varied, and the berry and rhubarb crumble is not bad value at £5.50.
The venue is named after Sir John Betjeman who campaigned to save St Pancras and, in his honour, they serve a specially brewed bitter by Sharp’s. The Adnams Broadside is also recommended. A waiter who advises on the wine is especially friendly
and knowledgeable, taking note of your preference before recommending a rather spicy and fulsome Merlot, which is actually one of their cheaper offerings yet suited the meal well. Finally, a pleasant port splendidly complements the cheese.
The Last Word
The Betjeman Arms is a rather pleasant surprise. It’s a gastro pub that suits several tastes, from quality bar drinks to a casual bite to a more formal restaurant. All of these things are kept separate, but link together and complement the grandeur of the
station, yet enable you to forget you are sat in one. Most definitely a good place to pass your time whilst waiting for a train, but also somewhere to visit if you are in the area. Certainly, those arriving in England at St Pancras will get a great first taste of
English pub food, and one they may find hard to better during their stay.