Wandering around the Euro-chic shopping mall of St. Pancras I was starting to get worried – there was the champagne bar, but where was the pub? Who ever heard of a huge city centre train station without a pub? Eventually I found it, far off in the corner, on its own, away from the main shopping concourse.
The “Baby Betjeman” is a fenced off area in the corner of the station and provides an interesting snapshot of what’s happening to British pubs. It’s by no means shit, but it’s a curious combination of things to both love and loathe that leaves you unsure of what kind of mood you’re in as you sup your pint.
The first thing you notice is that it’s not a pub. No, you see, mere pubs are naff. Too English, too old-fashioned, too working class for our modern, aspirational, solutions-oriented society. The Baby Betjeman is a “pub and kitchen”.
I’m confused by this trend in naming establishments – you see quite a lot of it in North London now. I’m confused because I always thought a kitchen was an integral part of a pub, so why is it now a separate addendum? Because it sounds posher. I’ve tried to adopt this to see if I can make my own like sound a bit classier and I’m not sure it’s working. It feels strange talking about ‘my body and arms’. When I leave my house and bedrooms to travel somewhere by car and engine, then come home to write this blog entry and words, I can’t help worrying that I sound like I’m talking out of my arse and rectum.
The BB has waiter service at its tables so it really isn’t a pub at all. (Pubs also have walls and ceilings in my experience). There are wine lists pushing champagne heavily on each of the tables.
The draught lagers are Budvar and Amstel – an excellent choice of premium and standard strength brands. And even though they don’t mention them anywhere, behind the bar are two casks of real ale on stillage – London Pride and a guest ale – Sharp’s Doom Bar, which was excellent. There are further bottled ales behind the bar and an interesting-looking food menu, if you’re the kind of person who can splash out seven quid on a cheese sandwich. (The Doom Bar had the honour of being the first pint of real ale I’ve ever paid three quid for.)
And here’s a nice thing – as this pub has no walls and ceiling, it was bloody freezing. But over the backs of each of the chairs was a lovely thick blanket to drape over your knees. I’ve seen this before in Denmark, which has a thriving pavement cafe culture throughout the winter, and thought it was a lovely idea that would never catch on in the UK, so I’m delighted it has.
I’d say it’s worth turning up half an hour early for your train – if you can find it.