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Where to eat in King’s Cross

Coal Drops Yard - Image by John Sturrock

Once famous for its warehouse parties and infamous as a red light district, this vibrant area of London now has a thriving and diverse restaurant scene

With six Tube lines, two mainline stations and Eurostar on the doorstep, King’s Cross is a major gateway to London. Yet it is much more than a place to pass through: hidden behind St Pancras International and King’s Cross stations is an exciting new creative quarter. A massive wave of development has transformed a 67-acre industrial wasteland full of derelict Victorian warehouses, disused railway arches and rusting gasholders into London’s newest postcode – NC1.

It’s a world away from the grime, dilapidation and police siren soundtrack of the 1990s. The gasholders have been turned into apartments, while a former granary is now Central St Martins (art and design college). There are restaurants, bars, coffee shops, art venues and retailers, including a huge Waitrose & Partners store (plus cookery school) occupying the once abandoned railway sheds, arches and warehouses. 

There’s no better example than Coal Drops Yard, two converted coal warehouses connected by architect Thomas Heatherwick’s stunning curved roof and offering a mixed bag of independent shops and signature brands (think Paul Smith, Universal Works and hipster barber Manifesto), alongside brilliant restaurants, bars and cafés.

At Vermuteria, seasoned chef Anthony Demetre’s take on the vermouth bars popular in Spain, southern France and Italy, the ambience is as casual as it gets. You can explore the world of vermouth accompanied by Mediterranean-inspired small plates, such as a spectacular venison ragu and gnocchi or Galician octopus
with chickpeas.

Equally popular is The Drop, a cool little wine bar tucked into a corner under railway arches, the sort of place where you go for a glass and end up staying for a bottle and sharing plates of cheese, charcuterie, a generous slice of pork pie or gooey rarebit. It’s the latest idea from Sam and James Hart, who have taken over this corner of Coal Drops Yard to house Casa Pastor, an updated version of their Borough Market hit El Pastor. It’s been expanded to offer not only cocktails and Mexican food but also a Mexican-inspired breakfast menu and heated covered terrace. On the floor above is Barrafina, the largest of the brothers’ four Spanish tapas bars. With no bookings, counter seats are highly prized for crunchy-yet-gooey croquetas, calamar and buttifarra buns, creamy tortillas and arroz negro.

Nearby, booking is essential at the handsome Coal Office overlooking Granary Square. A collaboration between British designer Tom Dixon and chef Assaf Granit, it’s the place to share food bursting with the warm-hearted flavours of the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, notably shivkia, a savoury Moroccan cookie topped with tuna, date cream, preserved lemon aïoli and tahini verde.

On warm sunny days and balmy evenings the various restaurant and bar terraces overlooking the Regent’s Canal and the spouting fountains of Granary Square fill quickly. Some three hundred metres away, the Rotunda at Kings Place provides a welcome away-from-it-all alternative. The York Way building may be better known as a music and arts venue – with two world-class concert halls and two major commercial art galleries – but its modern restaurant and terrace overlooking the barges on the Regent’s Canal is a cracking spot. There’s a pleasing seasonal rhythm to a menu that features superb Northumbrian-bred beef and lamb and Cornish fish, and the comfortable, discreet waterside terrace bar is the kind of place where the work day could quite easily slip into the evening.

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
For the ultimate treat, chocolate connoisseurs should seek out this tiny shop to stock up on the finest ganaches, pralines and truffles from one of France’s top chefs. For an instant fix, slip into the adjoining café for a cup of the best hot chocolate you will ever taste.

Redemption Roasters
Coffee lovers should head to Lower Stable Street, where breakfast eggs, grilled cheese toasties and delicious cakes back up a range of top-notch ethically sourced coffee. You’ll be supporting a good cause, too. The coffee is roasted in small batches at Aylesbury Young Offender Institution, part of a scheme to reduce reoffending by teaching roasting and barista skills.

House of Cans
Viewed from Redemption Roasters opposite, the box-like shop appears to be an art installation. Venture in, however, and you’ll find a micro bar and off-licence (seating no more than half a dozen) whose walls are lined with strikingly designed craft beer cans, part of a collaboration with artists and independent breweries. The perfect gift for a beer lover.

Waitrose Cookery School
Do you fancy learning how to make Vietnamese street food, Italian patisserie or want to expand your meat-free repertoire? A food storage warehouse behind Central St Martins is now a Waitrose & Partners store – the generous space incorporating a stylish wine bar and a light, bright and popular cookery school, the third to be opened by the supermarket. The school draws enthusiastic foodies who are inspired to brush up on their cookery skills by a wide range of hands-on courses featuring dishes from all over the globe.