Le Pain Quotidien, St Pancras International
St Pancras International
NW1 2QP (Map)
020 7486 6154
by Rhys Chris Peese
The hyperbole, bombast and flummery generated by the rerouting of Eurostar trains to St. Pancras might lead one to suspect that something interesting is going on there. Relax. It’s not. The main difference is that it’s now blighted with a surfeit of franchised retail outlets. Our continental cousins will now be welcomed to the UK with… some shops. And a big statue.
The only breakfast choice at present is Le Pain Quotidien, a Belgian chain priding itself on artisanal bread and communal tables. What they have reckoned without, however, is a tendency for those communal tables to unite the British into micro-communities of wry, near-affectionate xenophobia. “You’d have thought they’d do a full English,” muttered one malcontent as he surveyed the bread and pastry-heavy menu. Others were keen to concur, identifying the serving of boiled eggs with bread, rather than toast soldiers, as symptomatic of a creeping European malaise. Hackles were raised further by the lack of English breakfast tea, and the irritating fact that the ‘pot’ of coffee was identical in volume to the bowl from which it was intended to be drunk. And when the old dear next to me sent her tepid porridge back three times to be heated properly, saying, “Porridge should be hot! Or is it the French way?” our table was ready to brick up the Channel Tunnel altogether.
Still, we enjoyed our warm Belgian waffles and granola parfaits. The former was succulent, crumbly and not too sweet; the latter, a spectacular sundae, was replete with melon, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, mint leaves and yoghurt. But the question remains: why provide a continental breakfast for passengers a couple of hours away from being able to get an authentic one abroad, and why welcome visitors to the UK with the cuisine that they’ve just travelled to escape from?