Simon Wittenberg visits Searcys Brasserie at London’s St Pancras International to try out their eat-in experience designed for pre-travel diners in a hurry.
St Pancras in London is a busy rail hub, serving millions of people every year. It’s home to the Eurostar terminal and mainline train services whilst also granting access to several London Underground tube lines. To keep domestic and international travellers suitably fed and watered whilst transiting through the station, there is a plethora of dining options, ranging from sandwich bars to restaurants.
Located on the Upper Concourse is the St Pancras Brasserie by Searcys, which sits a few metres away from the Searcys Champagne Bar – the longest of its kind in Europe.
Accommodating well over 100 people at a time in what is a relatively large and open space, Searcys Brasserie has been tastefully furnished with Art Deco details harking back to the roaring 1920s and a collection of rectangular lamps – the result of the work of Martin Brudnizki, a renowned Swedish designer and architect based in London and New York.
Diners sit at either one of the many longer tables or on leather banquettes in segregated L-shaped booths with a view out onto the concourse and the station’s magnificent and awe-inspiring arched roof.
Searcys St Pancras is now under the watchful eye of the experienced General Manager Samson Nair, formerly of Hutong in The Shard, and Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden, and one of his first requests to the Searcys management upon his arrival at this establishment just a few weeks ago, was to introduce an “express” offering. This has become a reality in the form of the new “Railway Express Menu”, which is available Monday to Saturday, from midday through to nine o’clock in the evening.
This concept is designed for those who are pressured for time, i.e. if they have to catch a train but prefer a sit-down meal versus grabbing a sandwich or perching at a café to stave off any stomach rumbles and signs of hunger as they pass through St Pancras. The type of gastronomy at Searcys St Pancras is modern British, and any dietary specifics can be accommodated on request to the team of chefs.
Depending on how much time visitors have available, there’s the option of either two or three courses (for a 45 or 60-minute meal) priced at a reasonable £25 and £29 per head, respectively. Sides, such as mixed winter greens and triple-cooked chips, come in at £5 extra per portion. For each of the courses, there’s a vegan option, and the meal can be joined by a glass of Searcys English sparkling wine at the cost of £10.
We visited Searcys Brasserie for the three-course menu at 12:30 on a Thursday, and most tables were already filled. Even though this is essentially a high-end restaurant at a station, this eatery attracts workers from surrounding businesses, “regulars” that visit each week, and of course, those travelling, so with all these guest audiences combined, it is no wonder that Searcys Brasserie does so many covers at a time.
After perusing the Railway Express Menu, I chose the smoked and confit Loch Duart salmon from Scotland for my starter, which arrived nicely presented in a small glass Bail lid jar with a series of layers. Firstly, the salad garnish revealed a fine layer of thinly cut radish and cucumber surrounded by avocado mousse.
Delving deeper with one’s spoon uncovers a salmon-type mousse, which could then be spread onto the two small pieces of white toast. It was delicious and a great start to our experience at Searcys.
My other half headed for the tasty, crispy Gressingham duck salad, which was formed of a triangular mound of vegetables, including bean sprouts and shredded carrot, with strands of meat perched on top. Finished with a maple and soy dressing, it was quite a basic dish without too much fanfare but was nevertheless full of flavour and quite filling.
On to the mains, and continuing the fish theme, I tried the beautifully-cooked seared Sea Bream fillet, which sat on a bed of broccoli, bok choy (a type of Chinese cabbage), and three relatively al dente yellow saffron potatoes.
Instead of the slow-cooked Lake District lamb, which carries a £5 supplement, my other half went for the vegan risotto, complete with an asparagus tip, pieces of oyster mushroom, and a sprinkling of vegan Pecorino cheese. It was superbly prepared, as cooking rice is a fine art, but Searcys has certainly got it down to a tee.
Dessert was a tough choice, as both the tiramisu and the apple and rhubarb crumble sounded very appealing. However, I was won over by the latter, and it didn’t disappoint. The rhubarb brought a subtle hint of tanginess to this dish and contrasted with the sweet and refreshing ball of sweet vanilla ice cream.
My dining partner decided on the vegan coconut rice pudding condé with a mango compote topping and a couple of raspberry halves for an added element of colour, which was just as flavoursome, and rounded off what had been an enjoyable lunch.
Overall, the portions are generous enough in size, and even though this is a “fast-tracked” meal, you will feel adequately fed by the time you leave. What’s more, the service is also attentive, but not overbearing at the same time.
Having now had the opportunity to sample the new Railway Express menu first-hand, it must be said that we are totally on board with the concept.
It’s good value for money and ideal for those who are pressured for time but still want to enjoy something more substantial than a snack on the fly or a takeaway before continuing their onward travels.
The à la carte is set to change again on 4th April with further tweaks and additions, but the current iteration is already a great platform on which to build the success of the Railway Express Menu.
Searcys at St Pancras – Where and How?
To find out more about St Pancras Brasserie by Searcys, and the new Railway Express Menu, visit https://stpancrasbysearcys.co.uk.
See photos from our visit on the Luxurious Magazine Instagram page.
Read more reviews, news from the culinary world and guides here.
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