Although in real life I am more likely to be found on the megabus than on the Orient Express, I do love the idea of elegant travel and was thus rather excited by the opening of the Europe's longest champagne bar in St. Pancras. It seemed like the perfect place to start a trip to Paris. St Pancras itself has scrubbed up beautifully, and is stunning - especially the glass ceiling criss-crossed by delicate-blue metal supports. We swished past the shops (all Pain Quotidien this and Foyles that and not a greasy pasty in sight), and followed the signs up the escalator to the bar. And did a double-take.
People were huddled around three sides of a rectangular shaped bar that was, at most, ooh, 15 metres long. Closer examination revealed that there were two long (non-connected) off shoots to either side, where people could sit in booth formation, or stand/perch around high tables. Supposedly these offshoots create the longest serving area for the fizzy stuff, thus justifying the lofty claim.
Despite its famed length, the "bar" offers limited seating spaces and on our visit was pretty full with travellers -- some going the whole hog with a bottle for two, others sipping demurely on cups of tea (why would you go to a champagne bar, on your own, and order tea?!), and one couple for whom the champagne clearly hadn't sparked any romance -- they were barricaded against any conversation by each other's lap top screens.
We sampled the two cheapest options (£8.50 by the glass) which were distinctly different in flavour -- one almost sherry like in its dryness, the other more-traditional tasting and more pleasant – and treated ourselves to five parmesan cheese straws for £3.50.
The menu includes various snacky foods and even a special selection of Valentine's canapés. For £80 you get a nice bottle of champers and a platter for two including oysters, quail's eggs and other delicacies. In fairness, it's much better value than many seasonal offerings, but then you may well lose brownie points when your sweet nothings are interrupted by "This is a security announcement..." bellowing from the station's tannoy…
Champagne Bar, St Pancras Station, NW1 2QP; Tube: Kings Cross; www.stpancras.com/drink/champagne-bar/