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Saturday, December 01, 2007

73: Champagne charlies

St Pancras International is currently something of a disappointment. Long awaited and feted as a destination in its own right, this magnificently restored building is an architectural gem. Sadly much of the extensive media coverage and marketing has been frittered as so few of the promised amenities are yet open. A day after Eurostar's first paying passenger service arrived here there was but a handful of shops open. A fortnight later maybe a third are in business. I was invited by Angela - who took pity on my one-wheeled bag and turned up with a spanking new valise - to partake in a flute at the longest champagne bar in Europe. It is certainly enjoying early success and we are grateful to the people who permitted us to join them as seats were at a premium.

As champagne bars go this is nothing special, relying soley on the location with nary a thought to service or presentation. At £7.50 for a flute of house fizz I would have expected the sparkling liquid to have been placed in front of us, at least, if not poured, yet our glasses were unceremoniously plonked in front of us without as much as a paper coaster to take care of the dripping condensation. The manager explained that they had taken the decision not to use coasters as they might look "untidy". This concession to style over substance is surely an opportunity missed, it seemed to me, thinking whistfully of the great German beers for example that arrive at optimum temperature in the right branded glass around which has been placed a branded ring to prevent dripping. If a "lowly" beer can be thus proudly proffered then doesn't the prefered drink of celebration, of luxury, of good times, deserve at least as much? He commented on how they had been the "victims of their own success". Later I wished I had retorted that it is sad how so many can be satisfied with so little.

I still wish St Pancras well. Once fully fitted out - some benches might be nice - and with all the units open, it will be worth a look beyond the in-the-face magnificence of the Barlow shed. For now I cannot see non-passengers making early return visits. As for the champagne bar, expect it to be openly offering cheaper alternatives before long. Perhaps it could become the longest coffee bar in Europe?