Summoned by beers – Bloomsbury RAW at The Betjeman Arms

Martin Jennings’ statue of John Betjeman, St Pancras Station

After our visit to one of Bloomsbury’s oldest pubs, The Lamb, we thought we’d visit one of its newest, The Betjeman Arms in St Pancras Station.

Poet John Betjeman was an old-fashioned type, who loved St Pancras’ wild Victorian gothicism enough to ensure it didn’t get knocked down and turned into some horrible soulless shed (Euston). So it’s deeply appropriate to honour the old boy here, in a corner of the station, with a nice friendly pub serving proper beer and tasty bar snacks.

Mind you, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the Betjeman Arms. Its high ceilings and big windows give it an airy feel, with blonde wood and handsome young staff. The music was pleasant, and although it seemed slightly intrusive at first, soon receded into the background.

Most importantly, there was a decent selection of real ales on tap, with the emphasis on the Cornwall brewer, Sharp’s. The house’s excellent, if ubiquitous Doom Bar, of course, but also a pleasingly light Betjeman ale (unique to the company that runs the Betjeman Arms), which I felt obliged to try, and a pilsner. The website says the ales are rotated regularly to provide a good variety – on the day we visited there was also the Adnam’s stalwart Broadside.

Almost as important, given that it was lunchtime, was the impressive menu of toothsome bar snacks. Disappointingly, the pork pie with piccallili had sold out, but there were other temptations, such as black pudding scotch egg, and Stilton toasties. I settled for whitebait with some very decent chips.

The clientele, as is to be expected for a railway ale house, was eclectic and mostly transient, from businessmen waiting for trains to young couples snatching a furtive hour away from the office. On a Friday lunchtime, there were plenty of people with suitcases in tow, off for a jolly weekend in Paris. The staff were efficient, friendly and kind, welcoming all their guests equally. The one drawback we spotted was the whistling wind from the station’s Eurostar platforms through to the bar, which drove us from a table to a sofa tucked away around a corner. There was a TV, but no sound, and, usefully no doubt for many, a trains departure board.

It’s not cheap – although it’s a darn sight cheaper than the Booking Office bar, now part of the St Pancras Grand hotel – but it is very pleasant. And it has a tuck shop, selling sweeties for your journey. Now, who could resist that?

The bar at the Betjeman Arms

Outside the Betjeman Arms, in the corner of the station

Images: My own.

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