The transformation of King’s Cross is well underway and there’s a lot to discover. So whether you are looking for somewhere nice to eat in a fascinating heritage building or wanting to enjoy a family day out, King’s Cross is well worth checking out. Last week I was delighted to be taken on a private tour of the area and hear more about some of the projects which are opening soon
With 67 acres, King’s Cross is one of the largest re-generation programmes in Europe, with a scheme that is seeing the creation of 2,000 new homes and a brand new business area which has attracted companies, such as the world leading internet company Google and with the two major stations so close by rather fittingly Louis Vuitton, the fashion house renowned for their monogram luggage!
The re-generation of the area is well underway, gone is its former down at heal and dare I say it rather seedy image, and in its place are large open public spaces with some great historic and contemporary buildings. What makes this neighbourhood stand out for me is that it has retained its industrial architecture and original features and adapted it for contemporary usage.
The tour started outside the Granary Building, a former grain store which is now the home of Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London. Although there is no public access inside the university itself, the central space (The Crossing) is open and it’s worth taking a peek inside to look at its vast, almost cathedral like foyer, think Tate Modern. Inside are Caravan, serving an all day menu offering small and large plates, pizza and a special weekend brunch menu, Grain Store, a Bruno Loubet bistro, their dishes focus on vegetables rather the meat, and offer a good selection of imaginative vegetarian dishes and cocktails. The newest addition to the granary building is one of my favourite teahouses Yumchaa.
Granary Square contains over 1,080 individual fountains and is one of the largest open spaces of its kind in Europe, similar to the courtyard of Somerset House but on a much larger scale. Worth looking out for is Kerb, who offer a small, rotating selection of street food traders Tuesdays to Fridays. Also nearby is the newly opened Pancras Square, which acts as the gateway to the development, leading visitors up to Regent Canal.
Granary Square is currently home to Winter Sun, offering a range of events in a striking temporary structure until 30th January 2015. This is just the latest offering of regular events that are hosted in King’s Cross which have ranged from an ice cream festival to a floating cinema. The events are always imaginative and very popular, so it’s worth regularly checking the website to get the latest information.
Round the corner is the Visitors’ Centre, with models and displays, open Monday to Saturday. It is well worth going there first as they have a great range of leaflets and other goodies, plus the chance to join in a free walking tour.
Walking down Stable Street I was able to get a preview of some of the other projects on site. Just opened in the former stables is Dishoom, a Bombay style cafe, which I must visit soon as I was told the walls are covered in secret messages and they serve the best Chai around.
Opposite are the coal drops, being transformed into small retail units, which will be similar in character to Covent Garden, and due for completion in 2018. It was here in the 1990s that the rave clubs were located and my guide, who has been lucky enough to take a look inside, told me that there are still some of the originally features and stickers on the wall.
The Lewis Cubitt Park and Square are due to open in the next couple of months. It’s suitably named after the architect of King’s Cross Station, the Great Northern Hotel and the Granary Building. This major square and new landscaped park with its grassy lawn will be a welcomed green space.
Also coming soon is the King’s Cross Pond Club, an outdoor natural, chemical free lido which will also include a club element. This is another leisure facility for the area in addition to the newly completed St Pancras Square Leisure Centre.
The iconic Gasholder No 8, with its restored frame, is due to be the centrepiece of Gasholder Park, which is due to open later in 2015. But if you just can’t wait to enjoy the green space coming to the development, then perhaps a trip to the Skip Gardens, a community garden, complete with an organic cafe in the centre of the redevelopment might take your fancy.
If all this wasn’t enough of an incentive to visit there’s even more planned including the opening of new Waitrose, which will include a cookery school, as well as new restaurants from D&D London in the historic German Gymnasium and Jamie Oliver, who will be located in the historic Fish and Coal Buildings.
There’s lots to see in King’s Cross and there is certainly something for everyone, and it’s definitely worth exploring.
Nearest Tube/ Train Station: King's Cross or St Pancras International (Zone1)
The Visitors’ Centre has moved to the Western Transit Shed on Stable Street.
Guided tours are free and pre-bookable from http://www.kingscross.co.uk/tours
If you enjoyed this you might like reading my blog about how different the area was in 2012 when I undertook a previous tour.
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.