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Look North for a decent pint before heading East for Olympics Stadium

Added: Saturday, July 14th 2012

If you’re going to the Olympics and catch the train from St Pancras to Stratford International, you will find some fine watering holes in the King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston area if you fancy a decent pint before arriving in the Heineken-only zone of East London.

First stop for passengers arriving at St Pancras International is the Betjeman Arms at the Euston Road end of the station. It’s on the first floor, alongside the Eurostar platforms. The Betje, as it’s quickly been nicknamed, pays homage to the former poet laureate, Sir John, who campaigned successfully to save the station from the dreaded modernisers.

The pub cleverly manages to combine a genuine “pubby” atmosphere with good dining facilities. The main bar area has comfortable seating that gives views of the open kitchen area where meals are prepared.

The bar is large and service is fast even at busy times when passengers are waiting for trains. A large outdoor area (pictured) at the front of the pub has further expansive seating and is a good place to eat, drink and watch the lucky people heading for the continent. There’s a further terrace at the back of the Betje alongside steps down to Pancras Way.

The pub is owned by Young’s, once a much-admired Wandsworth brewery that stopped making beer in 2006 and turned itself into a pub company. Its beers are now made by Charles Wells in Bedford. You will find Young’s Bitter on the bar but the choice is wide and includes Adnams Broadside from Suffolk, Sharp’s Doom Bar from Cornwall and a house beer, Betjeman Ale, that’s also brewed by Sharp’s.

On the food front, the menu includes soup, fish and chips, duck salad, vegetarian pasta, fillet of salmon, burgers, peppercorn steak and cheeseboard. To prove its pub credentials, there’s a a roast lunch on Sunday.

If you arrive at St Pancras on Thameslink, the nearest pub is not the Betjeman but a new Fuller’s pub at the recently revamped King’s Cross station. Cross the road to King’s Cross and to the right of the platforms that serve East Anglia a wide staircase leads to the Parcel Yard, a brilliant conversion of an old railway facility. It’s vast, with several side rooms leading off the main bar, with wood panelling and old railway memorabilia.

The bar is long and low and groans with a vast range of cask beers. There’s the full Fuller’s portfolio: Chiswick Bitter, Discovery, London Pride, Bengal Lancer and ESB, plus guest beers from other companies. The most interesting beer at the moment is a new Fuller’s brand called Wild River. It’s new in every way, as it marks a major departure for the Chiswick brewery, which usually remains loyal to English ingredients, including local hop varieties.

But Wild River, 4.5%, uses four American hop varieties: Cascade, Chinook, Liberty and Willamette. They give tingling citrus aromas of grapefruit, orange and lemon to the beer, quite different to the more restrained spice and pepper character of traditional English hops.

The Parcel Yard employs a chef, Raymond Corrie, who has designed some tempting pub grub that starts with breakfast and extends through lunch. The menu includes such starters as soup, smoked salmon, salt beef salad, and cauliflower and blue cheese salad, followed by mains of roast artichoke tart, rump steak, cheeseburger, battered cod, steak and ale pie, goat’s curd and tomato salad and that old London pub standby, bangers and mash.

There’s also beer relief at Euston. Fuller’s owns the Doric Arch pub close the station concourse. It’s a small and intimate pub with plenty of seating, railway memorabilia and an excellent range of Fuller’s beers. My favourite is another recent addition to the range, Bengal Lancer, 5%, one of the finest modern interpretations of India Pale Ale.

There’s a wide-ranging food menu available until 9pm. You can choose from sandwiches and light bites, or soup, salads, burgers, fish, sausage and mash, gammon, steaks and mushroom risotto.

For something completely different – and for once the cliché holds true – try the Euston Tap built into the Victorian arch on Euston Road, all that remains of the original station. The Tap is tiny but manages to offer a vast range of beers. There are always eight cask ales on tap but of special interest is the large number of imported draught beers, including many hoppy beers from the United States.

There’s choice a-plenty at the three stations. If, like me, you’re not too fussed about the Olympics, stay in one of the pubs and enjoy the beer.

Betjeman Arms