King's Cross bars and pubs

Find the perfect place for a pint or a cocktail in King's Cross

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After decades of being a hub for travellers, King's Cross is becoming a destination in its own right. Case in point: the number of bars and pubs in the area. Bar Pepito it an Andalucían sherry bar and VOC is modelled on a seventeenth-century punch house. Think we've missed a great drinking spot in King's Cross? Let us know in the comment box below

King's Cross bars

Booking Office

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

There’s an anguished moment when you walk in and have to decide whether to sit in or out. Inside: Sir George Gilbert Scott’s lofty interior, a stirring example of the Victorian architect’s interpretation of Gothic revival. Outside, under spacious canopies, you have a nearly ceiling-level view of St Pancras International station. The good news is that all anguish will cease as soon as you’ve taken your seat. Apart from having to wait a couple of minutes too long to get our order taken (sitting outside), we had a blissful visit. The cocktail list, drawn up by Nick Strangeway and the late Henry Besant, gives a prominent place to traditional punches, served in mugs. But the list is a long one. A martini was made well, and the Gin Fix (a variant on Gin Fizz using fresh berries) was a wonderful and refreshing potion. Warning: the free bar snacks, coated peanuts, are dangerously addictive.

  1. St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, NW1 2AR
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Bar Pepito

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

Tucked away in a courtyard accessible via an alley at the foot of Pentonville Road, this rustic, Andalucían-themed bar is dedicated to sherry. With room for only four or five tables, all shaped from sherry casks, it’s a tiny place – so small, in fact, that the toilet is across the road at Camino (run by the same folks) – but no less appealing for its lack of size. The 15 sherries span all styles: fino, which is dry, delicate and pale; manzanilla, comparatively brusque and briny; the sweeter, fruitier styles made with the pedro ximénez grape; and so on. You can sample the breadth of flavours by buying a sherry flight for around £8. The tapas-style cold-food menu features cured meats, olives, regional cheeses, pickled anchovies and figs coated in dark chocolate. The candelabra and bare-brick walls make it cosy, if squeezed; thankfully, there’s room outside in summer.

  1. Varnishers Yard, (Regents Quarter), N1 9FD
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Big Chill House

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Poor ticket sales at the 2009 Big Chill festival led to the event seeking voluntary liquidation, at which point it was purchased by the Festival Republic behemoth. Happily, the two London bars have proven more stable, and continue to earn acclaim from fans who are inspired by the artwork and tickled by the signage (‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ on the toilet doors). Housed in a large, difficult building, the King’s Cross branch can feel a little tumbleweedy on quiet nights; it’s best to head here when there are DJs, generally Thursdays to Sundays with occasional events on other evenings. From the drinks list, cocktails (served in glasses or pitchers) are more enticing than the dull beer list (Amstel, Heineken, Budvar); food includes individual dishes (burgers, burritos) and sharing platters. An upstairs patio comes into its own in summer.

  1. 257-259 Pentonville Road, N1 9NL
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St Pancras Champagne Bar

  • Rated as: 3/5

Don’t let fatuous claims about this being the longest bar in Europe spoil what is a lovely pre-travel experience: glass of champagne in hand and tickets at the ready. Underneath William Barlow’s vast curving roof, a wonder of the Victorian age, the station has been painted in original egg-shell blue, offset by equally delightful decorated brickwork. Given such a setting, it must have been difficult to build a bar to fit into it, but operators Searcy’s have plumped for unobtrusive dark wood and banquettes, giving an urban restaurant look that just about works. Champagne is the thing, emphasised by a vast and laudable list of over 100 wines. It includes unusual bottles from some top houses, such as Pommery’s rich, red fruit-scented Wintertime Blanc de Noirs, and the light, fresh and zesty Jean-Paul Deville at the cheaper end. One quibble is that smaller champagne houses, or even grower champagnes – made by the people who grow the grapes – aren’t included. As for food, crunchy granola contrasted well with soft, slippery poached fruit and yoghurt, but tough slices of bacon came on overdone toast. In winter you’ll need a big coat; there’s powerful heating under every seat, but cold air swirls around this large railway shed.

  1. St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, NW1 2QP
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VOC

  • Rated as: 3/5

From Fluid Movement, which brought us Purl and the Worship Street Whistling Shop, VOC occupies a smallish, cosy space in one of north London’s most restaurant-intensive precincts. The name derives from the Dutch East India Company, and there’s a nautical and historical theme to the drinks list. Punches based on old recipes figure large, though modern technology brings them right up to date. Playing it safe with the classics is by no means the inferior option, however, as textbook martinis and caipirinhas proved. It took us a while to get our drinks because of lack of staff behind the tiny bar (barely five feet long), and there’s no table service, so you have to queue. But no one seemed to mind. Interestingly, more people were drinking beer or wine than cocktails, at least on our visit. VOC now has a restaurant too, majoring on grilled meat.

  1. 2 Varnishers Yard, Regents Quarter, N1 9AW
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Simmons

  • Rated as: 3/5

This now evening-only DJ bar still attracts a studenty, music-savvy crowd to what looks like a cross between an old-style corner newsagents and a Shoreditch-like retro bar. Fantastic Four comic albums, board games in tatty boxes and furniture both wobbly and ratty are juxtaposed with a disco ball and a United Nations of beer cans displayed on a shelving unit. As for actual liquid nectar, drinks include cocktails and taps of Amstel and Tiger atop a tiny bar counter behind which packets of Refreshers and Wizz Fizz offer childhood allure. A fridge contains bottles of Moretti, Tsingtao and Singha beers; standard cocktails are mixed according to request.

  1. 32 Caledonian Road, N1 9DT
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King's Cross bars | King's Cross pubs

Kings Cross Pubs

Queen's Head

  • Rated as: 4/5

This site was once a tawdry, tired and transient tanking house showing big-screen sport, but it’s now been transformed into a great little neighbourhood pub. The new management has overseen a revamp that’s retained the faded Victorian splendour and kept things careworn yet classic – worn tiles, well-trodden wooden floors, stained-glass windows, original cornicing and an upright piano. New additions include art nouveau lamps, an absinthe fountain and a table-top chessboard. There’s no television or fruit machines. The soul-destroying sound of the Sky Sports swoosh has been replaced by mellow music. There’s no cutlery laid on the unclothed tables, just candles and enough space to place a pint and a Melton Mowbray pie or, if you’re properly peckish, a platter. The cheese boards (Oxford Isis, Colston Basset Stilton, Ragstone goat’s cheese) and meat boards (chorizo, Parma ham, salami) are substantial and good value at £8.50. There’s also a ploughman’s lunch and a chunky cheese sarnie consisting of mature Cheddar, chutney and two doorsteps of bread. The broadminded range of craft beers spans several styles with some sourced locally; Kernel, Meantime, Redemption and Camden Town are all championed on draught alongside esoteric ales and the odd accessible lager. Quirky craft curiosities can be found in the fridge (check out the delicious De Molen beers from Holland) and the staff knew all about what they were serving. In addition to a wine list that’s within the means of most wallets

  1. 66 Acton St, WC1X 9NB
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Harrison

  • Rated as: 3/5

In Clerkenwell, this place would almost go unnoticed. Here, amid a Legoland of housing estates and shops catering chiefly to custom from the Indian subcontinent, it’s practically miraculous. Comprising a simply furnished room of stripped wood and tables occupied by after-work regulars, this corner pub enjoys considerable local status for being a smart but unpretentious spot for a decent pint, a natter and a Sunday roast. Früli, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Erdinger, Amstel, London Pride and Staropramen pour from the beer taps lining the long bar counter, staffed by friendly foreigners. Festival tables outside offer extra seating on sunnier days. Standard gastropub fare is well put together and fairly priced.

  1. 28 Harrison Street, WC1H 8JF
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King Charles I

  • Rated as: 3/5

Hidden from the outside world, this homely pub provides rare ales, many whiskies, a roaring fire and the day’s papers to the surprisingly few regulars who frequent it. In fact, if you had to describe what a pub was to someone from Pluto, this would do the job. There’s even a bar billiards tables with a set of rules, just to make it easier for them. Beer-wise, you’ll find sought-after Italian Moretti on draught, Theakston Paradise Ale, Caledonian Flying Dutchman and Deuchars IPA, potentially chased with Maker’s Mark, Highland Park or Glenlivet. There are Brodie’s sherries, too, and bog-standard wines you needn’t bother with. Various branches of the deer family make a decorative appearance, as do unusual tribal masks.

  1. 55-57 Northdown Street, N1 9BL
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