The King's Cross Filling Station, Goods Way
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Fri Jun 8 2012
You might already be familiar with Shrimpy’s premises. Possibly very familiar. During the 1990s, one of London’s superclubs – Bagley’s – was five minutes’ walk down Goods Way, and the filling station behind King’s Cross was where clubbers bought their chewing gum en route before entering the club. In the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, the filling station was part of the walk of shame, as a trail of thousands of bleary-eyed, footsore clubbers stocked up on bottled water and snacks for the journey home.
King’s Cross has seen a huge resurgence since the days of Bagley’s, with massive investment in new buildings, infrastructure, amenities; 63 acres are being heavily redeveloped, and Central Saint Martins College of Art and design has brought 5,000 bright young things to the former rustbelt. The filling station is destined for demolition in 2014. But in the meantime, some very imaginative use has been made of the old BP service station.
In the way that old diners and drive-ins in the US are sometimes reclaimed and made cool, this gas station has been given a makeover by architectural firm Carmody Groarke. Using the existing, 1960s prefab canopy, forecourt and shop, they have enhanced its modernist look by shielding it from the road traffic with rippling sheets of translucent fibreglass which make it look like an art installation. Walk around the edge of these to enter the forecourt, and it’s not so much a walk of shame as a catwalk. On your left is the Regent’s Canal, with canal boats moored across the water, yellow flag irises growing in the water margins; on your right, the fibreglass wall. There’s no escape.
Diners eye you up as you approach what used to be the filling station shop, now a sleek dining room and bar counter. A greeter who looks as striking as an Almodóvar actor soon puts you at ease, and the diners turn back to each other. It’s a small room, barely larger than a Portakabin.
The cartoonish artwork on the walls evokes mid-twentieth century Americana. Our waiter bore an ironic moustache and white waiter coat. Even the salt and pepper shakers were silver, and the menu and prices show clear ambition.
Shrimpy’s is run by Pablo Flack and David Waddington of the Bistrotheque bar-restaurant, and veterans of the pop-up restaurant scene. They’ve gone for smart American food which pays homage to down-home food, yet is quite unlike it.
A glazed burger bun is filled with soft-shell crab that’s deep-fried to give crunch, the aroma of the fryer, and a slight seafood taste; the result is evocative of an upscale fish finger sandwich. The layer of avocado makes it a little too squidgy to eat without making a mess; this is not the dish to order on a date. Meaty-textured monkfish was slightly scorched by the grill, the pallid flesh offset by crimson rings of radish and hits of lemon and chilli to zip it up.
Less successful were the starters; the salt cod croquettes were mush-filled and oddly shaped, though the accompanying aioli was good. And the ‘Peruvian ceviche’ won’t have London’s new wave of Peruvian cevicherias quaking on their boots; our waiter was unable to tell us what sort of fish it was, and the dominant flavours were of lime and raw onion, with little of the subtlety of the real thing.
Portion sizes were not generous in the US way, as side dishes were required. A parcel of humita, a ‘porridge’ of steamed yellow corn, was welcome, and the crisp shoestring fries were excellent. The desserts include poached quince, and the rather more American pineapple crisps.
The cooking at Shrimpy’s is good rather than great, and the prices are not cheap. But what really makes the place a destination diner is the striking design, the beautiful canal-side setting, and the undeniable cool factor. They’ve done a great job on what will only be a two-year pop-up.
The biggest disappointment is that the canopied forecourt, with the gorgeous water views, is not for alfresco Shrimpy’s dining; it’s been reserved as a ‘cultural space’ and will have a much simpler food and drink menu. Even so, we expect the forecourt’s offerings will stretch beyond chewing gum and bottled water.
Shrimpy's The King's Cross Filling Station, Goods Way
020 8880 6111
- Opening hours:
Meals served 11am-10.30pm daily
Tube: King's Cross or St Pancras tube/rail
Main courses £15-£20 Meal for two with drinks and service: around £95.
- The King's Cross Filling Station, Goods Way
- 020 8880 6111
- The King's Cross Filling Station, Goods Way
Outdoor facilities. Tables outdoors