Located in an unlikely spot on Gray’s Inn Road, you could easily stroll past the big gates of the Calthorpe Project. But step inside and you’ll find a beautiful community garden decked out with mismatched chairs and benches, as well as a café serving food made from the garden’s produce. They host workshops on everything from yoga to upcycling and there are plants for sale if you fancy taking some greenery home with you. Just don’t pick the flowers, yeah?
It’s all going swimmingly for this floating bookshop on a 1920s Dutch barge, which used to drift up and down the Regent’s Canal before it found a permanent spot near Granary Square. Every nook and cranny of the Word on the Water boat is stocked with a great selection of old and new books and a woodburning stove keeps it cosy – there’s even a squishy armchair if you fancy curling up with a good read. It also hosts book launches, storytelling nights, poetry slams and live jazz. All aboard!
Getting pissed on sherry isn’t just reserved for your granny at Christmas. Sample the good stuff at Bar Pepito, an Andalusian-inspired sherry and wine bar that’s tucked away off Pentonville Road. Work your way through the extensive sherry list and graze on tasty tapas: there are even suggested sherry pairings for each dish if you want to go all out. All that’s missing is some of that sweet Mediterranean sun.
There’s a reason why there’s always a queue outside Roti King. And that’s because their roti – a flaky, buttery flatbread – is totally worth the wait. Try it stuffed with cheese, egg or spinach – or get two plain rotis on the side for dipping if you order a curry. If you call ahead to place your order you get to be that smug person who walks to the front of the queue to collect your food. You’re welcome.
The Gagosian Britannia Street gallery isn’t a vast space (there’s one main room and two smaller ones), but what it lacks in floor space it makes up for in big-time artists. It’s one of the London outposts of US super-dealer Larry Gagosian’s gallery empire, so you’re guaranteed to see big installations by big names. Its current exhibition is by Chris Burden, including ‘Porsche with Meteorite’, a seesaw-like structure with a Porsche on one side and a metal boulder on the other. Let’s hope that steel frame is sturdy.
You don’t have to hop on the Eurostar to enjoy an authentic French baguette. Aux Pains De Papy was set up by two brothers from the South of France. They’re third-generation bakers, so they know a thing or two about bread-based goods. Croissants, sandwiches and tasty loaves are all made fresh on site, but once the day’s supply sells out, that’s it – so get down there early. Bonne chance!
You can expect way more than your bog-standard lager at the The Queen’s Head – a lovely watering hole hidden away on a side street off Grays Inn Road. It’s owned by the same hopheads who run independent bottle shop Mother Kelly’s, so you know you’re in good hands. As well as three real-ale pumps there’s a rotating selection of craft beers on draught, often from local breweries such as Kernel, Redemption and Camden Town. If you’ve had one too many beers, soak up the booze with classic pub grub including pork pies and ploughman’s platters.
Craft beer breweries are livening up industrial estates all over London and this corner of King’s Cross is no exception thanks to the arrival of Two Tribes. The on-site brewery means the beer is as fresh as it comes and there are loads to choose from – Cream Soda IPA, Coal Drops Yard stout, Non Stop Hits Modern lager – as well as beers from other local breweries and further afield. Plus, there’s a courtyard for alfresco boozing and a sweet soundsystem for DJ sets and gigs. Cheers to that!
From ‘Frankenstein’ author Mary Shelley and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley planning their elopement in the graveyard (romantic) to a Beatles photoshoot, the St Pancras Old Church has a whole lot of history. And another great bit of trivia is The Hardy Tree. In the 1860s, an architecture firm was tasked with moving some of the remains in the graveyard to make way for London’s expanding transport network. The grim job went to a young Thomas Hardy (the novelist, not the grunting/bedtime story-reading actor), who heaved up hundreds of headstones, placing them around a tree in the churchyard. It’s still standing today and headstones have become intertwined with the tree’s roots over the years. Creepy but cool.
Opened by Quentin Blake in 2014, the House of illustration is the UK’s only public gallery dedicated to illustration and the graphic arts. The gallery’s latest exhibition, ‘100 Figures: The Unseen Art of Quentin Blake’, features large-scale oil paintings, drawings and prints which have never been seen before – and they’re a little different to his whimsical Roald Dahl illustrations. If you’re interested in more than just admiring the artwork, it also hosts workshops and courses, which sound way more fun than your GCSE art class.
Bento boxes, donburi (rice bowls) and sushi rolls have all been given a vegan makeover at Itadaki Zen on King’s Cross Road. Choose from udon dishes, sushi and salads at lunch, which you can pimp out with homemade kimchi, marinated seaweed or tofu ‘steak’. Alternatively, head there for dinner and feast on one of the set menus. Who said vegan food was all lentils or fried ‘chik’n’?
Need a break from the crowds of Granary Square? Wander along the Regent’s Canal towpath and you’ll find Gasholder Park, a circular green haven housed in an old Victorian gasholder. The Grade-II listed structure used to be part of the largest gasworks in London and was originally where Pancras Square is now, until it was dismantled in 2011. It’s since been relocated, spruced up and adorned with twinkling fairy lights and loads of mirrors, so it’s a good place for some quiet reflection (sorry).
The nomadic Skip Garden makes a virtue of the new developments popping up all over King’s Cross, moving around the area as land is sold and built on. It’s fitting, then, that the whole place is built using recycled materials, mostly from construction sites. What started as a way to give old skips a new lease of life as urban vegetable gardens (hence the name) has expanded over the years and now you can sample the fruits of their labours in the Skip Garden Kitchen. It also hosts supper clubs, workshops and loads of gardening sessions if you fancy getting your hands dirty.
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