KING’S CROSS.

Gay Times Magazine - - THE UK TRIP - Words Si­mon Gage

Any­one who ever stepped over a nod­ded-out junkie while be­ing care­ful not to knock the nee­dle out of their ac­tual arm in or­der to get to a rat­in­fested (fun, but rat-in­fested) night­club in King’s Cross through­out the ‘90s laughed when they heard that the area was to be re­de­vel­oped. Not snižered, full head-back laughed. Quite apart from any­thing, where was Prime Sus­pect go­ing to film the bod­ies of mur­dered pros­ti­tutes if not in King’s Cross?

Well, we may have laughed heartily while at a big night out at Ba­gley’s Ware­house or Fic­tion or Drama or Pop­starz, some of which might have been the same place, but it seems like those big-dream de­vel­op­ers are hav­ing the last laugh with King’s Cross, now one of the jumpingest ar­eas packed full of smart bars and restau­rants and ho­tels and, erm, sta­tions. Yes, even the sta­tions – Kings Cross and St. Pan­cras In­ter­na­tional – are smart with the long­est cham­pagne bar in the world, mas­sive art by the likes of Tracey Emin and rinky-dinky shop­ping al­lées. In fact, the area has be­come so lively, if you were ar­riv­ing by train from Scot­land or York­shire or on Eu­rostar from Paris or Brus­sels, you could ac­tu­ally de­cide not to leave the area. As in not go into proper Lon­don but hang out there in Kings Cross, where hook­ers once roamed free.

Where would you stay? Well, there’s the St. Pan­cras, the Gothic re­vival palace where the Spice Girls filmed the Wannabe video, which is full-on grand with sweep­ing stair­cases and huge church-like win­dows. It’s now a Re­nais­sance, so they’re not push­ing any en­velopes very far, but there’s no get­ting away from that built-in wow fac­tor.

Then there’s the Great North­ern, one of those Vic­to­rian grand ter­mi­nus ho­tels that re­ally has been re­stored to prob­a­bly much bet­ter than it ever was with a con­tem­po­rary vibe that never steps on the sheer hench­ness of the build­ing, now hous­ing the ex­cel­lent Plum & Spoon restau­rant and cute lit­tle bars. And if you wait a while, that rather cool 60s Town Hall just across the Eus­ton Road is go­ing to be a Stan­dard. Yes, like in Amer­ica!

As for eats, just take your pick as you wan­der the huge area, that has cun­ningly pre­served huge Dick­en­sian ware­houses while slot­ting in sleek mod­ern bits by all the right ar­chi­tects. The Ivy has one of its brasseries, with ter­race and chan­de­liers, there’s the Ger­man Gym­na­sium, an old ware­house that has been trans­formed into a cav­ernous brunch/lunch/ din­ner/busi­ness break­fast spot with booths down here and up there in the very high up bal­cony. Then there’s Car­a­van, an­other huge ware­house of a place and Spir­it­land with the huge retro speak­ers where you can’t hear your­self think and your drink vi­brates like the glass of wa­ter in Juras­sic Park.

Gra­nary Square, in front of the brand new St. Martin’s School of Art – so there are al­ways in­ter­est­ingly dressed young peo­ple to spot – is prob­a­bly the liveli­est bit of King’s Cross mainly due to the 1,000-plus jet foun­tains that by day at­tract squeak­ing chil­dren, who run through them, and by night are lit up to create a light sculp­ture. You can even hook them up to your mo­bile phone and have a game of Snake with your mates, if you can fig­ure out how to do it.

Sit on the grassy steps look­ing at the canal and have a lunch from KERB, a street food

mar­ket, be­fore a spot of shop­ping in the brand new Tom Dixon de­sign store in the build­ing where you’re pretty sure you once felt some­one up while giddy on vodka and Red Bull.

Mean­while Thomas Heather­wick, he of the new Routemas­ters and that Olympic torch, is busy turn­ing some old coal stor­age units, where con­dom­less sex was once ne­go­ti­ated, into Coal Drops Yard, an area of shops, gal­leries, restau­rants, mu­sic venues, no doubt all serv­ing only Fever Tree mix­ers with their spir­its. He’s ac­tu­ally ma­nip­u­lated the roofs of two ad­join­ing build­ings, in quite a sur­real way, to make a whole new vis­i­tor-friendly area, which will be un­veiled in full in Oc­to­ber.

And they are re­ally push­ing the cul­tural side of things with the House of Illustration, which puts on the bižest fes­ti­val of illustration in the coun­try, the Gagosian Gallery and free per­for­mances at the Lewis Cu­bitt Square.

Yes, Google is there. Yes, it’s a prop­erty de­vel­oper’s dream and yes, it has pushed out a lot of very good gay nightspots but gay nightspots are only go­ing to get the bits no one else wants – un­til they want them – so in the mean­time, we’ll see you in Rom­ford. • gnhlon­don.com

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