Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Station Buffets

There was a time when just about every station in the country featured a buffet which would also encompass a bar of some sort. They are becoming a thing of the past, nowadays replaced by some sort of branded outlet, devoid of character or any sort of variety of food or drink for sale. So it was with some delight that on a trip to Bridlington at the weekend we came across an echo of the past sitting by the entrance to the station, hiding behind a mass of flowers and foliage.

Our curiosity well and truly prodded, we took a look inside and it was like stepping onto the set of 'Brief Encounter'. There was a roaring fire, a marble topped bar sporting 2 handpumps and a few simple tables with bentwood chairs. The walls in the first room were covered in all sorts of railway memorabilia and in the second were enamalled advertising signs from days gone by. It was a little early for a pint but we figured that if we perhaps arrived at the station a little early for our return train to Scarborough, then it would be an ideal place to wait a while, which of course we did.

Bridlington station is a bit of a gem as well. I'm no train buff who delights in all things railway but I do have a passing interest and it was good to see that the station retains many of its original features and those parts that the owning train company no longer have need of are put to good use. The buffet is clearly a private concern and some of the other areas are given over to local community interest groups. Why can't more stations be like this one?

On Tuesday we visited another station bar, this time in Hartlepool. We were already aware of the existence of the Rat Race Ale House, so once again engineered our arrival for our return journey so that we were early enough to check out the facilities. And aren't we glad we did? It appears to occupy what used to be a store room at the station, next door to the buffet and small though it is, it's full of character and sells some excellent beer. If you fancy a quick pint of fizzy lager, don't bother with this place as they don't sell it, neither do they sell fizzy cider, fizzy beer nor alcopops. As well as real ale and real cider they also sell some Belgian beers, so we bought a couple of bottles of St. Bernardus Tripel for drinking when we got home.

There has been a bit of a resurgence of station based pubs of late with the Sheffiled, Euston and York Taps opening up (though their close alliance with Thornbridge, owned by the husband of the A4E owner puts me off them a bit) and there are a few station based pubs on the Transpennine Ale Trail. A few years ago The Head of Steam established a few places at or near stations too, though I'm not sure how many remain. The one I used to frequent at Euston has since been sold to Fullers, though last time I was there it was still selling a good variety of non-Fullers beers. St. Pancras and Paddington used to have decent characterful bars in the station, selling proper beer and even after refurbishment, the bars are still there, though they have of course been ponced up a bit. And also worth a mention is The Centurion in Newcastle station, which has been refurbished at great expense, restoring some fantastic old tile work in the process.

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