About 5 years ago, I used to live in Kings Cross.
It was the cheapest place you could afford to rent in within zone 1 or 2, as long as you were prepared to live in a flat that was filled with mice and had no living room – which I was. It was first station in London that I ever learned to navigate like a pro, the first area I really got to grips with. In essence, it was the first part of London that I ever thought of as home.
It was also a massive shit-hole.
Imagine my surprise then, to find that since I left, Kings Cross has undergone a huge transformation. The St Pancras Renaissance Hotel opened in all of it’s restored, Gothic glory and is truly one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. Kings Cross tube station got a sexy, curvy new roof (as well as lots of other aesthetically-pleasing improvements which were long overdue). Housing prices have boomed, and the streets all around the station have benefited from a huge number of new restaurants and cafes investing in what was once a functional but pig-ugly part of London. This is not the Kings Cross I once knew!
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to rediscover my old haunt, and after being given the chance to work in London for the weekend as part of my day job, I knew that Kings Cross was the only place I wanted to stay. Thankfully, there’s plenty of cheap accommodation in this area (two nights in the delightfully simple and wallet-friendly Tune Hotel set me back only £160).
My first step was to book a table for dinner at the newly opened T.E.D Restaurant. It’s situated a couple of minutes walk from the tube station on Caledonian Road, which used to be populated only by greasy spoon cafes and backpacker hostels. Not anymore.
T.E.D stands for “Think, Eat, Drink” and represents an aim to create a forward-thinking and environmentally aware eatery without compromising the menu, and they have certainly hit the mark. I’m talking sustainably sourced steak tartare, lamb shank, and creamy, cheesy risotto – not the typical veggie food you might expect from a restaurant with such a ‘hippy’ ethos. You can read my full review of T.E.D Restaurant on GoodTrippers (clue: it was amazeballs).
For my next trick, I grabbed breakfast from LEON, housed in the main concourse at Kings Cross (and in lots of other locations across London). Described as “the future of fast food” by The Times, LEON specialises in on-the-go food that tastes good and does you good. They are also founding members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and have been recognized by the RSPCA for the care they take in their sourcing. You know that soggy, processed McDonald’s McMuffin you end up eating when you’re hungover? F*ck that. At LEON, you can pick up a smoked salmon, free-range egg and spinach muffin with a fairtrade coffee for less than a fiver. Yes, it’s as good as it sounds. (Their latest cookbook, Fast Vegetarian, is also worth a gander).
Sadly, as this was a whistle-stop tour of my old haunt, I didn’t have time to sample the food at the other two ethical gems I managed to uncover in what used-to-be manky Kings Cross. The first, called Grain Store, has a manifesto that is extremely close to my heart. Their aim is to make vegetables a superstar ingredient, and in their own words, “although many dishes have a meat or fish element, our menu gives vegetables equal billing, if not the starring role”.Their weekend brunch menu includes dishes like potato pancakes served with sour cream leeks, poached duck egg, and wasabi caviar. How epic does that sound?
The second discovery I made during my online research was a Japanese restaurant called Itadakizen, which has been featured by Time Out as one of their “Top 100 Cheap Eats in London”. On top of their obvious ethical credentials as a result of being 100% vegan, they also encourage customers to order only what they know they can eat, or take any unfinished food home with them. There’s a lot to be said for a business that actively encourages people not to over-order.
Long story short: Since I left Kings Cross, it has morphed in to one of the best areas in London for exciting, ethical eating.
Before the price of a hotel or B&B really goes through the roof, get yourself off to Kings Cross for the weekend and check out my new-old favourite part of London.