King’s Cross celebrates 10 years of regeneration with new photo exhibition and new bar opening

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Old world:  many of the images in the exhibition capture a King’s Cross long gone  (Ralph Hodgson)
Old world: many of the images in the exhibition capture a King’s Cross long gone (Ralph Hodgson)

Restaurateurs, bar owners and even actor Idris Elba have reflected on the regeneration of King’s Cross, a decade on from the majority of work that revived the area.

Though once one of central London’s most rundown areas — it was one of the capital’s red light districts, the goods depot was more akin to a junkyard, while a “temporary” station frontage built in the 1970s remained there for almost 40 years — the station and its surrounding streets were slowly worked on through much of the early 2000s, with the redone St Pancras opening in 2007. A new postcode, N1C, was introduced to acknowledge the changes in 2010, while the revived Granary Building in Granary Square, which houses art-school Central St Martins, opened this week 10 years ago.

Later developments included the the Coal Drops Yard shopping and dining centre, which opened in 2018. The entire King’s Cross area, which had primarily been known for its clubbing scene, began attracting some of the capital’s top restaurateurs around 2011, with openings including Caravan — the first place to launch as part of the redevelopment — followed by the likes of the Granary Square Brasserie, Granger & Co and D&D’s German Gymnasium. Today the area counts Cafe Bao, Hoppers and Casa Pastor among the 41 food and drink outlets in the neighbourhood, as well as a handful from the Harts Group, including Barrafina and Parillan. Sam and James Hart said of their time in N1C: “Some of our formative clubbing experiences were right here at Bagley’s and The Cross and so King’s Cross has always had a special place in our hearts.

“The way Argent and Heatherwick have reimagined Coal Drops Yard and the surrounding spaces, transforming them but keeping creativity at the core, has been amazing to witness and even more special to be a part of. There’s a real community here now, a kind of north London hub that’s also an attractive destination to the rest of the UK and internationally.”

Club central: a photo showing Bagley’s warehouse, which turned into a nightclub in 1989 (Ralph Hodgson)
Club central: a photo showing Bagley’s warehouse, which turned into a nightclub in 1989 (Ralph Hodgson)

The King’s Cross management company is celebrating with a photography exhibition showing the changes over the years. The aptly albeit basically named Then And Now, put together by photographer John Sturrock, is running across benches across the King’s Cross estate, showcasing the differences over the years. The pictures will be on display until December 1 and are free to view.

The area is continuing to change. Among the biggest recent openings has been Porte Noire, a wine bar from Idris Elba and David Farber. Both were clubbers in the area in the 1990s.

“I’m London born-and-bred and to see King’s Cross go through such a remarkable transformation is just really astonishing,” said Elba, “There’s arguably no other place in London that has been transformed quite like this area.

“I remember coming here when it was purely a nightclub hotspot, which is why I now want to bring something that builds on that but also reflects the changes that have been made over time. I’m really excited that our opening coincides with the 10-year anniversary."

Farber added: “I remember being at a very late (or shall I say early) after party in a very large photo studio lost in a maze of warehouses, and wondering how did I end up here. Great party but I was glad to be tipsy. What an amazing place this has become, this is now my go to destination in London for brunch, dinner, or an afternoon wandering with my son.”

Elsewhere on the books is the fortcoming new opening from Marc Francis-Baum, the owner of Barworks, who run the East London Liquor Company and Camden Town Brewery and have some 20 sites across London. Baum is to open a new site in the old filling station from October 20, called the Gas Station, serving coffee in the mornings and cocktails by night, with an all-day menu of seafood.

Francis-Baum said of the news: “I’m thrilled to be opening The Gas Station in King’s Cross this month, just as the area celebrates its 10 year anniversary. I would never have thought that all those years ago partying in Bagleys I would be opening somewhere here, one of London’s most remarkable regenerations. As much as the old days have fond memories, King’s Cross today is such an exciting place to be and we can’t wait to show people what Barworks can do there.”

For more information on the King’s Cross Celebrations, visit kingscross.co.uk

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