Britain's best station cafes

Michael Manton / 23 January 2015 ( 22 May 2018 )

They're often the places we pass by on the way to somewhere else, but recent years have seen a real renaissance in Britain's station cafes.

So, here's a blistering collection of Britain's best railway buffets, quirky station cafes and pubs (in no particular order).

The Refreshment Room – Carnforth, Lancashire

Famously known as the station buffet in the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter starring Trevor Howard, the Refreshment Room has recently undergone a three year, £1.5 million renovation project to restore it to its 1940s period glory.

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Platform 1 Cafe – Deal, Kent

From its humble origins a few years ago as a derelict and forgotten ex-parcels office, this quirky and friendly retro cafe has become a popular haunt with commuters from the lovely Kent coastal town of Deal.

Decked out in the classic Southern Railway colours of green and buff, Platform 1 has benefited from the introduction of new High Speed rail link into London St Pancras.

Whistlestop Cafe – Woodbridge, Suffolk

If you fancy indulging your sweet tooth, the charming Whistle Stop Cafe in Woodbridge offer a mouth-watering selection of homemade pies, Bakewell tarts, fruitcake, scones and brownies cakes. For those needing a lie down afterwards, the Woodbridge Station Guest House is next door.

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Stalybridge Buffet Bar – Stalybridge, Greater Manchester

Visiting the Stalybridge Buffet Bar is like stepping back in time. Dating from 1885, this is one of the very few remaining Victorian station buffet bars and has retained the original marble-topped bar, back fittings and welcoming fire, and is a veritable museum with photographs of the station in it’s heyday, railway and other memorabilia.

The Head Of Steam – Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Boasting incredible railway architecture and located in Grade 1-listed station buildings that are often regarded as the best in Britain, this great station pub serves up a great range of micro-brewery real ales and Belgian beers. It has four rooms with their own distinct character, located around a central servery area.

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The Parcel Yard – Kings Cross, London

Recent years have seen an incredible redevelopment of this iconic station and the new Parcel Yard is striving to raise the bar for station pub food.

Showcasing original features throughout, this beautiful pub spans two floors and its most famous feature is the central atrium, surrounded by listed glass and topped with a glass ceiling three floors high.

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Grindleford Station Cafe – Foolow, Derbyshire

A haven for bikers and hikers in the heart of the beautiful Peak District, Grindleford Station Cafe is popular for its large portions of fried food, pints of tea and as the home of Grindleford natural spring water. If you're looking for a latte, you're in the wrong place – here they serve milky coffee.

The Centurion – Newcastle

Voted 'Newcastle's most impressive watering hole' by the Observer, The Centurion is located in Newcastle Central Station.

Built in 1893 as a sumptuous waiting lounge for first class passengers, its exquisite tiling is worth an astonishing £3.8 million today. After closing in the 1960’s, the British Transport Police used it as cells. In 2000, the building was lovingly and painstakingly restored to its former glory.

Jubilee Station Refreshment Rooms – Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Named after the Jubilee class of steam engines which used to travel through the station, the Jubilee Refreshment Rooms are operated by two railway enthusiasts who have re-created the type of station cafe that would have been available during the golden age of rail travel.

Station Buffet – Alnwick, Northumberland

If lunch in a bookshop takes your fancy, you can't go wrong here. The Station Buffet is owned and operated by Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain and the home of the famous Keep Calm and Carry On poster. Food and a good book – what more could you want?

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As a boy, in the days of British Rail, I owned a cardboard platform ticket for the world’s longest railway station name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. I’ve lost it (of course), but would love to visit the town again one day. Is it still a functioning railway station?

It most certainly is, but given its chequered open-closed-open history, it’s not surprising that you ask.

The name has now been abbreviated to the more humble Llanfairpwll, serving Arriva Trains Wales’ Cardiff-Holyhead line and the whole trip is a glorious way of savouring the breathtaking scenery of Wales and the borders.

Starting from the Welsh capital, the train travels through Abergavenny, into the English towns of Hereford, Ludlow and Shrewsbury, then back into Wales, and on to Wrexham and Chester.

The line then hugs the North Wales coastline, over Robert Stephenson’s magnificent Britannia rail bridge spanning the Menai Straits (right), stopping at Llanfairpwll, and on to the northwestern tip of the island and Holyhead.

It’s a trip that would impress even the laid-back rail buff Michael Portillo – and all done in less than five hours for under £30 without a railcard, booking in advance.

And you can buy a platform ticket from James Pringle Weavers souvenir shop right by Llanfairpwll station.

Extract taken from Saga Magazine, April 2018. For more travel tips, subscribe to the magazine today!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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