Coal Drops Yard: London's New Retail & Dining Destination

Once overlooked and shabby, King’s Cross and its new shopping district, Coal Drops Yard, are being rejuvenated with a plethora of eateries and boutiques

Paul Smith, Tom Dixon and Le Chocolat by Alain Ducasse are among retailers in the new Coal Drops Yard, alongside a culinary collaborative effort between Wolf & Badger and Pip Lacey 

It's a common theme in London’s press: disbelief that a neighbourhood has had the capacity to shake off its troubles and a vague awe at what it’s become. We’ve heard a litany of such observations about King’s Cross. Where journalists used to shuffle out of the district’s nightclubs in the watery light of early morning and bear witness to its down-and-out streets, they now marvel at the fact that those streets have been so thoroughly reimagined as a luxury enclave.

The latest addition to this ever-thriving area is Coal Drops Yard, set between Granary Square and Regent’s Canal. Built in the heyday of 1850s industrialism as a receiving and sorting area for the coal that would have been delivered by train from northern Britain, its slate hipped roofs, cobbled streets and rich ironwork have retained their Victorian grandeur. Much more recently, the yard was a centre for the electronic music scene, as ravers would converge on now-defunct nightclubs Bagley’s and The Cross.

An interior pop-up shop from Swedish furniture brand Hem

Designed by Heatherwick Studio, the new Coals Drop Yard development features more than 50 stores and restaurants. The canal-side setting plays host to a laundry list of quintessentially British brands such as Paul Smith, Tom Dixon, MHL. by Margaret Howell, Christopher Raeburn, Outsiders Store, Cubitts and Universal Works, as well as a number of international names such as Aesop, Twiin, COS and Le Chocolat by Alain Ducasse. There is also an interior pop-up shop from chic Swedish brand Hem, open until January.

The new Wolf & Badger boutique spans ready-to-wear, accessories, beauty and a florist, helmed by Nikki Tibbles. It also houses Hiice, chef Pip Lacey's first solo venture following her role as head chef of Angela Hartnett's Michelin starred Murano.

Of all of them, the food and beverage offerings are of particular interest. Barrafina has become one of London’s most recognisable names in fine dining, as have offshoots Quo Vadis and El Pastór. Siblings Sam and James Hart, along with their business partner Crispin Somerville, will be taking a bold step forward, launching three venues consecutively following a massive crowdfunding campaign.

Tom Dixon, Coal Drops Yard

Speaking with James Hart, I was curious to see what made them opt for such a bold venture. Much of it had to do with the site of Coal Drops Yard. “As soon as the designs for Coal Drops Yard were finalised, we knew we needed to be part of this project,” says Hart. “Put simply, we felt it was the most exciting restaurant space we had ever seen in London and competition was extremely stiff to win it.”

The Coal Drops branch of Barrafina will be the fourth in the group and will offer 34 covers inside with a massive outside terrace for 60 and a private dining room for 20, all serving the modern Spanish tapas for which Barrafina is renowned. The trio’s second restaurant, Casa Pastor, will be a sequel to El Pastór, accommodating 80 diners and serving a range of comestibles inspired by Mexico City.

Finally, they will launch The Drop, a brand new concept with 55 interior covers and 24 on the terrace that will specialise in an eclectic range of wines propped up by British bistro dishes, charcuterie, cheese and oysters. They’ve enlisted the help of Aimee Hartley, founder of Above Sea Level and Genuwine, to put together a list that reflects the bottles the owners are passionate about as well as some trailblazing low-intervention bottles.

Barrafina 

The concepts seem well adapted to Coal Drops Yard. “When we saw the space at Coal Drops Yard and walked round the building site, it was quite clear to us that this was more than a single concept,” Hart explains.

“There were two very large internal spaces and the three arches under the viaduct. In addition to that we could use two large terrace spaces. We felt each space had a very distinct character of its own so we decided to develop five concepts to suit the spaces.”

It’s exciting to see the Hart brothers and Somerville explore a new restaurant avenue, just as it’ll be exciting to see Londoners flock to an area that was hitherto little visited. Coal Drops Yard exemplifies a city on the move.

Festive light display by Studio Mieke Meijer for Coal Drops Yard

Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, London N1C 4AB

10am-8pm (12-6pm on Sundays)