From Brief Encounter to Trainspotting: readers’ favourite station bars, restaurants and cafes | Top 10s
Step back in time at Carnforth
Visit platform one at Carnforth railway station, where Brief Encounter was filmed, and enjoy great food and drinks at the Refreshment Room. The venue, restored to its 1940s period glory, is a step back in time. As an added bonus, there is a volunteer-run small museum full of railway memorabilia. It’s a special place, and the trains rolling by just add to the atmosphere.
A model train chuffs over your head in Copenhagen
Jernbanecafeen, next to Copenhagen central station, is a sweet-and-small bar with a lot of railway-themed memorabilia, including a train running above your heads on a small track suspended in the air! It has a wide selection of bottled beers and prices are reasonable (for Denmark).
Samosas and chaat at London Euston
Drummond Street, next to Euston station, may not be an obvious choice, but I always detour there. It has a selection of mostly vegetarian south Indian restaurants, and Ambala, a shop selling the very sugary south Asian sweets, though I go there for the vegetable samosas, the unique selection of Bombay mix and the chickpea chaat. It’s a retail shop with not much character, but once you taste their selection, you will not care about the ambience.
Modernismo on show, Ventimiglia
Ventimiglia, the most westerly town on the Italian riviera, is worth a visit for its beautiful beaches, charming old town and one of Italy’s biggest markets, held every Friday. Its station cafe, built in 1942, is a perfectly preserved example of modernist architecture. Dramatic tiered white marble light fixtures cascade from the ceiling and curved glass display cases tempt with custard-filled brioches and deliciously oily focaccia. On the back wall, a 4-metre-high mosaic celebrating labour juxtaposes a Roman aqueduct and the engineering prowess of Mussolini’s regime.
Egg and paprika sausage, Hungary
By the station in the Hungarian town of Keszthely is Vén Bakter Söröző. It seems to be always open, and serves the best omelettes I have ever eaten: giant wheels of egg and paprika sausage, alongside a range of spirits, beers and fröccs (white wine spritzer) – perfect for an early-morning wait for a train.
Live folk music, Sheffield
The Sheffield Tap, Sheffield station’s railway pub, is truly wonderful. Based in a beautifully restored historic building, it has a microbrewery on site, and you are bound to meet friendly strangers to strike up a conversation with. Every fourth Tuesday of the month people meet here for the Sheffield folk train, which runs through the Peaks accompanied by live folk music.
Lion’s milk in Istanbul
The Orient Express restaurant in Sırkecı station in Istanbul greets you with an ornate facade. Its grandiose doors lead to a huge salon where the eastern light streams in through beautiful stained-glass windows. Its ambience transports you back in time as white-jacketed waiters hurry around. The station no longer serves the famous train, but diners are well looked after. The vegetable soup and lamb kofte went down well with some local rakı – “lion’s milk”, as our waiter called it. Well worth a trip.
Whodunnit in Cumbria
At Bassenthwaite Lake station in the Lake District, you dine in the carriage used in the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express. The food and decor are impeccable. Superb in every way.
Habsburg empire elegance, Poland
Recently renovated Lublin station is arguably the most imposing in Poland, although castellated Wrocław, turned to shimmering gold as the sun sets, runs it close. Both are temples of Habsburg empire elegance. Lublin’s flawless white facade, in somewhat eclectic style, was chosen in the 1920s to replace the original Russian-inspired edifice. With such a setting, maybe anything would have tasted great, but I balked at the “hot kebab bistro” offering inside the marbled halls – an Ottoman dish? – and instead chose to walk into town for herrings and vodka at the Ministerstwo Śledzia i Wódki. A dish more suited to the resurgent Polish nation – superb!
Winning tip: a warm west Highlands welcome
I’ve enjoyed warm welcomes at the neighbouring west Highlands station cafes Corrour station house and Rannoch tea room. Both are lovely havens in such remote places, especially before or after a dreich day on the hills! Corrour is of course known for Trainspotting and as the most remote UK station. Its station house has a cracking fire and serves local venison. Rannoch is almost as remote, at the end of a long road past pretty Lochs Tummel and Rannoch. Its tea room has a great selection of homemade cakes. Adventurous souls handy with a map can link them via a 10-mile walk along the historic “Road to the Isles” – a track with fine views across Rannoch Moor and Loch Ossian – and return by train. Two for the price of one!