Coal Drops Yard is huge and yet it has remained hidden and unknown to me and, I am certain, to many others, for almost 170 years. Even though I used to live in London. Even though I have passed close by several times a year for 20 years as the train from Leeds to London pulls in at King’s Cross Station – gateway to Yorkshire.
And Yorkshire is inextricably and historically linked with this striking retail, dining and leisure development. Built by Samuel Plimsoll and opened in 1851, Coal Drops Yard was created as a depot for dropping off coal from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East. It was simple but all rather ingenious. Coal would arrive from the North by train in wagons which would enter one of two long goods sheds and then dropped from bottom-opening wagons down to the middle level to be sorted before being shoveled into sacks at yard level for transport on by horse and cart and later also by the canal system which is also part of the development.
As road transport overtook both rail and canal, the buildings fell into disuse. Then in the 1990s it became home to the rave scene with The Cross nightclub and Bagley’s (later Canvas), where around 2,500 clubbers would party on a Saturday night. The club was spread over three floors at the southern end of the Eastern Coal Drops – and it’s now home to Wolf & Badger.
In 2007, after all the work making links for the Channel Tunnel was done, development started on Coal Drops Yard as part of the massive King’s Cross regeneration project that has been going on for years. The developers Argent enlisted design architect Thomas Heatherwick who has linked the slate roofs of the two long sheds so they rise and meet above the central yard and will soon provide space for Samsung’s “creative and digital playground” shop.
It’s the centrepiece of a really quite astonishing development, and home to a fascinating and eclectic mix of shops and dining places, all those because they offer something out of the ordinary. It’s had a bit of stick for being overly hip and “artisanal” but I loved it – shops include Caravanne, Cos, Fred Perry, Paul Smith, Kitchen Provisions, Superga, Tom Dixon, Cheaney, Bonds and Boutique charity shop. And there is a beautiful Miller Harris store where you can stick your head into scent umbrellas for a complete sensory experience. And there’s a Face Gym, where you can get a vigorous face toning session.
The dining places include Bodega Rita’s (a lovely sandwich bar with fab wine in the Lower Stables area), Morty & Bob’s a lovely care-restaurant famed for its cheese toasties, Redemption Roasters cafe which works with prisons and former inmates, Vermuteria Cafe & Bar which has tasty Italian-based dishes and an extensive vermouth list, Alain Ducasse (for the finest coffee in the world, served with delicious madeleines), and Casa Pastor which serves reasonably priced Mexiacan-inspired food in vibrant surroundings. It was really busy the evening we went, as was Barrafina next door – a great bar.
We stayed close by at the Great Northern Hotel, slap-bang next to King’s Cross – a fabulous place and could not be more handy for Yorkshire – but you can easily get to London and back in a day from Yorkshire. Coal Drops Yard is a five minute walk and you can easily spend a whole day there, say if you get there at 10.30am and leave at 7ish.
Find out more on https://www.coaldropsyard.com/