A chilling and exhaustive inventory of London’s major railway stations ranked by temperature

Baby it’s cold outside. (Okay, today it isn’t actually, but still.) Image: Getty.

Depending on your route, entry into London can be either an eye-watering push through a frozen and gaping hole or a cloying, damp-breath squeeze into a baguette-smelling shopping centre.

In 34 years of coming and going (born here, moved out as a child, returned as an adult), I have built up a forensic picture of London’s major railway stations and the microclimates in which they exist. No number of noodle emporiums, shirt retailers or blister plasters can hide what I like to think of as a station’s core temperature. Forget seasons, weather, crowd size or time of day; this is a tabulation based on the very essence of the station itself.

Brrrrrrrrrr

Paddington

Sweet mother of suffering chillblains. Paddington Station is a frozen tundra, a relentless howling gale, a house-sized tube of draught, pockmarked by ticket machines and gift shops. It is the coldest place in London. The Atlantic may as well break upon its shore, as it turns its wind-bitten face to the west.

Waterloo

 

A snowy day at Waterloo. Image: Getty.

I sometimes wonder if they pump the Waterloo air straight off the surface of the Thames. It just has that nautical bite, a kind of chill that sets into your bones, wriggles down your scarf and kickboxes you in the ankles. Last time I waited there for a train I ended up pushing my fingers down into my thermos: true story.


London Bridge

The Watership Down of train stations: largely underground, often damp, overlooked by the terrifying and vicious. While not always and essentially freezing, it does feel somehow chilled. Like the plums in the icebox. Only the plums are the West Cornwall Pasty Company and the icebox is the doldrums of The Shard.

Clapham Junction

While not, strictly-speaking a major interchange, Clapham Junction is the busiest station in Britain (at least, according to measure of traffic, rather than passenger numbers, with a train apparently departing from there every 30 seconds). So it earns a mention as, in my humble opinion, the windiest station in Britain, if not the world. (I’d give notable mention to Warschauer Straße in Berlin as the other hot contender for sheer, bitter wind power.)

Marylebone

Marylebone is as cold as the past: as cold as open fires and polished brass; as cold as Sunday closing and terry cloth nappies; as cold as bowler hats and tuberculosis; as cold as coal smoke and a fit of the nerves. Not thermically cold, perhaps, but certainly stiff with the chilly weight of time.

Getting warmer

Kings Cross

Only get hawks on warm days, you know. Image: Getty.

A veritable cathedral to tepidity. From the lukewarm tea to the brick walls, Kings Cross is as tall and blank as a stingray, floating through the blood temperature waters of North London. Not that this stops 5,783 dweebs turning up in floor-length maroon and yellow scarves everyday, trying to wring some magic out of what is, essentially, a sandwich-flavoured waiting shed for London North Eastern.

Victoria

Essentially a 50p wee with a trains side dish, Victoria has a particularly stale, acrid climate that has little to do with temperature and everything to do with huffing commuters in navy suits smacking their briefcases into every passing knee as they bark meaningless orders into a takeaway cortado like a labrador staring down a rabbit hole.

St Pancras

Bah oui, St Pancras c’est chaud, non? Well okay, not actually chaud but definitely getting that way, even in January. Unless you make the mistake of walking down the M&S sandwich aisle which is, of course, colder than snow (but that’s more of a national crisis than a station-specific problem).

The very mouth of hell

Liverpool Street

It was probably quite warm that day. Image: Getty.

Bring me your tired, your hipsters, your huddled city boys yearning to breathe Essex, the wretched digital natives of your teeming shore. Send these, the sockless, hair-tossed to me, I lift my face to the golden departures board... and then take them for an egg roll at Wasabi and to Boots for some ibuprofen. Liverpool Street has that flat, unrolling warmth of Eastern England; a hairdressing climate, a sausage roll climate, a baked potato place.

Euston

Mmmmm, the warm hug of secondhand fag smoke, how I miss you. While pregnant, I managed to throw up every single time I set foot in Euston Station. Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps the smell of old chicken and gritty coffee, perhaps it was just sheer exhilaration at being so close to a Paperchase, but my god that station made me hurl. Still, at least it’s warm.

Oxford Circus

Sure, it’s not a major railway station, but special mention must go to the Bakerloo Line stop at Oxford Circus: hotter than Dante’s jockstrap and just as inviting. According to figures from TfL, the Bakerloo Line is the hottest line in London, temperature-wise. And, according to figures from my own sweat-soaked hauling of a large suitcase during a July heatwave, yes, yes it is. Burn on, Oxford Circus: you make clowns of us all.

Nell Frizzell tweets as @NellFrizzell.

 
 
 
 

What’s behind the rise of the ornamental restaurant toilet?

Toilets at Sketch restaurant, London. Image: Nik Stanbridge/Flickr.

A few weeks ago, I found myself in the toilets of a zeitgeisty new Italian restaurant in east London called Gloria. As with so many contemporary restaurant toilets, those in question were an aesthetic extension of the establishment’s soul. The inventive menu was matched by two-way mirrored toilet doors.

The setup was this: cubicle occupants could see out while the unisex crowd milling around the taps could check their outfits on the exterior mirrors. All fun and games, I thought. But then I found myself mid toilet with a guy peering into my door to change his contact lens. Either he had spectacularly bad manners or he was unaware of the two-way door thing. (Let’s hope it’s the latter.)

Gloria’s toilets aren’t unique in their attempt to be distinctive. The loos at nearby Mr Fogg’s Maritime Club & Distillery are adorned with specimen boards of dead spiders. Meanwhile, Edinburgh’s The Sun Inn invites patrons to pee in buckets, and trumpets double as urinals in The Bell Inn in East Sussex. Men can wee into the vista if they’re dining in the Shard. And Sketch’s ovum shaped loos are the stuff of urban legend.

Further afield, transparent doors become frosted only after they’re locked at Brussels’ Belga Queen. In Otto’s Bierhalle in Toronto, diners can press a button to activate their own private rave. And the toilets in Robot Restaurant in Tokyo have gold-plated interiors and dancing robots.

What’s behind this trend? Are quirky toilets just a bit of fun – or an unnecessary complication to the simple act of going for a wee and checking you don’t have tomato sauce on your chin?

Yotam Ottolenghi’s London flagship restaurant Nopi crops up often in conversations about restaurant bathrooms. A hall of mirrors glitters enticingly ahead of loo-bound diners. “The bathroom needs to be the nicest part [of] the whole place because that’s where you’re on your own,” says Alex Meitlis, the designer behind the space.

But no one is truly alone in 2019. If surveys are to be believed, nearly 65 per cent of millennials take their phone to the bathroom with them. Mike Gibson, who edits the London food and drink magazine Foodism agrees that the bathroom selfie – searches for which, incidentally, yield over 1.5m results on Instagram – is part of the reason that contemporary lavatory design is so attention seeking.


“Any new venue that's opening will be super aware that there's probably not an inch of their restaurant that won't be photographed or filmed at some point”, he says. But bathrooms like Nopi’s predate this trend. Indeed, Meitlis believes he has created a haven from the smartphone obsession; Nopi’s mirrors are angled in such a way that means you have to seek out your reflection. “You can choose whether to look for yourself in the mirror or not.”

Another driving force is the increasingly competitive restaurant landscape. “It’s almost like there’s some sort of ever-escalating competition going on amongst new openings, which makes every visit a faintly terrifying experience”, says food writer and New Statesman contributor Felicity Cloake. Gibson agrees. “Restaurants want an edge wherever possible, and design definitely comes into that.”

So novelty bathrooms get you noticed, promote social media engagement and entertain diners who are momentarily without the distraction of company. (Although, it must be said, quirky bathrooms tend to make the loo trip a more sociable experience; a Gloria spokesperson described the restaurant’s toilets as somewhere you can “have a good laugh and meet people along the way.”)

Nevertheless, I’m not the only one who finds bathroom surprises disconcerting.  One TripAdvisor user thought the Belga Queen loos were “scary”. And a friend reports that her wonderment at the Nopi bathroom was laced with mirror maze induced nausea – and mild panic when she realised she didn’t know the way out. Should restaurants save the thrills for the food?

“I think it's important not to be too snarky about these things – restaurants are meant to playful,” says Gibson. Cloake agrees that novelty is fine, but adds: “my favourite are places like Zelman Meats in Soho that have somewhere in the dining room where you can easily wash your hands before sitting down and tucking in.”

So perhaps we should leave toilets unadorned and instead ramp up the ornamentation elsewhere. Until then, I’ll be erecting a makeshift curtain in all mirrored toilets I encounter in future. An extreme reaction, you might say. But, as I wish I could have told the rogue contact lens inserter, it’s not nice to pry into someone else’s business.