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Victoria Station Buffet Bar at 100: a review

Jonathan Schofield finds a company called Pumpkins that hates every single one of us

Written by . Published on March 10th 2009.

Victoria Station Buffet Bar at 100: a review

I had reason to be in Victoria Station the other day, which is no bad thing unless you have to use the rail service, or buy food and drink.

For some reason all the local trains to Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton, are powered by a complex but inefficient arrangement of Blu-Tac, sellotape and rubber bands. The carriages themselves are built of chipboard and shopping trolley chrome, with no pretence at comfort. They've also been given a rubbed-in smell of vomit mingled with broken toilets and diesel.

You expect this with the trains, they were designed to be terrible, a joke at the travelling public’s expense.

But much of Victoria Station wasn’t cheap by design. This is the present building’s centenary; it was created by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1909 to impress customers, to say, why not travel with us? The company thought it only polite to take our money by making passengers feel good about travelling.

You can see this philosophy built into the restaurant/ buffet bar - from the neck up at least. To those of you who haven’t looked inside, sighed, shuddered and left, there’s a dome with a cupola, swags of fruit-laden garlands, and lots of lovely period detailing. There’s aqua-marine mosaic with words spelt out in gold-leaf.

Beneath head height there’s such a lack of care shown over food, drink, fixtures and fittings that it’s funny - in the hysterical screaming way of a person at the end of their tether.

The buffet bar is run by a company called Pumpkins. There are two parts to Pumpkins, Victoria Station.

There’s the bar part which is depressing but lifted by that hundred-year-old dome. Then in the adjacent space there’s the Death Cafe – although that may not be the official name. This is where aspirations bite the dust and the futility of our three score years and ten journey smacks against the buffers of pointlessness, as we shunt our way through coffee roasted with criminal intent. The place is rotten, decomposed even.

On my recent visit, the only hot snack that wasn’t a toastie, manufactured in Ross-on-Wye or somewhere, was a Cornish pasty. This was presented on a kid’s brightly coloured plate with a plastic knife and fork which wouldn't have scratched a meringue never mind a pasty with a crust made of tortoise shell and demanding diamond edge tooling. Snapped open with the fingers, the filling was hot and brownish which placed alongside a dollop of packet brown sauce looked very beautiful - as you can see on the picture. 

Sat there in a bar with no ale (none, not even keg), surrounded by promotions for buckets of Carling, and pink champagne, I worked out something.

It was that the senior management at Pumpkins hate us. I mean hate us, personally, each and every one of us. They think we’re snivelling creeps only good for a bit of cheap profit making.

They must hate us otherwise they’d resign from the shame. You take a potentially beautiful space and kill it dead, just because you don’t have the flexibility of mind to change your approach whether the venue’s a plastic booth on Platform 14 or a 1909 gem such as the one here.

It gets more bizarre. Prominently displayed by the counter is a sign from Pumpkins’ holding company SSP. This reads: ‘SSP – creating a better experience. We are unable to provide hot water for heating baby food or baby bottles.’ See they hate us.

Five minutes web research reveals that SSP stands for ‘Shameless Self Promotion’ or 'Select Service Partner'. Either way it doesn't add up. I rest my case m’lud.

SSP also have in their ‘portfolio’ Burger King, Upper Crust, Caffè Ritazza and Whistlestop. They also, surprisingly, have the exclusive rights to M&S Simply Food. ‘This isn’t any old pile of crap, this is.....’

Of course Victoria Station has been a disaster like this for years. But it’s not as if it need be. There are good practice precedents in Greater Manchester. Why doesn’t Network Rail get Stalybridge Buffet Bar in to run the place (click here) or even Marble Brewery? Can you imagine how this place would zing with the Marble Arch’s Ken Calder and Marc Lara in charge? Network Rail would also get extra revenue from the extra custom.

The tourist agencies should put pressure on Network Rail to change things. Tens of thousands of people pass Victoria Station buffet bar every year, many on their way to the soulless shell of the MEN Arena and its dire and ludicrously expensive food and drink. Many of these people are guests to the city from points far distant and the present arrangement makes us look bad. Compare and contrast with Piccadilly if you will.

There are plans to improve Victoria Station. Or there were. But with the economic tide as low as that on Southport beach it might be a while before changes happen - and there’s no guarantee that any other buffet arrangement would be any better.

Somebody give those Stalybridge Buffet or Marble Arch people a call would they, and let’s get rid of those cynical dolts at Pumpkins.


Rating: 1.5/20 

Food 0/10

Service 1/5

Ambience 0.5/5


Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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88 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AvoMarch 10th 2009.

You're right about the food on offer on the continent Castlefield. I've seen somke of the food on offer in France in motorway service stations and it puts some of our mid range restuarants to shame.

HarryMarch 10th 2009.

Hilarious. Let's get that ****ing ****e company out of there and get the Marble in.

AvoMarch 10th 2009.

I used to commute out of there a few years ago and remember a newsagent or little cafe positioned on the ledt just as you walked in. It used to sell great little vegetarian and indian snacks like samosas and stuff and did hot drinks too. Has that place gone then?

SImonMarch 10th 2009.

Yes but on the bright side the barbers on the right as you walk in is a manchester institution. SUperb chaps and great haircuts and the best conversation from a barber you will ever get. The guy is a legend!!!

CastlefieldMarch 10th 2009.

My mum used to work here in accounts in the seventies/ eighties I think and was in charge of what music was played throughout the station, when they actually had background music! Anyway she accidently put Jingle Bells on in June and didn't realise as she was busy doing accounting stuff! She said there was always bomb scares and a device was planted outside her office window! Bizarre.She said that the bar used to be quite the place and amongst other she saw Michael Caine in there with a circular shaped boc of ciggies!

CastlefieldMarch 10th 2009.

Can I just say I'm getting sick of comments from 'editorial', 'gordo', 'jonathan schofield' etc etc.It's the only site I know, not that I know a lot to be honest, where the staff are forever arguing with the punters. Can someone not make a point that is different to what you're getting at? Or constructively criticise is any way? It seems anytime anyone doesn't agree they either get shouted down, belittled or deleted. This results in people trying to wind you up on purpose or people not putting their actual comments on. Leave the ranting to the masses and concentrate on the professional side.

alan 37March 10th 2009.

i worked in the station buffet 3 years ago,the food was free 2 the staff-but even we used 2 eat at hot dog stand,and mcds above,the beer pipes were cleaned every 3 weeks,the water is boiling hot..but it was poured into a large tea pot and left 2 stew until cold,this never happened when i was on shift,,every customer had a piping hot drink and a smile from me,i was the only person who cleaned the toilets..properly,i even came in on sundays 2 polish the floor-as they dont even have a cleaner,i was told not 2 warm babies bottles[as the company would be liable if babies got scalded]i did warm them anyway,the place is a beautiful building and i used to stand behind the coffee shop counter,thinking if i won the lottery..how i would buy the place and return it 2 its former glory,i left when i was promoted as supervisor-6 pounds an hour for kicking drug takers and men doing unsavoury acts in the toilets,network rail are spending millions on the station-go to gva grimley website,i will be writing 2 network rail about this grotspot and mention stalyvegas buffet marble arch etc,great and informative article,oh the coffee is of a high quality,but must agree it tastes awful.

Bored and moaningMarch 10th 2009.

Have the ManCon budgets been dramatically cut? Have you fallen out of favour with all of our city's eateries? Why even waste your time writing this article? Reviewing cornish pasties? Wow times are hard! Seriously i'm not someone who likes having a dig but what is the point..... do you really think someone other than an unfortunate train user is going to choose to come in here for something to eat anyway? I really like the usual reviews but don't waste your time 'reviewing' somewhere that nobody was planning to visit anyway, you're wasting your time and your wasting my 'trying to get out of doing any work' time! And please don't remove this like the time i moaned about you reviewing something in Leeds otherwise i'll organise a mass demonstration to chant obscenities outside your offices.... thank you please!

Ali McGowanMarch 10th 2009.

I wholly support the ManCon team replying to threads. It shows that they're interested, it also allows them to defend their view and it can also help them steer a debate back on topic. Oh - and the team are usually quite witty and/or interesting, which can only serve to improve the site. If you don't like this approach, go visit another site instead! No one's forcing you to read ManCon!!!

Bored and moaningMarch 10th 2009.

First of all I agree with Emma Grace; it's nice to see the editors/journo's replying as it shows they do listen to people's input. And as for Johnathan fair enough with your reply i see where you're coming from, the review of Zouk for example was spot on i was just saying that this one seemed a bit (for want of a better word) pointless. As for Al..... it marked the food and drink, service and ambience.... this as i'm sure the Editor and Johnathan will agree WAS a 'review' my friend...... and that was where i disagreed with it.

Andrea ThompsonMarch 10th 2009.

We have four major family brewers in Greater Manchester, we have something like 17 micros. There's no ale in Victoria Station is terrible. This place should be a showcase for the city it should use local products to underline Manchester identity. It should be a cracker not akin to a crackden.

louMarch 10th 2009.

Yes, I've read this already, is there supposed to be an addition to this already used review ? Its not exactly what is hinted at by your headline in the newletter so I'm asumming there should be something else dated 19 Mar.

ADMarch 10th 2009.

Its the same story up and down the country Major stations do OK everything else gets these idiots incharge. It really comes to something when you get better food upstairs in the MEN Mcdonalds...

marcoMarch 10th 2009.

Its ****ty corporate Britain at its worst...its a beautiful building, as is the original station, but has been left in a decrepit state and taken over by people who know nor care about anything other than profit.

shymikeMarch 10th 2009.

Victoria station is NOT owned by Northern Rail so they are powerless to do anything - it is owned by Network Rail. The whole place needs a revamp - once again am sure if it was down south it would have had one years ago, and the old railway stock using it would have also been replaced if anyone from Department of Transport actually had to travel on it - but alas all they are interested in is keeping london commuters happy.

terry tibbsMarch 10th 2009.

Seeing this headline the old cynical me thought 'oh here we go. Man con reviewing a train station?!? Dear me. Really have run out of ideas haven't we??' But on reflection your dead right. Maybe this were Man con needs to go. Never mind the panaceas, living rooms etc. Let them look after themselves. They are private companies whereas Vic Stat is a cultural building and a **** hole. I'm used to it. Travelled through it some 20 years now. Looking at it through a visitors eye to manc it must look appalling. A real shame that the investment in Piccadilly station isnt shared to Victoria.

JaneMarch 10th 2009.

Ha!ha! This is SO funny! I have never had the pleasure of visiting the Victoria Station buffet bar but am now so intrigued I'm tempted to pop in for a nose when I'm next passing. Not to purchase anything of course, just to see the horror story for myself...

AnonymousMarch 10th 2009.

What an opportunity for Jonathan to lead the MC Ranters in a great campaign to improve the Victoria Station. The station is operated by Northern Rail, the train franchisee who according to their website is keen on community involvement, I'm sure they will welcome what such celebratory interest. But maybe someone should ask what will be done to the station when the Rochdale line becomes a tram line which is why the rolling stock is clapped out having been used for five years longer than its sell by date while we all waited for the tram.

DebsMarch 10th 2009.

I actually ventured in there for the first time on Saturday night for a quick pre Snow Patrol drink. The dome and the tiling are beautiful but then you're quickly distracted by the booming thud thud music and the general cheapness of the place. Get rid of that Pumpkin place and the oiks serving behind the bar, show a bit of respect to that gorgeous dome and interior and it could be an absolute gem of a place. Oh and sort the toilets out!

Trevor BroomfieldMarch 10th 2009.

Effing bloody hell you are bored aren't you? What did you think of the review as a device to say that a company is utterly knackering a potentially lovely space. But the cafe is only one of several precious areas Network Rail is allowing to crumble in this once proud palce.

BeeMarch 10th 2009.

Umm the Pumpkin at Stockport train station is less shocking and the staff are really lovely.

Plastic FantasticMarch 10th 2009.

I agree with most things that have been posted, however I think it should be made clear that we are not talking about the staff as such, It is the small minded directors of SSP, or whatever, that constantly take great little spots and turn them into plain brand sites. In fact if the place was half as good looking as some of its staff it would look great.

JohnMarch 10th 2009.

I commute in from Todmorden a couple of times a week and one of the many reasons that I don't do it by train is the state of Victoria Station. Whoever is (nominally) 'in charge' of the rotting hulk should be tarred, feathered and whipped through the streets. It's a complete and total disgrace with the sad excuse for a buffet bar just the icing on the festering cake. Perhaps if Manchester's car hating council turned their efforts to something positive like the refurbishment of what is a magnificent building, they might find that that would do much more to reduce road congestion than the unneccessary double yellow lines, traffic jam causing bus lanes etc. that they love so much.

AnonymousMarch 10th 2009.

Dear Editor,is this the story for this week, 19-Mar-09?

ConservationistMarch 10th 2009.

I worked on Victoria Station last year, in a conservation consultant role and the 1909 former Buffet Bar is a fantastic piece of Edwardian architecture, if you notice the c1910 photograph in there now you will see how amazing the room used to look, now look around at the dire and horrid gloss colour chart painted they have done the place out in! the room should be painted in whites and off whites to compliment the historic plasterwork, and for god sake clean and mend the glass dome!! its the only good thing going for it! the room needs to be made more upper class like it was originally intended and be more classy, not trashy like it is now, i would rather poke a plastic knife in both eyes than eat (and i use the word loosely) there. you get better food in a swimming pool vending machine, this is meant to be one of the entrances into Manchester and it was once a very expensively decorated and exclusive station, originally built in 1844 (the MEN side) and then added too in the 1860's and then lastly in 1909.

GedMarch 10th 2009.

Spot on. I have been in a couple of times when I have been unfortunate enough to have just missed an hourly evening train to Leeds. The icy wind blowing up the tracks and through the station was warmer than the greeting from the food counter once the "team" stopped arguing and noticed . How often have I bemoaned the waste of a stunning space. Get the guys from This n That to take over the catering and ask absolutely anybody who has trained customer service staff to have a word with the management about the value of a smile (or just the absence of contempt) and the place could once more be a welcome refuge on cold,dark,trainless nights.

Jonathan Schofield - EditorMarch 10th 2009.

Bored and moaning thanks for the comments. This went up with a review of top new Indian restaurant Zouk and good-looking coffee shop The Outlet - both reviews are still on the home page. Today and tomorrow we've got a review of the new Red Chilli, Loaf and the Food and Drink round-up. As for this piece its about the mis-use of the venue not about the pastie. Don't be bored by us. And I'll see who took that Leeds comment off and tell them off.

NeilMarch 10th 2009.

This bar (and the whole station) is a disgrace. The room could be beautiful and with a bit of effort could be transformed into somewhere people would want to visit. The number of people who walk past it every day and the number of people who hang around waiting for a train proves that it's in a prime spot. Piccadilly Station is close to fantastic buit this place is an embarrassment.

Simon CarringtonMarch 10th 2009.

It IS an absolute disgrace. You'd be mad to eat anything in there. They should be kicked out and it should be replaced by a nice little independant restaurant/bar and done up immediately - wouldn't surprise me if they closed it down now after this 'subtle' nudge in the right direction.

DrakeMarch 10th 2009.

Should be run as a proper posh tea room. They could make a killing. (Still wondering why someone would go from Victoria to Leeds when the Piccadilly to Leeds train is 30-40 minutes quicker, warmer and nicer...)

SharonMarch 10th 2009.

Is anybody listening to all these rants or do the bosses of this station or whoever owns really hate us? Or think they're above all this and beyond what we have to say?

EditorialMarch 10th 2009.

Dear Shymike. You were right. After the thirteenth phone call being passed from pillar to post we found that the initial info re the Network Rail and Northern Rail relationship was wrong. You were right so we've changed it thanks.

BeinlosMarch 10th 2009.

Almost 40 years ago I had my first ever draught ale in the bar at Victoria - half a Double Diamond for a touch under a shilling (5p)! Elsewhere across England so many mainline stations have real ale especially in London. In Germany you can do a bar crawl in many of their main stations and the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof boasts a great pub with a huge beer garden overlooking the Spree and Reichstag supplied with beers from the brewpub in nearby Potsdamer Platz! So the suggestion of Marble Arch setting up a bar there is not at all far-fetched!

Lavinia LancasterMarch 10th 2009.

This is the funniest and most brilliantly written article I have read in ages. Well done JS. I too was in station recently (didn't I bump into you?) and sitting under that glorious dome in Pumpkins whilst drinking a cup of something which whilst called "coffee", seemed rather too full of e-numbers and msg, and artiuficila milk, rather than the caffeine and real coffee I desired. I hope your article names and shames the offending caterers into doing something about their dreadful catering. AND dreadful toilets. You know the saying - check out the toilets before you check out the food. If toilets are immaculate then so will kitchen but if not then don't eat there. A warning to head......

Ali McGowanMarch 10th 2009.

What a crying shame. I used to work very close to Victoria Station and every day would avoid walking through it due to the unnecessary shabbiness... this was back in 2000 and there were plans afoot then (and no doubt before that too!) to regenerate what could be a lovely, lovely space. Ho hum. Oh and I guess the biggest crime of all was in 1995 when the Arena was built - but someone forgot to write into the contract 'You can build a mighty big world-class arena, from lovely fake stone dull breeze blocks and wonderfully dull metal cladding, so as long as you do up the bloody station at the same time'. What an omission... but wait, or would they have pulled down the whole thing and built something even worse.

emma graceMarch 10th 2009.

Castlefield, I see where you're coming from but I quite like the fact that they respond from time to time. Shows that they believe in what they are writing about and are prepared to defend their articles It wouldn't say much about the site or it's writers if they didn't bother to respond to negative remarks or constructive criticism...

JimmyMarch 10th 2009.

They really do hate us. I went in before a show three weeks ago and was sat on a table overcome with all kinds of half eaten rubbish and half empty glasses. Waste of space. It should be lightful to sit inside the space.

James GarrattMarch 10th 2009.

Given the place is listed, shouldn't English heritage be doing something? There's potential we wouldn't want a St Pancras style champagne bar here, but why not a good local operator which somehow represents Manchester and the North West?

bumpkinMarch 10th 2009.

nasty, nasty place

AndyMarch 10th 2009.

Go for it Jonathan! I totally agree! There's one at Stoke-on-Trent & York stations and numerous everywhere - they are the antitheses of everything a good quality cafe should be about - Britain (and especially Manchester) needs to rise up against such quality and service - complete and utter rip-off!

Karen GooleMarch 10th 2009.

Wayne, the managers at Pumpkins simply wil not care. They have a franchise across the rail system which is basically a monopoly in most stations and on trains with a captive audience with no where to go. The only solution for Victoria is a piecemeal one where Pumpkins are sacked from running this concession and a local operator is preferred.

Kevin GordanMarch 10th 2009.

A pint of ale and a good quality Sauvignon Blanc for my lady would be welcome before an MEN arena gig definitely.

alan 37March 10th 2009.

i worked in the station buffet 3 years ago,the food was free 2 the staff-but even we used 2 eat at hot dog stand,and mcds above,the beer pipes were cleaned every 3 weeks,the water is boiling hot..but it was poured into a large tea pot and left 2 stew until cold,this never happened when i was on shift,,every customer had a piping hot drink and a smile from me,i was the only person who cleaned the toilets..properly,i even came in on sundays 2 polish the floor-as they dont even have a cleaner,i was told not 2 warm babies bottles[as the company would be liable if babies got scalded]i did warm them anyway,the place is a beautiful building and i used to stand behind the coffee shop counter,thinking if i won the lottery..how i would buy the place and return it 2 its former glory,i left when i was promoted as supervisor-6 pounds an hour for kicking drug takers and men doing unsavoury acts in the toilets,network rail are spending millions on the station-go to gva grimley website,i will be writing 2 network rail about this grotspot and mention stalyvegas buffet marble arch etc,great and informative article,oh the coffee is of a high quality,but must agree it tastes awful.

DominicMarch 10th 2009.

Unfortunately I must inform people that SSP, the operators of the Victoria BB, are an absolutely huge company. I know, I used to work there as a student! I kind of miss my cap and name badge, the homeless pestering the customers every 5 minutes, irate customers knowing full well they were getting ripped off and unblocking the gents toilet once a week. Well done JS for highlighting Manchester's and SSP's crying shame, and pop into the Marble next week for the brand new menu. I'll be round the back brewing...

Chod [UK]March 10th 2009.

I love the dome and the bright red gloss ceiling. But I do want to slit my wrists when I'm in there. It could be so much better.

CastlefieldMarch 10th 2009.

I know I had a whinge about you all commenting all the time but the above post is great! If something really can be acheived that would be wonderful. I would love a brilliant station cafe/ restaurant like they have in main stations in France and Spain. Many a train missed in those!

cryingshameMarch 10th 2009.

I used to frequent this station often and feel the need to enter the place for somewhere out of the cold. the bar is great, the deco old and lovely but yes the cafe/ buffet lets the place/ atmosphere down. Its such a pity. but i never thought they personally hated me.

Mike WaterfootMarch 10th 2009.

I used to love the buffet at Victoria and was always delighted when I had missed one train and had half an hour to wait for the next oneLast week I took some American visitors in and after "boasting" about the beautiful dome we went in for a beer before we caught our train.There was a girl behind the bar in an absolute state of panic. She could not serve us beer as there "Were no clean glasses". She spoke through a pile of about 40 dirty pint pots.We did feal very sorry for her

EditorialMarch 10th 2009.

Yes. It was too good so they killed it.

Michael AlportMarch 10th 2009.

I will have to use this station this morning on the way to work. Everyday I look at the mosaic work above the restaurant to avoid getting really pissed off. Well done for bringing this shocking disaster to a wider audience.

M30March 10th 2009.

The crying shame is that there is so much space within Victoria Station which is empty and gathering dust which could be put to better use.There's the shop which used to sell pies, pastries and traditional licquorice, plus there's a large unit to the front end of the station that would make a fantastic bar.Although ne of the things I like about Victoria is it's slightly seedy air, and the mysterious workshop simply labelled "Diaphragms".Improvements ought to be made though, and SSP dragged through hot coals.

joMarch 10th 2009.

I used to work in the cafe as a student in the 90s and it upset me even then how the gorgeous space was so ill-treated. I think I imagined things might have improved since - it's a shame to find otherwise.

WayneMarch 10th 2009.

What is shocking is that Pumpkins area managers must as the article says visit this place and think is ok. They mustn't care much for their job.

AnonymousMarch 10th 2009.

I couldn't agree more: its a travesty to neglect this (formerly) beautiful station. In the right hands it could be such a showpiece. It really bothers me that renovation might be left until its too late to do the station (and the city) the justice it deserves!

Sarah KennyMarch 10th 2009.

An absolute waste. The other guy on here is right. Start a campaign. This is a useless place in a beautiful place. Can we not petition Pumpkins?

AnonymousMarch 10th 2009.

Has anyone ever tried to buy a cup of coffee at one of these places and--shock--leave the receipt? Christ.

DawnMarch 10th 2009.

I went in there wuth my toddler whilst waiting for a train. A tracksuited customer came in, took a chair from my table went over to the fruit machine to unplug it, put in his mobile phone to charge it and sat by the socket with his pint. meanwhile a woman sat down next to me and downed nearly a pint of red wine.The place is bizarre.

ChrisMarch 10th 2009.

Aaaggghhh- its not just in Manchester! It has become impossible to even by a paper from the Stoke-on-Trent 'branch' unless you've got at least 15 minutes before your train is due! Thanks for reminding me to make a complaint to their head office!

M30March 10th 2009.

As someone who uses Victoria Station almost every day of the week (and also a newbie poster) I have to applaud this article, and the majority of comments which follow it. Victoria Station is used by thousands of commuters who travel into the city centre from Northern parts of Greater Manchester as well as being the point of entry into the city for people coming in from rural Yorkshire etc. If Victoria Station was the first glimpse of Manchester one saw if stepping off the London train, the situation involving the station and it's woeful "buffet" would not be tolerated for a second. I've often stepped into the buffet at Victoria and felt that the beauty and history of the building is marred by the faceless franchise that is Pumpkin. In New York or Paris, the station buffet is a destination within itself. It's a disgrace that Stalybridge can boast a fantastic buffet whilst that of Victoria is equivalent to a shopping centre café in Skelmersdale. I'd almost prefer a Wetherspoons in there.

A word to the wiseMarch 10th 2009.

just hope that when you need to use Victoria Station that the JAVA (yes Java, remember them?Oxford Rd, Piccadilly etc?) Coffee Stall on the concourse is open. Despite the enforced plastic cups, at least the coffee is real and tastes delicious.

low paid workers unite!March 10th 2009.

I have worked for SSP in the past as well as the unit in question at Victoria. A couple of things. In regards to the decour and ambiance, all that can be said is that if a space is sold to people who are 'only' after profit it will always look like sh$t, we all know that. Second the individuals that are writing about the quality of their butties, the temp of their drinks, and the quality of their coffee beans are talking tripe. Yes there may be cases of individual concern, but having worked their i know for a fact that their coffee is from a high quality bean, their hot water system will not actually produce water untill it is at boiling point, and every sandwich is thrown out after 1 day. Opinions to the contrary are not helpful to the people that work there and in my opinion have missed the point of the article. The produce is crap because it is cheap so their profits will be bigger. Welcome to the world.

Mossley GuyMarch 10th 2009.

Bang on article - and you're right about the bar - should be run along the lines of Stalybridge buffet bar and then Manchester would have a real asset!

Lord NorfolkMarch 10th 2009.

The Centurion Bar at Newcastle Central station is possibly the finest Bar in all British railway stations. Also the "Brief encounter" tea room at Wymondham station in Norfolk has won many awards. The station has been completely revamped over the last 20years by it tenant, David Turner, and is testament to what can be achieved with a little imagination and a lot of commitment. I don't use Victoria station often, but when I do, it is sad to see its decline. It is a building that is dying; it is being strangled, not by faceless corporations like SSP or Pumpkin, but by the pure lack of foresight and invention by the people who allow them to set up shop in the first place.Piccadilly station is all well and good with its modern clean, light, consumer friendly concourse, but when you try and take a modern concept and force it upon an old building more often than not it doesn't work. Victoria needs preserving, not pickling. Just like the Centurion Bar, and Brief encounters.If you find yourself in Newcastle anytime soon, I highly recommend the Centurion Bar. But be warned, there are two bars there, so if you find yourself in a room full of Formica tables, and pictures of those famous "Geordies", Bryan Ferry and Neil Tennant adorning the wall, you are in the wrong one!

BernieMarch 10th 2009.

Oh did anyone know that the plan they are getting pushed through the Council this year is to remove all the historic trainshed roofs?

View from the hillsMarch 10th 2009.

The car-park at New Mills Newtown station has recently been enhanced by a bloke in a shed selling hotdogs. Perhaps he should expand?

EditorialMarch 10th 2009.

Dr Chi, we were about our technicals digging in the backoffice and docked your comment. Please post again. Maybe this is what happened with Bored in Leeds. Apologies

CheesemanMarch 10th 2009.

You're right they really hate us. I had a tomato and cheese sandwich on the way to the Killers last night and it was I swear a month old. Disgusting

HaroldMarch 10th 2009.

Back to the Cafe. A good operator would do more than enough business to justify any conversion. Let's change this.

NorthernGeezerMarch 10th 2009.

All i can say is thank f*** for the old packed lunch eh.BTW, is the 'food' at piccadilly station any better??. Gone are the days when the best thing about a rail journey was the silver service brekky.

alMarch 10th 2009.

well bored and moaning, nearly 40 people care so much that they've had a rant about it! it's not exactly a "review" is it? it's an issue that affects the city, it's not just restaurant reviews on here my friend.

Rebecca WhoMarch 10th 2009.

I went in once for as long as I could politly order something, anything to takeaway... it scared me.

Bored and moaningMarch 10th 2009.

One more thing Al sorry i didn't pick up on it earlier but the title of this article settles my argument ;-)

AnonymousMarch 10th 2009.

Thank you Mancon for highlighting the disgrace that is Victoria's buffet bar and the lack of care for this amazing building. Can you now please do something about bringing the punters' attention to the old fire station and coroners office opposite Piccadilly Station. I believe it's owned by a hotel group!

linesmanMarch 10th 2009.

Yep, you are so right. But the building is so beautiful, and could be such an attraction. I used to despair of the 1960s and 1970s orange plastic signs and cubicles, at railway stations and bus stations (don't get me started on those) (check out the old/new Rochdale plastic market stalls for a good example of a bad idea), but it seems to be back with a vengence at Pumpkins. The station is open all the time, you could go out for dinner there if the food was up to scratch. Get one of those lovely high quality Italian places in there, like Stock - that's fab, and uses the architecture as a backdrop to fabulous food. It's not rocket science. Seems to me that few palms might have been greased for that contract to be given out. This is such a missed opportunity. Where's that Gordon Ramsey - can he do something?

Sausages reports that SSP's corporate brochureMarch 10th 2009.

At the heart of SSP is an understanding, based on years of experience, research and innovation, of the changing needs and desires of travelling customers.It is this unique understanding which informs our tailored approach to meeting the catering needs of each and every location in the SSP network. We achieve this by carefully selecting the right mix of local, international and bespoke brands, prompting customer intrigue, excitement, recognition and satisfaction. In this way we deliver unique, rewarding and fulfilling food experiences in each of our destinations worldwide. Our research enables us to closely match the mix of food offerings at each location to the profile of that location's travelling consumers.--So, yes, they do hate us.

A PersonMarch 10th 2009.

I went to this cafe years ago as a special childhood treat on the way to Southport. They were playing Amazulu. It wasn't that bad. I also noticed the other day that the glass awning outside suggests that you can travel to Belgium.Anyway, is there any truth in the rumour that Victoria Station has a beautiful ballroom tucked away in it somewhere? I was told this was the case - something from the olden days back when rail workers had a lavish social club there.

GordoMarch 10th 2009.

Blimey, does lavinia want to give you one Jonno?

Jonathan Schofield - EditorMarch 10th 2009.

Steve MacDavid, SSP UK Brand Director, from Pumpkins, is going to talk to me about this this afternoon. I'll report back tomorrow or Thursday. We're also getting an interview with Network Rail.

RachelMarch 10th 2009.

Purchased a cup of tea from this hole last week, I had to rush for my train so didn't take my first sip until I'd boarded. It was freezing cold. I had to endure my 1hr 30min journey without my morning brew, £1.30 down the drain and with the knowledge that those ba****ds really hate me.

EditorialMarch 10th 2009.

Lou, you've popped on to the wrong article. Go to the Food and Drink in the contents in the left column on this page an you'll see the update story there. Thanks

Nicola MJMarch 10th 2009.

AT LAST!!! Jonathan - I've spent the last couple of years sighing at the sheer waste of such an iconic place. I dragged my friend in on New Year's Day on the way back from our weekend as they even have the audacity to have the pictures of it when it was the original, beautiful restaurant it once was on the walls. I want to do a Mr Ben everytime I go there. It must be listed - something REALLY should be done to get them out and restore it to its former glory.

JoMarch 10th 2009.

Doesn't one of their straplines entice us to 'come on in for a proper coffee', or some such? I did just that at the Stockport Station branch recently, and it was the foulest brew I've ever tasted. On another occasion, they were unable to sell me a piece of cake, at all, because they couldn't find the code on the till.I went for a marketing job with the holding company a couple of years ago - thank God I didn't get it!

RichardNovember 15th 2010.

Pretty accurate article but you only got food from the pumpkin cafe. They have a main ment which you order from the bar. Had a full english that wasn't too bad.

J E SibberingNovember 15th 2010.

Maybe it's improved Richard, as you've posted on an article that's over 18 months old.

Meryl IiApril 4th 2013.

I shall inform you all that Pumpkin and Metro Bar are still scruffy and the service is still awful. I should know, I work there. However, to be fair, you should see the place on a saturday night! The local 40 odd year old alcoholics come out to play and start fights, perform lude sexual acts in the toilets, spill drinks, steal, insult staff, wee on the huge period windows (this actually happened), crap on the floor and smear it on the walls, leave dirty nappies and broken glass on the toilet floors. I could go on. SO, you people are making out like the place would benefit from being dolled up and providing silver spoon service when in reality it is a local Manchester station, not an introduction to Manchester for exotic sheiks. From a heritage POV maybe the unit should be a railway museum gallery, but from a realistic POV people want a coffee or a pint of lager at 10am, trust me. The place is beautiful in the back though, wonderful ceiling roses and a creepy haunted room in the cellar.

AnonymousFebruary 13th 2015.

I worked there in the mid 1990s when it was Travellers Fare and even though it was owned by BR,it was a great place to work.There was an outlet on platform 12/13 called Coastal Bar,one on platform 11 and one near platform 10.We made all the food in house, including fried breakfasts/fish and chips and the bar sold Boddies,Bass and other beers on tap,there was a cellar downstairs and a kitchen at the rear.I loved the place.....sounds like things have changed DRASTICALLY...So sad.

AnonymousFebruary 13th 2015.

Sorry my mistake i mean mid 1980s not mid 1990s

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2015.

Is this ghastly "Pumpkin" franchise being allowed to continue operating post Victoria refurb? What the new Victoria DOESN'T need are crappy little Spar type shops, franchised "select service partner" type places selling "Fabulous Bakin' Boys" processed crap. Have Network Rail reached out to any local operators, or will it be the same old shoite?

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