BACKGROUND Since September of this year Eurostar has had three classes of travel: standard, standard premier and business premier. For details of this, click here.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at London St Pancras at 0915 for my 1025 departure to Paris Gare du Nord. I had printed off my e-ticket the day before and so passed straight through the gates. I could have arrived as late as ten minutes before departure, but wanted to see the Business Premier Lounge. The e-ticket bar code was read without problem at the barrier, and there was no queue for security which took less than five seconds. I then showed my passport and then turned right into the Business Premier Lounge.
THE LOUNGE This is on two levels and the upper level is quieter and more spacious, with views across the road to Kings Cross and the current building work taking place there. I imagine the lounges are very busy in the early morning, but by 0930 it was deserted with only a couple of passengers in the whole lounge (upstairs or downstairs). There are dozens of magazines to choose from as well as both French and English newspapers. There is free wifi, but it is very slow, and I think there should be more desks to work at – I found a large one at the top of the stairs with six chairs around it but if all of these had been occupied it would have been very awkward to work at, not least because there were plugs only at one end of it.
There are signs directing you towards boarding to the end of the lounge, though be aware that if you are upstairs you will get to the far end and find a long staircase to walk down (there is no lift at this end), so probably better to ignore those signs and go down in the lift you came up in by the main stairs.
BOARDING The train was departing from Platform 7 and my carriage was number eight, at the top of the escalator and with a queue of passengers lifting luggage on board. It took a while for this to happen, and then when I did get on board a lady who had already boarded decided it would be a good time to peruse the dozens of magazines in a rack at one end of the carriage, oblivious to the fact that no one could enter the carriage without her moving. I moved aside to let the man behind me past and he pushed her out of the way, which wasn’t subtle, but solved the problem.
THE JOURNEY Business Premier has three seats across in a configuration of 1-2. There is a fair amount of storage over the seats (easily enough for a roll on, laptop bag and a separate shelf where you can lay out your jacket. Single seats have a plug right next to them, the pairs of seats seem to have one plug to share. For some reason I thought there was internet access on board but there wasn’t, so I worked on some documents.
FOOD AND WINE Because of the departure time we were offered brunch which was a choice of egg Florentine with Yorkshire back bacon, grilled tomato and sautéed mushrooms or Organic fresh fruit plate with cinnamon crème fraiche and granola topping. The meal came on a tray and also included an organic fruit yoghurt, and the offer of some bread and pastries as well as Tropicana orange juice. This was a disappointing meal. Portions were tiny, and what there was on the tray was unappetising. The fruit platter was tired, and consisted of, amongst other things, a wedge of orange on the plate rather like you used to receive at half time in school sports and a wedge of kiwi fruit served in the same manner. The lack of attention to detail was also evident in the service, which was very shaky, particularly with the coffee being cold. When drinks were offered my colleague asked for a Diet Coke with a slice of lemon but no ice. She got a normal Coca-Cola with ice and lemon.
We were too early for drinking, but there was the offer of champagne, Pannier: Selection Pannier Brut. The wine choice was white: Chateau Tour de Mirambeau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc AOC 2008, Rose: Les Jamelles Grenache Rose Vin de Pays d’Oc 2008/9 and red: Prestige de Clavet Bordeaux AOC 2008 or Chateau La Condamine Corbieres AOC 2008.
ARRIVAL we arrived on time and were quickly out onto the station concourse.
VERDICT Excellent punctuality and comfortable seats but the carriage decor is looking a little tired and the service, though friendly, was shaky. The meal was poor. The price (£450 for a return ticket) is presumably because it is a flexible ticket (ie: you can board any train).