As any fan of JK Rowling’s best-selling series will know, King’s Cross is where students of Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry catch the Hogwart’s Express by dashing through a brick wall on platform 9 ¾ every 1st September at 11.00 am sharp.

Today, 6th May at 9.30 pm sharp, I too have arrived at the station - not to look for the elusive platform, but as a start to experiencing another type of wizardry, the King’s Cross regeneration - one of the largest and most successful redevelopments in London. The magic here has been the transformation of what was an underused industrial site into a rejuvenated oasis of new streets, squares, parks, homes, shops, offices, galleries, bars, restaurants and even a university. From this London backwater, a whole community has been conjured up by taking what was very ordinary and turning it into the extraordinary. There is an emphasis on individuality here; a place where people and the planet can flourish together; where collaboration and the needs of the new community are at the forefront of the planners’ minds and where there are ambitious environmental and social targets. ‘ Appare Vestigium,’ as Harry would say.

The Regent’s Canal

Away from the rush of the King’s Cross commuters, I head for the Regent’s Canal Bridge which will lead me into Granary Square, the main hub of the redeveloped site. I stop on the bridge to watch the barges and canal boats lined up along the banks and am reminded of the industrial and engineering past that was once the mainstay of this area.

News Shopper: The Regent’s Canal in King's CrossThe Regent’s Canal in King's Cross

I’m looking for Thomas Shelby on the towpath while I marvel at the three industrial gas holders, (built in 1860, dismantled in 1990s) now reborn as the iron enclosures for modern apartments. Set at three different heights echoing the dynamic movement of the gas tanks in the past, the old and the new go hand in hand here and it is refreshing to see a development where as much attention has been paid not only to the streets and the spaces but to the buildings that frame them.

Granary Square

The wide open space of Granary Square greets you with an imposing old factory conversion that houses Central St Martin’s Art College. Here in the Square you will find various outdoor art exhibitions - until May 28th Travel Photographer of the Year - around three large, rectangular ground level fountains that spurt water at different heights at different speeds at different times. Sitting on the KX seating made from weather-resistant, durable recycled paper you can watch families and children scream with delight as they walk over the fountains when the rise of the water is only two inches and be caught out as the water bursts to a height of two metres while they are trapped in the middle. The screams of delight fit in here in this relaxing, family orientated part of the square. Once in the square there are busy cafes and restaurants and lots of places to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Tables and chairs have been set out under an avenue of trees for those who do not wish to eat at a restaurant but instead want to watch the world and enjoy their own picnics. In this very clever way, everyone is catered for.

News Shopper: Lower Stable StreetLower Stable Street


What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” – Kurt Vonnegut …and this is exactly the philosophy of the coffee entrepreneurs who have created this great Wildcard space at the front of St Martin’s in Granary Square. Here the idea of a community able to talk, to make friends and enjoy new and old company amidst the aroma of the coffee bean has set the agenda. The single-origin coffee with finely roasted beans is at the centre of what they do here, and coffee lovers can opt for a tasting ‘flight’ of coffee served three ways to appreciate new flavours and discover new favourites.

There is a constant flow of customers when I am there, some finding a seat under the large black umbrellas to meet friends and shade from the sun, and some just needing a coffee to go.

They serve food - but there is no menu. ‘It depends on the day,’ we are told ‘….on what our suppliers are cooking on the day you are here.’ Their suppliers - we had cheese and spinach toastie and the most delicious aromatic fruit cake - are from the community. ‘ One lost her job during lockdown, and started to bake at home. Another had to close his restaurant so now he also cooks from home and delivers locally.’ Coffee at its best. Community at its best. It’s been a good start to my journey.

Coal Drops Yard

As a nation we have a nostalgia for things from the past, especially when it comes to red brick buildings that showcase our industrial heritage. Here, the red brick buildings which stored the coal and goods from the barges now store an assortment of independent retail shops, cafes and places to sit. The idea here is that people are given a chance to sell their unique wares, so you see different creative, innovative and visionary concepts pulling at the senses as you walk through. There are over fifty stores here - a shopper’s paradise.

Utopia exhibition

A champion for diversity within the creative sector, Studio Pi has partnered with Coal Drops Yard to unveil UTOPIA; a selection of ten powerful images by artists who aim to showcase a more inclusive and collaborative world. With an exhibition on Lower Stable Street, artists include Philipp Raheem, Alexis Tsegba, and Brunel Johnson.

Earl of East

Here, at this creative business which centres around a love of fragrance, you will find everything you didn’t know you needed, such is the allure of the spaciously arranged store and the simplicity and originality of the products on sale. ‘ A love of fragrance and a desire to build something of our own led us to develop our own line of home fragrance,’ say the creators Niko Dafkos and Paul Firmin. This includes candles, incense, home mists and bath and body products, and the originality is manifested in names such as Elementary, Greenhouse, Wildflower and Strand. Eclectic pieces of homeware - pink plates, deep blue clay vases and colourful pillows, adorn the pine shelves of a re-created living room - complete with arm chairs - that makes you feel you are in someone’s home.

News Shopper: Earl of EastEarl of East

On my visit to the Yard, I return to this shop several times because I’m dying to buy something. In fact, I’d like to buy everything. I settle on a fragrance by Timothy Han - the name of which tells a story inside a story, ‘ She Came to Stay.’ I did so want to.


I am beginning to understand the independent nature of all the shops and their goods here at Coal Drops Yard. No-where is this more clearly expounded than at Blomma Beauty who have developed their business through using natural, organic, vegan and cruelty free beauty products from independent UK brands. Blomma is Swedish for flower, and its use as a verb tells us we will bloom, prosper, thrive. Today I am meeting Beth, founder of BAO (Beth’s Aromatherapy Organic). Based on her own struggle against an illness which made her skin super sensitive and unhappy, she created products that would help soothe the skin. ‘ I have built my brand around promises and practices that are close to my heart,’ she says. As I sit in the well-stocked, simple surroundings of the salon, lying back for my fifteen minute facial, Beth is gently massaging my face with Recovery Face Cream - a mixture of oils, hyaluronic acid and chamomile water - and she tells me this will all work hard to deliver extreme hydration and nourishment to my skin whilst balancing sebum levels. It will feel brighter too, she tells me. It’s a relaxing experience and I feel refreshed after it.


This is a sunshine concept sore. ‘Dreamed in the Sun: Loved in the Rain,’ Twiin tells us. Yes. A sunshine concept store with a mission to bring all of us here in inclement weather the benefits of a daily dose of vitamin D all year round in the shape of fashion. When you look good - you feel good. You can’t help but feel good when you enter this sunshine store.

News Shopper: TWIIN is a sunshine concept storeTWIIN is a sunshine concept store

From the long strips of brightly coloured, hand painted white paper that hang from the window display, to the racks of sunshine clothes and handbags and summery shoes, everything here seems burnished in summer gold. The dresses are one-off creations of swirling summer cotton, studded with displays of multi-coloured beads and brightly coloured sandals, all crafted by individuals who want us to feel the heat of a summer’s day. I walk out of here with some brightly coloured beads. I have sunshine, in a bag…..


The pinkish hue of the beautiful dried flowers at Roseur stand out here in the lower walkway of Coal Drops Yard. It’s a stunning sight. Sophie, the owner, has a background in sculpture and fine art and to be honest, when you look at the sculptured flowers and the way they are arranged in buckets and beautiful flowery arrangements, it’s not hard to see how her artistic background informs much of what she has done here in her practice with flowers. The use of colour and form here is thoughtful. Nothing shouts sustainability more than capturing a flower at the peak of its perfect blooming state and drying out its glorious form in a display that lives on as a dried flower. As well as bouquets and wreaths available in-store and online, Roseur provides exquisite dried flower arrangements for weddings, events, installations and one-off commissions. As a gift, each bouquet will last for months.

Botanical Boys

What is evident here at Coal Drops Yard, amidst the creative minds of the original and gifted entrepreneurs that operate behind large, eighteenth century arched windows, is their desire to share with the public their inventive journey from conception to birth. Always ready to impart their knowledge on the planet, sustainability and imperishable commodities, most here run workshops to showcase just what they are doing. The Botanical Boys, whose byline of ‘Connecting People to Nature’ is evidenced as soon as you walk into their shop full of botanical terrariums and treasures on Lower Stable Street, run a terrarium building workshop sometimes at their upstairs location, and sometimes at The Samsung Centre.

News Shopper: The Botanical BoysThe Botanical Boys

Having strolled the upper and lower decks of the Stable area, you can’t help but notice the marriage between the old and the new manifested in the sweeping curved roof of the new Samsung building that joins the two columns of old buildings together. This sweeping roofed, tinted glass fronted building is a new experience space where guests can participate in the latest innovations powered by Samsung technology and a place where people are invited to discover, interact with and learn new skills in a dynamic environment.

Faced with the bright white of the Samsung interior and the many screens flashing crisp, clear images of modern technology, we arrive to partake in the nineteenth century craft of terrarium building. Guided by our Botanical Boys’ host - the friendly, well informed Cameron - we are invited to inspect the personalised big brown bags of large glass, cork stoppered jars, packets of earth and carbon and stones and several instruments we will need to create the perfect setting for our plants. First, on a Samsung screen bigger than my patio, we are taken back in time with a history of the evolution of the garden in a cork-stoppered jar - through India, China and the Opium Wars of long ago. Then, it’s building up the correct layers in which our plants will survive. This is a two hour workshop and totally worth doing. It’s therapeutic, calming, educational and really good fun. Thank you, Cameron. We will be back.

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If you get assaulted by the smell of aromatic spices on the Lower Stable walkway, you must be in the vicinity of Hiden - a yellow themed curry house selling delicious homemade curries made from traditional spices but with an added twist of adding fruit like apple and mango. The rice is very white and very fluffy and an optional hard-boiled egg can adorn the top if you want it to. The portions are generous and the curry absolutely delicious. You can sit on the tables and watch the shoppers pass by or you can take the food away.

News Shopper: HidenHiden


Hato is a concept and lifestyle store focusing on Japanese craft and design, education, community and art. There are influences from other countries in the simple designs of the products that line the shelves. There is a good collection of lifestyle books, cookbooks and stationary and a range of bespoke clothing - T-Shirts with ‘Beware the Ides of March,’ and unique clothing you won’t find elsewhere.

The Drops

The Drops is a monthly market showcasing the talent of up and coming designers, cult brands and some already established labels. It is a platform for young brands to flourish and reach new audiences via its association with the Graduation Fashion Foundation - a scheme that mentors young creators with their launch into the commercial world. Each stall has its own unique style. It’s all about people who are actually working with the planet to save the planet.

News Shopper: The Drops is a monthly marketThe Drops is a monthly market

Eirinn Hayhow is one such designer with a philosophy based on an ‘ imagined from plants, inspired by humans’ relationship with nature and she uses waste materials, sustainable fibres and plants sourced locally to weave magic into her tye-dye creations. She now grows her own materials from plant fruit and vegetable waste. ‘It’s truly magic’ she says. In this one man’s waste is another man’s gold way, all the designers have a story to tell so you are not only shopping for unique clothes but listening to the history of the clothes too. It’s different because the designers are there, ready to explain.


It used to be, back in the day, that to experience sophisticated, world class sound systems was the birthright of nightclubs. The emergence of listening bars in 1950s Japan - cafes with high-end audio equipment where patrons listened to vinyl records selected by the bartender from a record library behind the bar - has done much to rectify this. Move forward to the present day and switch location to Stable Street, King’s Cross and audiophiles can now experience the reproduction of live musical performances at Spritland and enjoy hi-fidelity sound on one of the world’s best sound system installations. Cafe by day and Bar by night, this is a comfortable venue to experience music of all genres and to be involved in an explosion of senses - visual and audial. Heavy velvet curtains and neon signage are effective in a space not too big and not too small in creating an old-school style music venue.

News Shopper: SpiritlandSpiritland

It feels very snug in here. It feels very cool. There is a good range of affordable food and a weekend brunch, and a vast menu of cocktails and spirits in the evening. Bathtub Gin, smoked almonds, Funk, Soul and Jazz. Yes please.

Sacred Gold

Sacred Gold is the brainchild of renowned tattoo artist Joao Bosco and Guy Saar. Together they’ve created a uniquely inviting tattoo and body piercing studio at Coal Drops Yard - one that doesn’t intimidate but instead offers a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by Europe’s largest selection of BVLA unique, high-end body jewellery, this studio has been designed to offer a luxurious and comfortable experience. ‘Our aim is to help our clients express themselves artistically’ says Joao. While I am there, the grinding of the buzz - saw is in evidence and I spend some time looking at the creative designs available to adorn the body. This is a comfortable and luxurious place to have a tattoo of body piercing.

The Great Northern Hotel

This is an original railway hotel built in 1854. As with all boutique hotels it has an upscale design and individualised decor that gives the space a welcome personality and offers a personal touch to every guest - in my case a handwritten card welcoming me and offering help should I need it. It’s thoughtful. Located in the middle of the two London stations - King’s Cross and St Pancras - this is the perfect hotel to stop and drop off the shopping and reignite the batteries in the GNH Bar and Terrace which can be found at the front of the hotel. The rooms are sophisticated and stylish and the bed a welcome haven of white linen and fluffy pillows.

News Shopper: The Great Northern Hotel is just next to King's Cross stationThe Great Northern Hotel is just next to King's Cross station

Everyone, and I mean everyone, I came across at this hotel could have been the writer of that handwritten card. From the receptionist to the porter (who almost walked us all the way to Coal Drops Yard when asking him for directions) to the Terrace staff, nobody could do more to make the stay a great one. Breakfast in the Hotel’s Plum and Spilt Milk, with a striking interior and overlooking the busy King’s Cross area, was cosy and quiet and heartwarming - a great way to start another day of Coal Drops Yard explorations.