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My review of the Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

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This is my review of the Great Western First Class lounge at Paddington Station.

I have to be honest – I didn’t know that Great Western had a First Class Lounge.  I was at university in Bath and still like to go back every few years to see what is new, but for some reason I have never used the lounge before.  It is possible that I have never done the trip in First Class but that would be surprising.

It was a positive comment by a Head for Points reader in response to one our other train lounge reviews this year that made me want to take a look at this.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge.

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

Where is the First Class lounge at Paddington Station?

The lounge is tucked away down the side of Platform 1 which is to the far left if you enter the station down the slope from Praed Street.  It is a bit of a trot – you need to give yourself a few minutes to get to the train on the way out.

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

There are no ticket restrictions and any First Class ticket is accepted, even Advance.

There are three separate areas to the lounge but it is really in two parts.  At the entrance is a desk with a pile of Financial Times and The Times newspapers stacked up on a window sill alongside.  The first area you come to is what I will call the ‘modern’ half of the lounge:

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

As you can see, it is a large open space with modern furnishings.   Food is relatively limited in the lounge – there were a few pastries, some fruit and packets of biscuits.  It was only 9am so I didn’t check the fridge to see if there was any alcohol going (although, oddly, at an airport I would have got stuck in – airport drinking rules are different!).

There is a magazine rack out of shot with free copies of Wallpaper, a Jamie Oliver cookery magazine, Time Out, 1843 (The Economist spin-off) and the QP watch magazine – a pretty decent selection.

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

There is even a meeting room available if you need it:

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

Around the corner is what I would call the ‘classic’ half of the lounge.  This octagonal rotunda is the most memorable area:

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

There is also a more laid back room off to the side – this was surprisingly quiet and it wasn’t clear why the vast majority of passengers had chosen to stay in the modern side.

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

Best to eat at home if you are sitting on this side:

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

Overall, I was surprisingly impressed by the Great Western First Class Lounge at Paddington and it is certainly worth a visit next time you are heading down to the South West.

Here is a brief video which gives a far better impression of the lounge than you get from the photos above.  It is only 60 seconds long.  If you can’t see it below you can access it from our You Tube channel here, where you can also subscribe to our video stream.

PS.  I was also impressed by the new First Class seats on the Great Western 125 fleet:

review Great Western First Class lounge, Paddington Station

It is the classiest seat I have ever seen on a mainstream British train.  Even the carpet is smart.  Compared to the brash red and black of the new Virgin East Coast seats it is a major improvement.  You can’t win them all though – Virgin would have given me a free meal and free alcohol on my trip, whilst Great Western only offered tea, coffee, biscuits and fruit.  A request for the tiny mini-bottle of white wine on the trolley was met with a demand for £5, a shocking price for something which – based on my history of mini-bottle drinking – would have been pretty awful.

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Comments (49)

  • Ynox says:

    FGW also go to Wales!

    I quite like their first product – seats are comfy enough, although it’s somewhat annoying that the cheap advance tickets are less in supply than they used to be.

  • Des Devon says:

    I have used this lounge many times, but never knew about the Rotunda, time for an eye check.

    St Austell Korev lager is offered, this used to be by request, but is now in the fridges.

    I am not a wine drinker, but believe the bottles are only placed out at late afternoon.

    Snacks change during the day, think it goes pastries, sandwiches then afternoon cake. They do display what times the snacks change.

    • Nick Burch says:

      Which fridge? I haven’t been able to find it for months, last time I asked they said they were no longer offering it…

      • Des Devon says:

        Hi Nick, Just been through my notes and last time I used was 02 August, so it may well have changed since then. I will be passing through Paddington on Monday, so depending how long I have to wait, I will try and visit lounge to check. To be honest St Austell Korev is pretty bad, ratebeer members rank it at 25%, its a beer I would only drink if it was free. If you are travelling in 2nd class, or just fancy a better beer, there is a decent Fullers pub on the 1st floor at Paddington, the Mad Bishop and Bear. Regards Des

  • Daz says:

    I actually work on the Western Route (not GWR) and I am really surprised people regularly pay the money for First considering what you get for it, it’s shockingly bad. I would dearly love to justify the cost.

    The new interior is nice but getting charged for a bacon sarnie on route is like being slapped in the face with a soggy bog roll.

    Fools and their money are easily parted.

    • Philip bramley says:

      I would agree on full priced tickets , but if booked in advance and if your schedule allows you to vary the train caught and with such as a two together railcard the first class is value and I don’t have to listen to people effing and blinding ,even in front of families with very young children ,all the way home , plus the bonus of not being shoe horned into a carriage , throw in the free drinks and snacks unlimited can’t beat it .

      • RussellH says:

        You cannot count on it!

        I clearly remember one first class journey on Virging West Coast from London to the lake District. I was sharing a bay of four with a young woman who spennt most of the journey shouting into her mobile about her (mainly non-existent) sex life.

        Half the coach was privy to all sorts of details.

        When she finally got off (Wigan?, Preston?) the audible relief throughout the coach was massive.

  • Zander says:

    If you walk down to the café/bar carriage, you can ask for a mini bottle and they sometimes give it to you for free but I think it depends on how far you are travelling as I only seem to get the odd free bottle on PAD-TRU route, never had it free if I get off at an earlier stop.

    That said the lounge is great but it is the seating that rocks on GWR, no other service comes close for comfort and the single seaters with enough room under the table for yourself and a dog to curl up to sleep, perfect!

  • Des Devon says:

    GWR also have a lounge at Cardiff Central, but this does not come close to the Paddington lounge. I have used it twice when catching the Arriva Trains Wales 1716 Cardiff – Holyhead, which has a complimentary three course meal for first class passengers (alcoholic drinks extra). On both occasions the meals were superb, there are evidently two chefs who work this service, and according to waitress, I picked right day to travel. I am not sure if you are officially allowed to use the GWR lounge with an Arriva ticket, but I was allowed to both times.

    I do rate the GWR lounge at Paddington the best rail lounge I have been to, in 2nd place would be Stockholm Central which has magnificent view over the concourse (sadly no free beers, which would be very welcome in Sweden), and 3rd would be Wien Hbf which also has good concourse views and free wine and Goesser beer in the evening.

    • Philip bramley says:

      Going to a bit naughty here because it’s not a lounge but the Train Bleu restaurant on Gare de Lyon is something to behold , genuinely part of the station , worth just going in for the interior alone .

      • mark2 says:

        Since you stated this discussion, I would nominate Quebec City. Again worth seeing for the Art Deco building and a range of restaurants from snack bar to fine dining. Very few trains so plenty of space to sit while the staff fill in their time by weighing your luggage!

  • Ash says:

    I’ve been hear several times and I can’t believe I’ve never found the ‘classic’ half…that’s probably why nobody goes there – it doesn’t seem obvious there’s more to it