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.

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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.

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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:

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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.

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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.

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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:

Great Western First Class lounge Paddington Station London

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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  1. Matthew Vaughan says:

    I read somewhere that the second, more classic half was originally Queen Victoria’s waiting room.

  2. Larryflyer says:

    Re the onboard drinks/snacks: yes, the selection is not brilliant on Great Western, but at least access is unlimited. By way of comparison, I recently took a 2.5 hour journey on CrossCountry trains (Birmingham to Cambridge, in First Class) and was staggered to be told I could not have a complementary coffee “because you had a bottle of water earlier, sir”.

    • It’s bewildering and annoying how stingy they can be! I asked for a cup of coffee once on East Coast to go with my cake, and the ‘host’ looked at me, horrified at the thought, and said ‘No. Not after York’.

      In fairness, it must be difficult to keep track of people traveling short, long, or very long distances, on a train that starts out at breakfast time but is still picking up passengers after lunch, all the while guarding against guzzlers.

      But being stingy with a cup of coffee is unnecessary.

  3. Re. alcohol, no it’s not generally available, apart from in the evening when red and white wine are available.

    • Only on a Wednesday, bizarrely, they told me.

      • Is it free?

        It’s not typical for any uk domestic first class train lounge to have free alcohol. The virgin west coast in Euston has a paid bar (and some free alcohol for members of their first class loyalty programme), but not free. None in Coventry, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Crewe, Manchester or Glasgow.

        Only the eurostar lounge which is international, does free alcohol. Well, in the sense that if you’ve not paid buckets for your ticket.

        • Amex Plat gives free Eurostar lounge access. And if you don’t send your Plat card back when you cancel it, it is the gift that keeps on giving …..

        • Do they check names? – My wife was sent 2 supplementary cards by mistake when I upgraded to Plat… would prefer to give it to my sister if it’ll be useful

        • Yes – well, it depends. At Paris, because they have a reception desk, they tend to look closely at the cards and ticket. In London last time I just waved it at the guy standing by the door and he let me in.

        • Sideysid says:

          Thanks Rob, was just about to cut mine up today, that never occurred to me!

        • RussellH says:

          Not, of course, in anything like the same class, but the AA every-so-often has sent me a free basic membership card, which gives 20% at some, though not all motorway services. Again, the person on the payment desk just recognises an AA card and presses the b20% discount button on the till.

          It almost makes Costa Coffee a reasonable purchase.

        • My cancelled Amex Plat also got me in to 2 different delta lounges in the US.

        • Been to Eurostar lounges in St Pancras and Gare du Nord a few times over the last few months and they both seem to check the name on Amex Plat against the ticket.

        • the real harry says:

          I’m getting my son & myself into lounge @ T3 @ Xmas – on Lounge Pass – even though only 1 freebie remaining – several here say it’s not patrolled very tightly 🙂

        • Last time at St Pancras, they made a note of my Platinum card number.

      • Nick Burch says:

        On board the train, each route has one day a week when there’s free wine

        In the lounge, there’s free wine every evening, but only in the “modern” half, it’s normally by the door to the kitchen. They used to also do nice cornish beer on request, but sadly no longer

        As for why most people are in the modern half – old half doesn’t have departure screens, and you have to know it’s there!

  4. Am I right in thinking you could get in here by buying a first class ticket from Paddington to Ealing, or similar?

  5. As a weekly user, let me add a couple of extra points.

    The lounge is, as you say, surprisingly comfortable. They also put out a decent afternoon tea selection (full-size cakes, sliced) and wine in the evening. Similarly, the trolley on board carries red and white in the evening peak.

    You got lucky with the seats. The refurbishment is a couple of years old now and, while attractive, it is the same underlying seat – many of the recline mechanisms and arm rests are, again, broken. I suspect they will be in a sorry state by the time the new trains take over.

    Interestingly, as we talk so much about densification of airline cabins, it should be noted that was the major outcome of this revised first class. One of the first coaches was converted to standard and more seats were added to the remaining 1.5 coaches by adopting an “airline style” configuration for the single seats.

    • Aeronaut says:

      The densification does make sense in terms of how popular the Great Western routes are. Though like many, I somewhat lament the reduction in table seats.

  6. A far better product in all senses as compared to Virgin Trains who by comparison are really poor.

    • RussellH says:

      The ambience of the new western First does look good, but the on-board offering by Virgin WC is a lot better than what Rob describes here.

      I am usually lucky though – travelling to/from Penrith, an hour north of Preston, we normally get two complete services on Virgin, because of the crew change at Preston.

      Though with an hours drive following the train when travelling northbound I have to decline the enormous glass of wine offered after leaving Preston.

  7. If you have a sleeper train ticket of ANY class, you should also be entitled to access this lounge. We did it in the way back from Cornwall a few years ago. The train arrives at Platform 1 at 5am, they let you sleep until 6am when they wake you up and serve you breakfast and you have to vacate the train by 7am. This is the time when you just move to the lounge a few steps away from the train. The lounge was nice and proved popular among passengers. I even manage to spot a UK govt minister in the lounge!

  8. philip bramley says:

    The food in the Octagonal lounge is replenished and you can ask if they are a bit behind , the sandwiches and cakes available at lunchtime are usually excellent in both quantity and standard as is the afternoon tea , but its all unlimited along with the soft drinks , the on board offering is rather more restricted but again is as much as you can eat/drink . I have never come across any hot food in the lounge though .

    My concern on the new stock to be introduced is that there will be no restaurant car just a trolley , a backward step I think .

    • RussellH says:

      > My concern on the new stock to be introduced is that there will be no restaurant car just a trolley

      Ah, but this is what the passenger, sorry customer, wants these days. At least according to the surveys with carefully worded leading questions.

      • This is certainly what I want. I typically sit at the other end of the train and to get to the buffet car either have to carry my worldly possessions from one end of the train to the other in order to get a coffee, or leave them and hope that they are still there by the time I get back! Roll on the trolleys on FGW!

    • Nick Burch says:

      The DFT spec’d 800/801 trains for GWR won’t have a kitchen, only the Virgin ones will do. However, I think the GWR spec’d 802s (with full use of the engines), which are destined for the south west (Devon / Cornwall) will have them. So, it should only be the Oxford / Bristol / Wales trains which miss out on the kitchen

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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 .

      • 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!

  14. 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

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