Knead is the first of Paul Hollywood’s new strain of bakeries that sell coffee, and which will encircle capitalism. This one is outside Euston station and I think the name — Knead, meaning squashed under fists, specifically Paul Hollywood’s fists — is designed solely to make you think of his big hands. Lots of people who watch The Great British Bake Off like Paul Hollywood’s big hands, and his PR team know it. He could knead Europe away; he could make Britain anything you want it to be. He and Mary Berry (now transformed into Prue Leith after the move from BBC1 to Channel 4) bridge the abyss in the British character. They are dignity and filth. There is much oblivious sex and politics in Bake Off, which is why it is a hit. It is easier to think about these things subliminally. It is soothing.
Euston is the most sullen of London’s railway terminals and this, of course, gives it a sullen charm. You know you can’t go lower; you know who you are. The days when Euston was fronted by a propylaeum of the Doric order — ‘a grand but simple portico’ or ‘grand and very absurd’, depending on who you asked — are over and now we can barely believe it ever stood. Despite Nikolaus Pevsner’s protests, it was pulled down in 1961. Knead is on a small square, opposite Caffè Nero and Ed’s Diner, and it is swamped by concrete, air pollution and people travelling to Birmingham. The view is of buses. It is utterly defeated, a place for adultery and snacks.
Knead is a long, slender shack, the shape of a train carriage. There are pot plants, stools with black cushions, posh light fittings (the ceiling looks like the innards of a robot) and a shelf containing Paul Hollywood’s canon, which I do not think is for sale, and which I will worry about later after I have left Knead.