Caravan King’s Cross
I have never been to Caravan but several times I have stood on Exmouth Market looking plaintively through the window. It is always fucking rammed. They have now capitalised on this popularity by opening another branch in the Granary Building behind King’s Cross Station which houses the relocated Central Saint Martins. This is part of a huge regeneration project in the area and, whilst the transformation to date has been marked, there is obviously still a lot to do. The setting reminds me of my new favourite neighbourhood restaurant, Lardo and the menu is also similar: nibbles (breads, cheese, meat), lots of small plates, a couple of pizzas and couple of mains but with an added antipodean twist. I can’t think of anything better, to be honest, and I’ve no doubt Caravan King’s Cross will be a success.
It is always a good idea to start dinner with oysters if you can. Here, as well as well as trad raw, you can get half a dozen deep fried. My wife demurred from joining me when I proposed ordering them because she had imagined the scampiesque orange balls you usually get. However, they turned out to be a wonderfully delicate tempura and she was soon diving in. Similarly subtle was a salad of wood-smoked trout and peas. A perfect summer dish which made it seem a bit out of place in deepest, darkest January. I’m not complaining but not exactly seasonal. More in keeping with the season was jalepeno cornbread with chipotle butter was also lighter than it sounded: moist, the heat coming through gently but intensely and served with a helpful wedge of lime to stop it from being too buttery.
Careful offsetting was also on display in the next dish. I’ve forgotten the menu description for it but it was basically giant borek, the deep fried Turkish pastry of feta and spinach which is a Saturday morning staple round our way. The addition of bulgar wheat reduced the tang of the cheese (manouri, in this instance) whilst increasing the depth which was complemented by the refreshing, sweet and sour lake of yoghurt and honey underneath. The only duff dish was my quail which was spatch-cocked on the grill rather than whole and came bloody rather than pink. I ate it because I’m not particularly squeamish but I think most people wouldn’t have done. It was served with creamed corn and bacon caramelised in maple syrup, two individually pleasant tastes which were too rich and sweet together and overpowered the quail. This was a rare instance of the deftly delicate touch in the kitchen disappearing.
£70 for two, including drinks and two desserts. In contrast to the food, drinks left a bit to be desired. Their own beer (everyone has there own beer these days), Good Oil Pale Ale, was off which left only one choice: the uninspiring Hell’s Lager (at least it is local, I guess). I’ve always thought prosecco on tap sounds like a good idea but the result here was akin to the last glass left at a budget drinks reception. If it isn’t crisp and effervescent, what is the point? My wife is currently off the booze so had a non-alcoholic cocktail which is a pretty grand way of describing elderflower cordial and fizzy water. Equally grand was the price: two of these cost a quid more than two pints of lager.