Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Caravan King's Cross - A stylish success - Mar 2013

Could there be anywhere with a whiter heat than King's Cross at the moment? Particularly for foodies. The rotating (if expensive) genius of a Kerb food market lunch, former 24 hour garage turned hip hangout Shrimpy's and an outpost of Exmouth Market's excellent Caravan. Not to mention the fabulous and fashionable Gilbert Scott, the wonderfully bizarre Karpo, modish gastro grub from recently renovated The Fellow and tapas from Camino? I exaggerate (of course), it still has some way to go before achieving Borough Market status (and is still host to the Faulty Towers of restaurants, Bistro De La Gare, home of the most hiliariously bad meal I ate in 2012). But compared to the flyblown wasteland of five years ago, there's a lot to celebrate.

Recently I've managed a solid trio of visits. A fabulous brunch and a pretty great lunch at Caravan King's Cross and a very, very decent lunch at neighbour Shrimpy's (not all on the same day I hasten to add...)

The quality of the food at Caravan is not at all unexpected given the heritage, but here it comes with added art students and without the queue you'll have at their other place in Exmouth Market.

The menu has a laid back Western Mediterranean vibe with influences and style borrowed from wherever makes tasty. It's effectively much lower priced Ottolenghis with decent coffee and no pretension.

That brunch was a silky aubergine stew with a modicum of smoke and sesame, gently cradling a brace of poached eggs, texture provided by chewy fresh sourdough and a delightfully gamey choritzo style sausage. A little bit of what I needed for the hangover that massively ailed me.

Returning for lunch a few weeks later, I dived into a few of their small plates with my guest. The plates range from £3 to £6 and three would easily do two for a light lunch, five if you're having lunch with me and one or two max if you're studying at St Martins next door. They're not called skinny jeans for nothing.

Tempura tofu was fresh and pillowy light. A crispy air coated marshmallow, flavour added with a hearty sesame and mushroom sauce. Spiced cornbread, fresh from the oven, added a chunk of flavour and a wumph of weight no sane art studentista would go near. Thankfully I was there to take the temptation away. Similarly, lemongrass pork was a significant endeavour for the money, sat on a turnip cake slightly overwhelmed by the tamarind infused juices, it was a pleasant piece of pig. The last two were similarly satisfying; a freshly and lightly fried Malay vegetable samosa and a refreshing broad bean and sweet potato flatbread salad topped with a sharp yoghurt. There's a range of good looking stone baked pizzas too and coffee roasted on the premises (of course…)
It's a lovely spot, saved from any arty pretentiousness by great staff and a real mixed crowd courtesy of the nearby station. A deservedly populist hit.

Caravan Kings Cross on Urbanspoon

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