Caravan (London)

I am in love with this place.

Given that it’s been on my list for god only knows how long, I really have no idea why it has taken me quite this long to finally pay this place a visit. But I’m so, so glad I did.

I met up with A after a long day of work (for her) and frivolity (for me) and I really couldn’t have asked for a better dining companion.

had booked our table for 630PM, which, in retrospect, was very smart of her, because the place started to fill up very quickly. When I asked our server if it was always that busy on a Monday night, he said that what we were witnessing was actually a quiet night, and that he definitely recommends booking in advance, particularly if you are going for dinner.

The design of the restaurant is predominantly industrial-chic – think lots of wood and metal and exposed pipes – but the dim, warm lighting and laid-back atmosphere made it very cosy and comfortable, particularly as it was FREEZING outside.

I asked the waiter for a recommendation for our first round of drinks, and he said that he really liked the espresso martini, and as I do so love me some espresso martini, we both decided to get it. (I have a bit of a habit of ordering alcohol and coffee at the same time because I like to tell myself that the caffeine and the alcohol cancel each other out.)

Espresso Martini (£7.50)
vodka, espresso, kahlua, coffee bitters, winter spiced syrup
 
I really liked this. It’s one of the better espresso martinis I’ve had, a brilliant balance between the bitterness of the espresso and the sweetness of the syrup, and not too strong.
From the Bread, Cheese, Meats section of their menu, we ordered the Jalapeno corn bread with chipotle butter.
 

 

Jalapeno corn bread with chipotle butter (£7.50)
 
I personally love corn bread and enjoyed this particular rendition. It could have been toasted slightly longer so that it would have had more of a crust but I’m not seriously complaining. The combination of spicy jalapeno and chipotle as well as the refreshing piquancy of the coriander and lime worked very well with the slight sweetness of the corn and made for a tasty twist on the good old (but slightly plain) cornbread.
From the Small Plates section of the menu, we ordered the parmesan and artichoke arancini with pea sauce and lemon sauce vierge, and the grilled squid with romesco, coriander oil and ink.

 

Parmesan and artichoke arancini with pea sauce and lemon sauce vierge (£5.50)
 
I knew we had to get this because I remembered how much A loves arancini (an Italian fried rice ball). We both really enjoyed these. The breading was very thin and light, and had crisped up nicely during the frying without soaking up too much oil. The filling was of a really good consistency and was not too wet, mushy or stodgy. The lemon sauce vierge (a French sauce usually made from olive oil, chopped tomato, chopped basil and lemon juice) was very refreshing and helped lighten up the richnesss of the rice and parmesan. The pea sauce was like a thick pea puree and although I’m not normally the biggest fan of mushy peas or pea soup, I quite liked this because peas are just so evocative of spring and as we are quickly hurtling towards the cold, dark months of winter, I need all the help I can get to remember that there is a light at the end in these difficult times!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
Grilled squid, romesco, coriander oil, ink (£7)
 
This was definitely my favorite dish of the night. I will be happy just eating platefuls and platefuls of this. I adore fresh seafood and definitely do not get enough of it living in London. The squid was delicate and tender but still firm and bouncy, and had the wonderful flavor that you can only get from a good grill. The trio of sauces worked really well together so that each bite of squid was as tasty as the last. Oh my god did I love this.
From the Large Plates section of the menu, we ordered the confit duck leg, cassoulet beans, dijon, kale and rosemary salt.
Confit duck leg, cassoulet beans, dijon, kale and rosemary salt (£15)
 
A really liked this. I did as well – the duck was tender and flavorful, the beans were cooked perfectly so that they still had a bite to them and were not a mushy mess, and the slight bitterness and crunch of the dark green leafy kale made it a great accompaniment. I was also pleasantly surprised by how generous the portion-size was. But while this was good, I wouldn’t say that it  was particularly outstanding.
And while it wasn’t part of our original plan, it didn’t take much convincing for us to decide that we had to get a pizza as well. No, really, all it took was one glance at the delicious-looking, freshly-baked pizza that was brought to the neighboring table.
So we asked our server again for recommendations and he told us that, while they are all good, his favorite was the vegetarian pizza. He had been right about the espresso martini so we decided that we would trust him once again and went with his recommendation.

 

Spinach, artichoke, goat’s cheese, egg, garlic oil pizza (£9)
 
As soon as this was brought to our table, I was hit by the aroma of warm goat’s cheese. I love goat’s cheese but if you don’t, you may want to choose another pizza instead, or get them to swap the cheese out. The waiter had said that this was his favorite because he loves artichokes and I’m inclined to agree that they make for a brilliant pizza topping. Their thick, fleshy leaves give them an almost meaty texture, and they still retain a slight crunch after cooking. The pizza is served with chilli flakes, parmesan flakes, chilli oil and parmesan oil on the side but the pizza is tasty enough without any additional condiments.
Then we decided we needed more drinks.
Earl Grey Gimlet (£6.50)
Earl grey-infused gin, lemon
Kamm & Colada (£7.50)
Pineapple, creamed coconut, Kamm & Sons, lemon, vanilla, grapefruit bitters
 
Both the earl grey and lemon flavors were definitely quite pronounced so it meant that the gimlet was on the bitter, slightly sour side. Good if you want something refreshing that will deliver a bit of a shock to your system after all that food. Particularly good when followed up with a mouthful of the Kamm & Colada, which was essentially a sweet, smooth and creamy pina colada. Soon as we discovered this we started drinking them together.
Now, drinks are all well and good, but a girl’s got to have her pudding.
We ordered one of the November specials.
Orange Semolina Cake, Saffron Ice-cream, Olive Oil (£6)
 
This was very… interesting. We ordered this because we were intrigued by the idea of saffron ice-cream. The orange semolina cake was moist and had a coarse crumb from the semolina but did not taste particularly strongly of orange. It was the first time either of us had tried saffron ice-cream. The saffron flavor was definitely there but it was pleasantly mellow and not overpowering. It was good but we weren’t crazy about it, although, to be fair, this might have to do with me not being that big on saffron to begin with. I think saffron-lovers would adore this though. As Persian as saffron is the big cloud of Persian fairy floss that kept me giggling throughout dessert because it reminded me of the hair on those baby troll dolls hahaha.
The next dessert I loved.
Pecan pie, maple bacon ice-cream, bourbon caramel popcorn (£6.50)
 
I know I’ve mentioned this before in my post about Joe’s Southern Kitchen but I really love pecan pie. This was good but it was hard to truly appreciate it because I was so damn distracted by that maple bacon ice-cream. Now, this wasn’t my first encounter with maple bacon ice-cream but it was by far my favorite encounter with this gorgeous coupling. You can taste the unmistakeable flavor of maple and bacon in every mouthful. I warn you that bacon in ice-cream is not everyone’s thing but it certainly is mine. If you think about it, it does make sense. The smokey saltiness of the bacon really undercuts the creaminess of the ice-cream, while the maple ties everything together by breaking down the final barrier between the sweet and the savoury, and what you get is a delicious flavor explosion. 1 scoop to share is plenty because, while the combination is phenomenal, the fact that this is very much an acquired taste that your palate is probably not yet accustomed to would mean that you won’t be able to have very much of it without feeling quite ill. (Just give me some time. You’ll see. Soon my palate will be primed to take on this ice-cream by the bucketload.)
 
It would be an understatement to say that I have fallen quite hard for this place. I didn’t want to believe the hype that has surrounded this restaurant over the years but it’s hard not to. The food is interesting without being overly-experimental, and for what you’re paying I think portion-sizes are really quite decent. I plan to make a second trip soon because there are a few things I really must try:
  1. curried onion flatbread with yoghurt, coriander and nigella seeds (£4.50) – the people next to us ordered this and it smelt and looked so good
  2. smoked haddock and leek croquettes, lemon pepper aioli (£5.50)
  3. pan-fried mackerel, nori puree, daikon remoulade, sticky soy (£6) – this seemed very popular and I saw it making its way to many tables
  4. wagyu ribeye, chimichurri potatoes, radish, jus (£19) – this was probably the most popular dish that night and it’s not hard to see why when you can get a pretty large serving of wagyu for £19?!?!?!
I also really want to try out their weekend brunch menu at some point.
Finally, the service was brisk and efficient, the staff was friendly and helpful, and the place had a really casual, relaxed vibe. Everyone was having a really great time – the slightly drunk senior citizens at the next table in particular hahaha – and A and I were no exception.

Granary Building
1 Granary Square (off Goods Way)
London
N1C 4AA

Opening hours:

MONDAY: 8AM—10.30PM
TUESDAY: 8AM—10.30PM
WEDNESDAY: 8AM—11PM
THURSDAY: 8AM—11PM
FRIDAY: 8AM—12AM
SATURDAY: 10AM—12AM
SUNDAY: 10AM—4PM

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