A Breath of Fresh Air: Caravan King's Cross

I've been in a bit of a snit about the London restaurant scene over the past few weeks.  Maybe it's time for me to get out of the country again. I don't know, but I've been researching and asking around and hunting for a few new spots to try (and write about for you all), and haven't come up with one option that sounded intriguing (ok, aside from anything OTT and pricey).  Several much-anticipated openings are happening in the next couple of months, but we're just not quite there yet. There have been a slew of establishments that serve a very specific menu: Duck and Waffles - Burger and Lobster - Bubbledogs - Dirty Burger - Chicken Shop.  These are restaurant names, people!  Are you feeling my frustration?? And, they all seem to adhere to London's burgeoning American food craze.  Needless to say, I was feeling a little mopey about the whole situation.

Caravan's main dining room.

Now I know I need to just get over it, but at any given moment when I lived in New York or even San Francisco, I could come up with a substantial list of places I'd like to try or fancied eating at again in seconds flat.  There always seemed to be a variety of cuisines, styles, price points, you name it, to choose from, and in London I'm feeling very hemmed in (and for those of you that know me, you know that's not a good thing).   Enter, Caravan King's Cross.On the eve of my latest journey way up North to work at the shooting estate, my dear husband took me out for one last meal, when I wouldn't be the one behind the stove and I would actually be seated while I gobbled down my food.  I had been working at NBC on the edit of my latest video blog for and so we decided to try Caravan King's Cross, not far from the bureau.  We grabbed my editor and our friend Rachele and trudged through King's Cross station to the nearby Granary Square that's just been redeveloped.

Jalapeno cornbread

It's a little tricky to find and there was a slight wind tunnel effect along the new pedestrian route towards the granary, but once inside my spirits lifted.  It's a vast, interesting space that's held on to it's roots as part of the old granary.  Lots of exposed lightbulbs and expensive salvaged pieces - that much loved industrial chic look.  We had a short wait at the bar and plenty of time to watch young, hipster Londoners parade around the room.After a celebratory espresso martini, (yes, it was divine) I eagerly scanned the menu and quickly honed in on several small plates for us to share.  There were so many interesting sounding items and I was thrilled there were three of us so we could order more, therefore taste more.  Yes, I am a glutton. It just all looked that good.  There were interesting sounding combinations, some expected, some not.  A variety of cuisines from Latin America, through Italy, all the way around to Southeast Asia, were represented.  There was the possibility it would be a disaster.  But my mouth was watering in a way it hasn't in a while.

 Burrata and lentils.

Our first two dishes came under the Bread, Cheese, Meats section of the menu. First to arrive, a plate of burrata with herby lentils and basil. The lentils were wonderfully firm and the overall tastes were terrific. My only complaint was that the burrata had already been chopped into pieces on the plate. Part of the delight in eating burrata is that you get that fabulous squish of fatty cheese when you cut into the ball of cheese.  Cream oozes from inside it and over into whatever accompanies it.  That was a shame.  Next up, the jalapeno cornbread with chipotle butter.  Thick golden slabs of subtly spiced cornbread with a decadent butter.  I'm copying them and making one to accompany a chilli I'm preparing for a shooting lunch at the lodge this week!

Grits with girolles.

Now the real decadence began. Grits, girolles (chantarelle's to you and me), pecorino, truffle oil.  Superb!  And what a thrill to see grits on a London menu.  They were appropriately creamy, the mushrooms nicely browned and the hint of truffle oil was thankfully not too overpowering.  Scallop ceviche with green tomato, lime, chilli, olive oil.  Eating this dish I was transported to Vietnam.  The flavors all burst in my mouth.  Not enough ceviche around these parts, I think. The low point of the meal was the mackarel fillet, avacado. corn, coriander salsa.  This may be because I'm not a huge mackarel fan, but the others at the table agreed with me. It just didn't sing like the other dishes - I think mainly because there was a lack of anything acidic to break up the oily nature of this fish. In fact, the avacado and corn just enhanced the thick feeling it left on my tongue.  No, not pleasant.

Fab fried chicken.

Finally, my favorite, and one I have to figure out how to make just as soon as I catch my breath for a moment.  Fried chicken, watermelon, pomegranate, chilli.  Now I assumed we'd be getting your bog standard piece of fried chicken. No, my friends, this was amazing....and new to me.  They've taken the meat off the bones, shredded it and formed it into a rectangle which is then floured and fried.  There was that unmistakable, delightful fried chicken taste that brought back a wave of nostalgia for the days when my dad used to make this dish for us as kids.  The shredded chicken really just seemed to intensify the chicken flavor ( and frankly, I'm not a huge fan of trying to pick chicken off the bone). I believe there was also some chilli in the chicken and the pomegranate sauce drizzled over the top - I think this could have been omitted.  The whole thing, not beautiful on the plate, was terrific, especially when you managed to take a big cube of the cool watermelon and eat it with a piece of the warm, spicy, crunchy chicken.And suddenly, the plates stopped coming and my taste buds were finally sated (although upon reflection, I still regret not ordering the butterscotch caramel tart with salted shortbread for dessert).  My mouth had been on a journey around the world in just a few short minutes and I felt refreshed, like I'd been at a culinary day spa in anticipation of the gruelling two weeks ahead of me up at the shooting lodge.  I can't wait to share some of the food ideas from Caravan with my chef friend at the lodge and will look forward to another trip to this joint so I can eat my way through the dozen or so other interesting sounding items on the menu.  Caravan to the rescue!