As the Coffee Spot approaches its second birthday, I thought I’d present another first. I’ve visited a few Coffee Spots that serve full dinner menus, but I rarely go for (or write about) the food. However, at the start of the summer, I was en-route to Leeds for my most recent Caffeine Magazine feature when I found I had a couple of hours to kill before my evening train. Instead of grabbing something at King’s Cross station, I took a short stroll to the north and today’s Saturday Supplement was born…
A roastery, coffee bar and restaurant, Caravan, in its cavernous space in an old grain warehouse next to Regent’s Canal, is many things to many people. For me, it’s always been a great place to sit inside at the counter at the back, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with the baristas, or, on a summer’s evening, somewhere to sit outside with a carafe of one of Caravan’s many fine single-origins. It’s also one of my favourite roasters: as well as the single-origin pour-overs, I’ve always liked Caravan’s Market espresso-blend, keeping an eye out for its coffee wherever I go.
Now, however, I also think of it as a restaurant…
You can find out what I made of it after the gallery.
I’ve written about Caravan before, so I won’t go over old ground in describing the space, instead concentrating on my dining experience. It was a lovely, early summer’s evening and, even at six thirty, Caravan was very busy. The popular outdoor terrace was full, but there were quite a few spaces left inside. If I’d wanted an outside seat, Caravan runs a good waiting system; you get a numbered bag of (presumably old) coffee beans, then wait at the bar. Once your table is ready, they’ll come to get you. However, I had a train to catch, so decided to sit inside.
Probably just as well…
It took me ages to choose. I was tempted by the excellent-looking pizzas, but eventually decided to have one of Caravan’s small plates (pan-seared sea trout) with, as a compromise, a garlic and rosemary flat bread as a starter. I probably should have been healthy and had broccoli with my trout, but I’d decided to treat myself with fries instead.
The flat bread was excellent, very soft, with not too much garlic. The one thing I was unsure about was the sour-cream drizzle, which I thought unnecessary. The trout was also very good, served with cherry tomatoes and greens, which were excellent and had a real zing to them. A word of warning though: when Caravan says small plates, it means it. This, in my opinion, is a good thing, since I really didn’t want a massive meal, but if you are looking for something substantial, then the small plates are not for you!
The fries were equally pleasing. At first, I was a little sceptical, since they were skinny fries and in my experience, the enjoyment of fries increases with their width (indeed, in my internal lexicon, fries = skinny = not-so-good, chips = fat = excellent). They came with ketchup on the side, which I soon exchanged for the proper accompaniment, brown sauce. Given their lack of width, the fries really were very good.
Although I was treating myself, I skipped dessert, partly through lack of time, but I compensated by having an espresso martini. Regular readers will know about my opinions on mixing coffee with alcohol, but just as my palette has evolved to appreciate the lighter roasts of the third wave, so I’ve started to have a limited appreciation of alcohol in coffee.
My taste for espresso martinis began in my home-town Bar des Arts and, wanting something coffee-tasting with my meal (this was Caravan after all), I decided to have one here. Caravan’s version is very fine: slightly sweeter than Bar des Arts’ offering, it has a pleasingly strong coffee aftertaste. It was certainly the perfect accompaniment to my meal.
The atmosphere inside Caravan was busy, with a loud (but not too loud) background hum of conversation. At seven o’clock, the lights were turned down and the candles came out, which was a nice touch. The only slightly disappointing element was when the music was turned up later in the evening, seemingly in competition with the conversation. I took this as my cue to leave.
As a restaurant, Caravan is a high quality operation, with prices to match. The food is innovative and excellent and it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for a special meal.
|GRANARY BUILDING • 1 GRANARY SQUARE • LONDON • N1C 4AA|
|www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk||+44 (0) 20 7101 7661|
|Monday||08:00 – 22:30||Seating||Tables, Bar, Tables outside|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 22:30||Food||Breakfast, lunch, dinner, cake|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 23:00||Service||Table (or sit at counter)|
|Thursday||08:00 – 23:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||08:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||10:00 – 00:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||10:00 – 16:00||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||Local||Visits||18th June 2014|
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