Caravan is a rather successful chain of
three five coffee shop/restaurants, with a significant in-house roastery, supplying coffee shops all around the country with a variety of blends and single-origins. However, this is where it all started back in 2010 on the corner of London’s Exmouth Market. This is the original Caravan, which is still going strong, coffee shop by day, restaurant by night, serving excellent coffee and food throughout the day. Unlike others of its ilk, such as Notes and Grind, both of which now roast their own coffee, Caravan was a roaster from the start and, indeed, the original roaster is still down in the basement at Exmouth Market.
Caravan sits on a sunny, south-facing corner, windows on two sides, outside seating spilling out on Exmouth Market itself. Inside, coffee excellence is taken as standard, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, two more on pour-over and a third on batch-brew. However, Caravan is also about food, with table service to match. There’s an excellent, extensive breakfast menu until 11.30, with an all-day menu of small/large plates from noon. At weekends, brunch takes over from 10 until four. There’s also beer, cider, cocktails, spirits and a massive wine list.
October 2020: You can see what I made of Caravan when I visited for breakfast and dinner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I’ve been coming to Caravan Exmouth Market on and off for several years. Having written about Caravan’s amazing space at King’s Cross, which is coffee shop, restaurant and (for now) roastery, I’d always intended to write about Exmouth Market as well, but I kept going either for breakfast (when I was in a hurry) or dinner (when it was dark). It was only earlier on this month that I finally arrived, during daylight, with time on my hands.
If you don’t know the area, Exmouth Market is a pedestrianised street in a rather wonderful, leafy corner of Clerkenwell. It’s lined with cafes and restaurants, with Caravan occupying a prime corner spot on the southwest end, where Exmouth Market meets Pine Street. There are floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides and a door on the corner itself, although don’t be fooled: this isn’t in use, as tempting as it looks. Instead, you need to head to the back, on the Exmouth Market side, where you’ll find the entrance. Alternatively, sit outside at one of a number of picnic tables on the quiet street.
Inside, Caravan is well-laid out. There’s a large counter right at the back which occupies maybe one third of the interior, with the front two-thirds given over to seating, restaurant-style, the two spaces separated by a low, tiled wall. If you want more of a coffee-focus (or bar, in the evening) experience, you can sit at the counter, which wraps around by the door, where you can also sit, back to the window, facing the espresso machine, which is perched at the counter’s end. There are also three three-person high tables projecting from the dividing wall on the counter side.
Alternatively, for a more coffee shop (by day) or restaurant (by night) experience, get the waiting staff to seat you at one of the two- or four-person tables in the front of Caravan. There’s plenty of choice, with tables in the windows along the right (Exmouth Market side) and another row in the front, where a padded bench runs along Pine Street. Padded benches, also lined with tables, run along the dividing wall at the back and the left-hand side (where you’ll find the stairs down to the basement, which houses the toilets, kitchen and the original Caravan roaster, now no longer in regular use). Finally, there are two four-person tables free-standing in the middle of the room. If you’re here in the evening, by the way, and serious about getting a seat, it’s wise to make a reservation. During the day, you should be fine.
I’ve been to Caravan for breakfast, dinner and, most recently, afternoon coffee. During my first visit, in December 2014, I had my standard breakfast of two poached eggs on sour dough toast. Both toast and eggs were done to perfection. I also had a lovely flat white, made with the ubiquitous, seasonal Market Blend. On my return the following month, I was there for dinner with a friend and while I can’t find my notes, I remember being very impressed with the selection of small plates, which had plenty of vegetarian options. There are also larger plates if you don’t want to share, plus an impressive array of desserts.
Finally I made it for afternoon coffee earlier this month, when I took a seat at the counter. I was tempted by a pour-over, but it’s only served up until four o’clock and I, with my typical timing, had arrived 30 minutes too late. Instead I had the batch-brew, a Rwandan Kilimbi, made with the Moccamaster, a smooth, well-balanced coffee which matured as it cooled.
|11-13 EXMOUTH MARKET • LONDON • EC1R 4QD|
|www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk||+44 (0) 20 7833 8115|
|Monday||08:00 – 22:30||Roaster||Caravan (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 22:30||Seating||Tables, Counter, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 22:30||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 22:30||Service||Table|
|Friday||08:00 – 22:30||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 22:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 16:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Local||Visits||18th December 2014, 12th May 2017|
Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.
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