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The Grain Store - for something new

Even for the most dedicated diner, finding something genuinely new is a pretty rare event. The restaurant business persists in following fashion and all to often the next big thing is the same old thing leavened with a few “new twists”. Which is probably why the Grain Store - Bruno Loubet’s latest venture - seems so exciting and so shocking. It’s a simple enough proposition: for each dish start by selecting the vegetable components and then, if needs be, add meat or fish. This is not a preachy vegetarian restaurant, but it is a place that respects vegetables and that changes the focus of the meal. Approaching dishes with a different perspective is strangely liberating and can make for very enjoyable dining.
There’s an enormous new development tucked away behind Kings Cross Station and for once the property agent’s hyperbole may well be justified. “Early adopters” of the buildings around Granary Square include Central St Martins School of Art; Caravan and the Grain Store. In ten years time the serried ranks of towering office blocks will make this instant “locale” a very busy place indeed. Although a huge project, it is currently “tucked away” and finding it requires maps and a trusty Indian guide. The struggle is worth it. The Grain Store is spacious and modern – the half-stripped-out-factory look. Bruno’s food is inspirational. Goodness knows where the insight came from, but the simple expedient of leading each dish with its vegetarian components makes a big difference to the way we look at our meal.
“Potato and rye bread, seaweed butter, oyster leaves and borage leaves” –
simple and good. “Crudités, cashew and yeast dip, olive soil” – this kind of nutty splodge is sometimes billed as Vegan cheese. The combinations of flavours are good. “Peach, salted watermelon, basil salad, salmon confit” – pretty on the plate and very delicious, a dish that’s a runaway winner. “Confit leek, Welsh rarebit and walnut crumble”. “Courgette, broad bean and prawn falafel, raita”. “Sour pickled cabbage and carrot, grilled pigeon breasts” – fine home made sauerkraut. A simple, but magical, combination of flavours – chicory, char-grilled in the Josper, and served with hazelnuts and a drizzle of melted Jamon fat. Or a corn and quinoa tamale, salsa and sticky pork belly. Five dishes on the menu are keyed to cocktails chosen to make a great pairing. Cocktails during the meal? Whatever next?
Go back about a month and Londoner’s were faced with a stark choice between “normal” restaurants and spooky vegetarian restaurants. The vegetarian option was either a grudgingly prepared stuffed pepper or a great weight of wholemeal pastry and good intentions. The only veggie friendly restaurants that showed any understanding of a balanced choice were southern Indian vegetarian restaurants. Bruno Loubet is a passionate gardener and a passionate chef, his default position is to cook what’s in season and what’s in his garden. In an increasingly complex gastronomic arena his approach appeals greatly.
Grain Store, Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, London N1C 4AB (020 7324 4466)

grainstore.com

Charles Campion - Monday 8th July 2013

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