Dinner with an old friend – fabulous food and great conversation at Grain Store:
My friends keep moving out of London. No, I don’t take it personally, there’s a big part of me that would like to be somewhere a little more peaceful too where perhaps I could have a proper garden instead of a roof terrace. But, I’m not the best at keeping in touch.
Once upon a time I used to meet up with Catherine for pizza and a glass of wine every couple of weeks. We could walk to each other’s homes. It was stress free dining – I think we might just have ordered the same dishes each time we went too. But now, although she works in London, her home is Cambridge. Not too far really…you’d think we might manage to meet once a month or so. Well, six months after we last met (for a trip to Covent Garden), we finally managed to find suitable diary dates and I was tasked with finding somewhere to go. On the Piccadilly line so that she could get home to Cambridge easily afterwards and not too formal so we could chat.
Grain Store is somewhere I’ve been planning to visit since it opened. A few minutes walk from Kings Cross station, it really did fit the bill perfectly. And, on paper, it has all the elements for something fantastic – Restauranteurs Michael Benyan and Mark Sainsbury from Zetter Town House, Bruno Loubet in charge of the kitchen, cocktails from Tony Conigliaro and a space designed by Russell Sage (around the concept of ‘exploded kitchen’, which I think means that much of the kitchen is open into the restaurant). And friends who have been already have loved it.
The menu is exciting. It’s great to see so many vegetarian or near vegetarian dishes that look inspired. While it’s definitely NOT a vegetarian restaurant, you could happily eat there as a vegetarian or vegan and come away happy that for once you’ve plenty to choose from. But of course the most tempting thing to do is to pick the ‘suprise’ menu, which is priced at £35 and allows the chefs to create something for you from the best seasonal ingredients they have to hand. Therein, though, is why this is not a review. We ate, we chatted, we really enjoyed the food. But, none of the dishes were written down and charming and efficient as she was, our waitress struggled to explain them to us…
Of course I do remember some of what we were eating. This is onion bread with home-made creme fraiche butter, which was feather light and a nice tangy accompaniment to the soft, rich bread.
Salmon with pickled radish, watermelon and nasturtium leaves was refreshing and delicate and although it sounds like a strange mixture of flavours it worked well.
At times however I really can’t tell what I ate, although we both enjoyed every step of the meal. This was some kind of flatbread topped with (I think) squash and it WAS was gorgeous. Do I have ANY idea what the white stuff on the top is? no, none at all – and while I could bluster a little and tell you that it was light but full of flavour, I couldn’t help you order it from the menu yourself.
This dish, of marrow with black beans, olive oil and spices was also delicious with marrow so perfectly cooked that it still had bite without being in anyway soggy.
Mushrooms are a good example of what sets this restaurant above the normal. A generous helping of mixed wild mushrooms had plenty of chanterelles and no padding out with cheaper cultivated varieties.
Our next course was, so our waitress told us ‘roast squilly’. We did ask her a couple of times but life’s too short to worry about such detail when the food has been consistently excellent. I THINK it was roast squab pigeon. Or perhaps quail? But maybe there is a small bird called squilly? Yes I know I should have been able to tell by taste what it was. We’d both agreed on pigeon, but now I’m looking at the photo and wondering.
And to finish, something I could hardly forget…a lovely chocolate fondant with ice-cream.
So, do you see why this is NOT a review? I really don’t have any detail of the dishes. I forgot to try any of the cocktails (although I suspect my liver will be thanking me for that omission). I can confirm the food is excellent. And I can confirm that the bill for two of us with a bottle of reasonable wine and coffee/mint tea at the end was just over a hundred pounds including service, which seemed very fair.
We loved it. And maybe, it will become the place for us to meet a little more frequently. It’s lively and fun without being overly crowded and I would strongly recommend the £35 suprise menu which will leave you feeling full but not unhealthily so. A tip too, if you try to book online and fail, don’t despair, this restaurant keeps tables to release on the day which you can reserve by phone (020 7324 4466)