What drew me to Caravan was hearing about its huge reputation for being the Antipodean coffee roasters with an international larder. They started as a humble little spot in Exmouth Market, then became part of King’s Cross regeneration, opening their cathedral of a place in Granary Sq. Now they have Caravan Bankside (est 2016), City and Fitzrovia. Their versatility means there’s breakfast, brunch, cocktails and a manner of food which is light or butch – small plates for picking and larger dishes for plate hoggers. Of course it’s stylishly industrial with enough distressed brick to suit any hipster’s tastes.
The first time I came here, I dined solo as somehow I got my dates mixed up. There could be worse places to eat alone! I hydrated with pomegranate kombucha £3.50.
First up were
scallions spring onions £8, char-grilled to coax more sweetness out of them, there was a smear of potent ajo blanco sauce, lumps perky romesco and aromatic coriander. It’s a dish I’m aiming to replicate at home, I loved it.
From the “large plates” I ordered the master stock braised short-rib with kimchi hash and gochujang ketchup £20. Assume that this is where New Zealand “meats” Korea. I know what I did there – the dish deserved attention as it was brilliant, there was a pleasing bite in the flesh of the rib and all the thrilling accessories, such as chilli, spring onions and coriander which made every bite more satisfying.
Working in the City means building up an appetite by traipsing over to the South, it simply means I can eat more, it’s a good strategy don’t you think? During the second visit, I got my dates right!
This time I start with one of their latte’s – they’re impressive.
Tempura oysters £12 with lime mayonnaise and smoked nori salt were little snacks with a pleasing crunch, but that’s where the goodness stops as the oysters seemed to get lost in all the batter. Tempura is the sexy coating in the batter world – this one was more akin to a butch dinner lady.
The kitchen does a little dance with Latin America and bring out a braised oxtail £8 with an abundant amount of refried frijoles negros, chipotle, lime crème fraiche. It may as well been called “refried frijoles negros with crème fraiche” as the oxtail went missing in action. I get the dish but it just wasn’t to my taste.
Then came sweet and earthy molasses roasted beets £7, with charred onions, tangy goats curd with a good pelting of mixed seeds and chopped parsley. We fought over the last piece. “Do you want the last piece?”, “No you have it”, “ok then”, “no actually let me have it”, “no it belongs to me now!” “Get your fork off my beet!”.
We then get air dried beef Cecina £7.50, minus the manchego as my dinner companion was garlic, onion, gluten and dairy intolerant. Yeah it sucked. But onto the beef: Imagine beef that wants to be a thickly cut carpaccio and fancies being a jerky but doesn’t fancy it and stops halfway – that’s what it tasted like. This was a good thing.
Spiced cauliflower £7 is all about a chestnut colour char, harissa that whacks you in the face, then there’s a pomegranate yogurt that cools you down. It’s a delightful tug-of-war for the tongue. Within the advertised description of dish, there is a mention of “Nigella”, still to this day I’m clueless as to why.
When did I go? May 2017
The damage: Expect to pay £25/30 per head with a drink
The good: There’s certainly magic that could be had here, let’s take the short rib as a prime example and char-grilled spring onions. Since Caravan by notion chases seasonality you may not be able to enjoyed them now though. Oh and the coffee is brilliant, come here for a brew. I think Caravan would be great for groupie so you can try everything and there is a bit of everything for everyone. I think you’ll have a great date night here too.
The bad: There are some shining moments, but also some duff ones, I didn’t take a shine to the oysters nor the spiced cauliflower.
Would I go again? Yeah why not
Address: 30 Great Guildford St, London SE1 0HS