Grain Store is a fairly new opening, from Bruno Loubet and the people behind Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell. A vast warehouse-like space in King's Cross, it was cool and welcoming on the sunny day I visited. I was invited along to a 'girls night' dinner hosted by their PR. We talked about boys, nail varnish and hair styles - hah - no - we got stuck into some cocktails, created by the famed Tony Conigliario. My green martini with a drifting nasturtium leaf was definitely punchy.
The dishes here are centred around vegetables and grains, certainly a far cry from London's current burger-doughnut-cronut-dossant trend. The menu reads refreshingly well, leading with the grain or vegetable, the animal or fish taking a back seat. Mushroom croquettes were an ideal opening snack (top), while peach, salted watermelon and confit salmon eased us into things.
Star of the show was girolles with spelt (not something I've eaten much of before) and little gem lettuce shredded within, in a light parmesan broth. This was a hugely comforting bowl. The spelt was chewy, the mushrooms earthy and the lettuce crisp, creating pleasing mouthfuls throughout. Other dishes we tried included pigeon cooked perfectly pink on the josper, and tamales filled with corn and quinoa topped with pork belly. And joy! They used tapioca in a light and creamy dessert. Not enough places use tapioca. The only dish I was slightly sceptical of was the cauliflower 'rice' - the florets are blitzed up to resemble it - having seen a lot of people use this technique for their 5:2 diets, I felt like I was dieting myself. Otherwise, I'm looking forward to revisiting soon - the 'kimchi and potato dumpling' caught my eye.
The rest of my pictures from the meal are here.
1-3 Stable St,
London N1C 4AB
Tel: 020 7324 4466
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar
From one extreme to another; if, like me, you are signed up to Hawksmoor's newsletters (and you really should be) you'll have got the email to say they were relaunching the Spitalfields Bar with a new menu (different to their restaurants). You can't get the restaurant menu here and the bar has an entirely different entrance, but it is perfect for when you're hankering after Hawksmoor-quality meat but you're too near skint to push the boat out.
As it was an introductory 50% off (sadly now ended) we felt it our duty to give pretty much everything a try. The ox cheek french dip was at the top of the meaty pile - braised rich meat, stuffed into a hotdog bun with a slick of melted cheese. Bone marrow gravy in a jug accompanied it, and the idea is to dip your bun in the jug and then get it down you. Don't wear white. It is glorious.
The chilli cheese hot dog is another wonderful thing - the now-requisite snap of the sausage skin, flavoursome meat and more melted cheese combined. For those less meatily inclined, the fillet o' fish is, as you'd imagine, much better than McDonald's version; two hefty breadcrumbed rectangles of fish, a brioche-style bun, and a token lettuce leaf. I only wished for more tartare sauce. Their drinks are strong, and the basement location makes it still feel like a proper drinking establishment - basically, it's great.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar
157b Commercial Street,
London E1 6BJ
020 7426 4856
I went along to a preview of Hutong, one of the new restaurants up the Shard (heh. Up the Shard. Heh.), on the 33rd floor. Owned by the Aqua group, they also have Aqua on the 31st floor serving modern British, sandwiching Oblix. The views, indubitably, are stunning.
The menu prices might raise an eyebrow. It is aggressively priced - a whole duck (we had half) will set you back £58, though it does go a long way, and its glossy, lacquered skin and succulent still-pink meat is hand-carved at your table.
Pancakes are home-made, hoi sin sauce is homemade, and if that's not the best damn duck I've had in recent memory, then I don't know what is.
Soft shell crab (£28...) is served impressively in a wooden lantern filled with dried chillis, the crab nestled within. The four of us ate crab till we could eat crab no more - we certainly weren't left lacking. Greaselessly fried, the chillis lent a bearable tongue-tingling heat. We also enjoyed chilled razor clams steeped in Chinese wine, some perky Chinese broccoli (kai lan) expertly fried with ginger, and an impressive selection of dim sum. I wasn't a huge fan of the raw scallops with pomelo; while pretty, the citrus fruit was almost unbearably bitter.
So, definitely an occasion destination but one worth visiting. When you consider that Oblix charges a £12 cover charge past 9pm if you're in for drinks only at the bar, it seems like adding a little extra and getting fed well makes financial sense.
They do have a very reasonable dim sum menu for lunchtimes which I'm keen to go back and try. Oh! And you must visit the loos.
More pictures here.
31 St Thomas Street,
London SE1 9RY
Tel: 020 7478 0540