When it comes to dining out in London, I swear that I have a list of venues I’d like to go to that’s as long as my arm. Ok, fine, my whole body, but who’s measuring?
Grain Store has been on this list of London desirables for a long time, and, a little while ago, I finally got to venture out to King’s Cross to experience what my friends had been raving about.
Set in King’s Cross’ Granary Square, historically this was known as a spot where barges would transfer their goods. Nowadays, this is a large public square just a few steps away from Regent’s Canal. And, I can confirm, it’s a foodie hotspot, with Caravan, Yumchaa, Dishoom and – of course – Grain Store all calling Granary Square home.
For the evening of our visit, Grain Store was the venue for Opentable’s Transatlantic Tables Connected event. Opentable pulled off the impressive feat of hosting two dinners on the same day – on two different continents. A group of London bloggers would enjoy a dinner at Grain Store and, a few hours later, New York bloggers would feast at Hundred Acres. The goal? To show how much London and New York can offer as top food destinations.
Chris and I arrived at the restaurant and the first thing we noticed, apart from a number of familiar faces, was how beautiful this venue is. Designed by Russell Sage, Grain Store’s dining area is supposed to resemble an exploded kitchen. With the cookbooks, cooking vessels and utensils all acting as decor, I’d say that Sage succeeded. The flowers and varying table sizes round off the appearance of rustic elegance.
Before the meal, we got to hear more about the philosophy behind Grain Store from none other than head chef Bruno Loubet. Loubet explained how the restaurant was created out of the desire to serve innovative food that highlights high-quality and sustainable ingredients. His love of gardening is an equal influence. There are proteins on the menu, but the accompanying vegetables are given an equal, if not bigger, spotlight in each dish.
I couldn’t wait to see what was on the menu.
As you’ll soon witness, Grain Store pulled out all of the stops. A four-course meal, with each course paired with a wine (on a week night too!), awaited us. Plus, we were initially treated to a cocktail from the bar, the menu of which is designed by Tony Conigliaro of the Zetter Group. The cocktail, called Death in Venice, was composed of campari, prosecco and grapefruit bitters. It was a very summery start to the evening.
When it comes to Grain Store’s aim to celebrate plants and sustainable ingredients, I feel like the first course best epitomised this ideal.
This dish was quirkily entitled ‘Atlantic Kitchen Seaside Toast’. Despite what the name may suggest, there is absolutely no seafood in this dish. Instead, we found a slice of potato bread topped with seaweed butter and all manner of edible plantlife. Atlantic Kitchen provides Grain Store’s seaweed, which is sourced in France and Ireland. And it is undoubtedly the star of this dish. Served with a side salad of cucumber and pickled samphire, all of the ingredients worked to create the taste of the sea. The dish may look impossibly pretty, but I can assure you that you can eat everything on the plate – so I did.
As we waited for the next dish and for our glasses to be replaced (not everyone was a fan of the sherry to start), we noticed that little cards had been placed on the tables. These featured quotes from the bloggers present, and I was surprised to see some of my own words on paper!
The next course was, in every way possible, the most colourful of the night. Dishes of rainbow ravioli were placed before us, served in the lightest of tomato consommes. To make things even more interesting, each ravioli was filled with a different type of vegetable. These included beetroot, butternut squash, tomato, spinach and carrots. The butternut version was a clear winner for me, but each ravioli celebrated the vegetable within. The consomme was a tangy, flavourful accompaniment. This was all paired with an easy-drinking Gavi di Gavi.
As someone who doesn’t eat game meat, I was a bit nervous about the main meal of the night. This featured venison, along with raspberry vinegar pickled vegetables, grilled squash and some corn brioche. I was blown away by the first two courses, so my expectations were high. I did give the venison a taste (before passing it on to a happy Chris), but I felt like the vegetables and still-warm brioche were the real stars of the dish. Overall, though, I felt like the dish lacked the well-rounded flavour profile of the first two courses. For me, it lacked a sweet element, which would’ve balanced out the tartness from the pickled vegetables and vinegar.
However, the meal jumped back up to an all-time high as soon as dessert arrived.
Paired with a Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett Riesling from Germany, dessert also arrived in a glass. An urban honey roasted peach melba, this was encased in a photogenic sugar casing and garnished with a wafer cigar. We all took what sounded like a million photos before cracking the sugar casing, creme brulee-style. The peach melba was divine. Perfectly cooked and sweet, it was a refreshing and surprisingly light way to end off the meal.
My evening at Grain Store featured some of the most original and tastiest dishes I’ve eaten in London. I’m used to seeing meat and proteins championed on London restaurant menus so I found it memorable and refreshing that Grain Store is doing something so different. I have no doubt that I will be back for more of Bruno Loubet’s culinary creations.
I must add a big thank you to OpenTable for inviting me to this event. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with wonderful food and, as an extra considerable bonus, the chance to connect with fellow London foodie enthusiasts. My favourite aspect of the London dining scene is the diversity you can find within the city. In terms of finding a restaurant to represent this, I think Grain Store was an excellent choice.
Have you been to Grain Store? Which is your favourite restaurant in London? Let me know in the comments below.
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