14 November 2013

XXX Part I: Grain Store

When I heard that Bruno Loubet was opening a restaurant in King's Cross, it only served to cement the gentrification of the area, even in the almost four years I've been working there. Grain Store opened its doors in Granary Square, where the J. Crew pop-up was and round the back of King's Cross and St Pancras stations, next to Central St Martin's. The menu was just interesting enough for us to want to save it for a special dinner, rather than a rushed lunch. As I turned 30 today and am celebrating — initially, at least — with three dinners, with various combinations of my nearest and dearest, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to stop by.

You can't help but notice the effort that has gone into the design. From the beautiful, colourful website, to the lovely outdoor furniture that optimistically fills the restaurant's "front yard," to the stylish menus, someone with very good taste has paid a lot of attention to the look and feel of the place. We had a relatively early slot and were ushered to a table in an alcove near the front of the restaurant. To my delight, the softest, cosiest fur drape was hanging from the wall, just adding to the hints of Scandi.

The Grain Store is the kind of place where you hear the waiter say things like, "Shall I walk you through the visuals of the menu?" You can also opt for a "surprise" menu, where Bruno and his team will put together a nifty little combo. Unfortunately, I'm still slightly too fussy for this to be a viable choice, but there was no shortage of tasty dishes on the menu. While we considered our options, we got the cocktails in; a pumpkin and maple syrup bellini in my case (who needs Pumpkin Spice Lattes, eh?), which was sweet and delicious. The twinkle (vodka, Champagne, elderflower cordial and lemon) was quite different — much sharper — but just as good.

The menu changes regularly and read rather like a Harvest festival. We decided to share one of the specials to start — a mezze plate that included pumpkin houmous, something with yoghurt and rose petals, some spinach and ricotta pastries and something with aubergine, served with charcoal-fired flat bread. The pumpkin houmous was particularly good.

For my main course, I chose the cranberry-braised beef with wood-roasted onions and root vegetable purées — the latter involved three mini-mountains of beetroot, potato and, I think, sweet potato (or maybe carrot). The beef was was really good. I had been given a pretty serious steak knife, but the juicy pieces slipped right onto my fork and the tart cranberry marinade offered an excellent contrast.

I just about had room for pudding and ordered the "eucalyptus- and mint-poached pineapple, chocolate and peanut délice," after establishing that this was a pudding in two parts. The latter was a rich, gooey moussey cake with a peanut base; my perfect pudding. The pineapple was really tasty too — I particularly enjoyed the minty aftertaste — but I'm still not sure it was the perfect accompaniment to the chocolate and peanut. The waiter also brought me a tiny snifter of a rich, slightly sweet fortified red wine, which he said complemented the latter perfectly. I'm not really into fortified wines, but it was a nice touch.

Although the tables were mostly empty when we arrived at 6 pm, by the time we left, some two hours later, the place was almost full. And it's a big restaurant, with two long bars spanning the length, and more tables around the side. Given the impressive and interesting cocktail menu, it would be a nice place to come for a post-work aperitif, although there were so many intriguing combinations on the main menu, it would be a shame not to come for another meal soon. Nicely done, Grain Store!

Grain Store. 1-3 Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB (Tube: King's Cross). Website. Twitter.

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