It worries me that this restaurant was established in 2012…and it’s still trading. Not only trading, it’s doing incredibly well. Not satisfied with packing out the Old Granary Store at Kings Cross from dawn till dusk, they have since opened a further three sites; Exmouth Market, Bankside and the City.
Lauded by Time Out as ‘one of the best’ for brunch, has seemingly inspired a wave of vanilla diners that are unfamiliar with what a good brunch looks like. At least someone seems happy with it, as the staff working there certainly aren’t.
Our first interaction set the tone for the afternoon, as we received a welcome as severe as the fringe that the hostess was sporting. Without flinching or removing her eyes from her screen she told me the wait would be 45 minutes. With that she handed me a bag of coffee beans and told me to wait at the bar.
As well as being the main villain of this piece, the purpose of the bag of coffee beans is supposedly used to identify hungry patrons impatiently waiting for a table. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with this idea. How a small bag of coffee with a three digit number on is helping the staff swiftly expedite guests to the empty tables is mystifying – if it were to spontaneously combust when your table was ready they may be in with half a chance.
During our wait for a table I approached the bar to order some drinks, and my appearance seemed to distress the bartender. Further distress was caused after requesting two drinks which appeared to be the zenith of her bad day in the office. Once I submitted my order she turned on her heel and marched to the till, pausing only to yell at me to enquire on my coffee bag code. After yelling back my numerical identify she informed me the drinks would be right over.
Cue fifteen minutes later a bewildered member of the team was pacing the floor with a lukewarm flat white attempting to track down a three digit number on a bag of beans. She seemed genuinely broken by the process. I took her out of her misery and informed her that is was probably for me, and also that ultimately her shift will end, and she will be able to leave this place, but alas I imagine her dreams are plagued with small bags of coffee containing three digit numbers.
A full hour of standing with a bag of beans on my head, I decided to go back to the severe fringe on the door. Quelle surprise, they had been trying to find our number, and our table had been ready some time ago. A frustrating admission, as now the only place to seat us was a sharing table by the door. I wasn’t prepared to challenge as I was so hungry that eating the stupid bag of coffee was starting to seem a feasible option.
Sitting down and perusing the menu further fuelled my agitation. If discovering new ways to describe salmon and eggs was the primary deliverable of this restaurant then they would succeed with flying colours. Menu descriptions were unfathomable and pretentious. Example; ‘Seasoned brown rice, sesame salmon, avocado, miso mayo, mung beans, pickled ginger, furikake. The reality was somewhat different, and as such was sent back upon delivery.
Poached eggs on sour dough was passable fare, but not worth a sixty minute wait, additionally we should have omitted the smashed avocado side, as it was over processed and more reminiscent of exorcist slime rather than anything that once resembled a vegetable.
Underlining my utter distaste for this restaurant was the Jackson 5 soundtrack. I love a bit of MJ, but there’s a time and a place.
Attempting to search for the positive I must give a nod to the coffee. Regardless of the lukewarm offering we received on the day, Caravan does great things with the beans by roasting their own and farming it out to whoever wants to buy it. So my recommendation would be to buy a bag and enjoy it in the comfort of your own abode. Personally, I will shudder when I remember the foil packaging, because who wants to be just a number?
Brunch for two with a glass of fizz £60. Breakfast menu: 8am – 11.30am, Mon-Fri. All Day menu: 12noon – 10.30pm, Mon-Fri & Sat from 5pm. Brunch menu: 10am – 4pm, Sat & Sun. No reservations. 020 7101 7661. www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk