I’m terrible at writing restaurant reviews. I don’t much like reading them either: especially not the earnest efforts that go through each dish, ingredient by ingredient. I think the best sort of review answers the following question: how much fun was your meal? Did you really enjoy it?
So I had dinner at the Grain Store. It was one of the most enjoyable restaurant experiences I have had. For a start, we rocked up without a reservation on the off chance, and got the last table – the chef’s table, facing the kitchen. The design of the dining room means the kitchen is visible from just about everywhere, but this table makes you feel like you are in the centre of a drama. You even get to hear head chef Bruno Laubet shout at his staff when they get something wrong.
I love the food at Grain Store. It’s just so creative and light, with a strong emphasis on vegetables. The flavours are often innovative, but they work. It’s definitely the sort of place where you order a range of small plates and share them – for this reason, it probably works best with smaller parties. For two, it is just perfect.
I began with Camden Hells Pale Ale, which is one of the two beers from this brewer on draught, and it was a good way to start. The wine list? It’s nicely eclectic and well chosen, with plenty of fun for wine geeks. The glassware is really nice, too. There’s also a cocktail list, and suggested pairings of certain cocktails with specified dishes, which is a cool touch. This is a place that explores flavour in interesting ways. Next time I’ll try some cocktails for sure, but I didn’t have the courage this time.
I had two reds by the 250 ml pitcher. The first was Birtokbor Kekfrankos 2012 which is imported by The Winemakers Club, and it’s fresh, vibrant and quite elegant, with just the faintest spicy, medicinal edge. The second was Domaine des Murinais Crozes-Hermitage Vieilles Vignes 2011, which is immensely satisfying: a ripe, textured, nuanced Syrah with a hint of pepper.
The food? Everything was good, and very reasonably priced. Pumpkin hummus was a real hit. Multigrain porridge with dried squid, spring onions and seaweed oil was lovely with a fishy edge and great texture.
The cauliflower ‘cous cous’ and spelt salad with pistaccio and yoghurt was topped with a vegetable merguez, and was brilliant, Just £7 for this dish.
Smoked aubergine salad, wood sorrel and seared sardines was fabulous, with rich, warm flavours.
Homeade kimichi cabbage broth, udon noodles and squid was probably the most conventional thing we had, splitting a £16 main in two, and worked really well.
The service is incredibly attentive and perfectly judged. I know this review sounds a bit gushy, but I can’t think of too many places in London where I’d rather eat at the moment, especially if I’m paying.