Last week I ate out a lot. I ate at Grain Store, Blueprint Cafe and last but not at all least, Hutong at the Shard. That’s a lot of eating out in one week and the husband is now starting to quiver nervously whilst perusing the credit card statement, about my being a stay at home mummy. I don’t think endlessly waiving the plastic across London is what he had in mind when he suggested I take a career break. Then again, he does say I do a great job with baby8cake, and every good job has its rewards right?!
The week was kick started with a trip to kings cross for a mummy lunch with the blonde and mini blonde (you may remember them from my mummy lunch at Bread st. kitchen). Off the baby and I scooted up the northern line to kings cross, and to a new concrete oasis behind the incredibly busy station. We were of course going to none other than THE most talked / tweeted / reviewed /PR’d restaurant of the moment; Grain Store. Brought to us by Bruno Loubet, master of all things French. Except this isn’t a bistro or a brasserie. It’s not about the meat or countless kilos of butter. It’s about getting back to nature and fresh ingredients – or so the PR tittle-tattle goes.
Having caused quite a stir within the gastronomic community, I excitedly skipped into Grain Store and was greeted by a friendly set of staff, the host correctly guessed who I was as soon as he saw the buggy and whisked us to our table. It seemed we were to be the only mummy diners again. At midday, we were one of the first to park our hungry selves and our inquisitive babies at a table but it only took a matter of minutes for the lunchtime crowd of local suits to spill in and fill the large airy and echoing space.
Looking at the menu, nothing was a surprise as I’d spent the last day or so trying to decide what to eat. I was still undecided, because frankly you want to eat the whole lot. It all sounds good and it all sounds like something you’d give a go, at least once. Luckily the blonde, who’d decided to road test the place a few days earlier (cheeky cow!) had some tips, and we opted for the following to share:
Baked beetroot, pickled onions, goat labneh and dill oil dressing
Courgette and broad bean falafel, raita
Butternut squash ravioli, sage and mustard apricots and pumpkin seed oil
Padron peppers, black olive oil, flaked salt cod
This is what it all looked like when it arrived. A fusion of middle eastern and Mediterranean ingredients all glimmering like jewels on a plate, just waiting to be savoured.
When it arrived though, I was still in the middle of feeding my hungry monster of a child, so I bided my time glugging some of the house white, a gorgeously dry white Languedoc, and watched as the blonde tucked in…standard.
When I did finally get stuck in, I was nicely satisfied. It didn’t just look good, it had flavour too. I picked, scooped, forked, dipped and munched the four plates in a random fashion and experienced something different with each bite. The baked beetroot and pickled onions worked nicely together and was a good all round accompaniment to the other three dishes. I just about managed to grab a few courgette, broad bean and prawn falafels before the greedy blonde gobbled the lot, and loved the moorish chickpea texture against the cooling raita. A much better pairing than hummus I thought. The flaked salt cod was beautifully succulent and the flavour burst you get from combining all these ingredients was certainly intense but there was a downside. After a fair few mouthfuls, the padron peppers, pistachios and olive oil all feel a little too…salty. Still, my salty tongue quickly recovered with a mouthful of the perfectly cooked butternut squash ravioli with its sweet sticky apricots. I still can’t decide whether the apricots in that dish work or not but it was equally pleasing and curious at the same time.
Having finished the lot in a matter of minutes and dried up our pot of Languedoc (I don’t quite get what’s wrong with the term ‘carafe’,that they had to invent ‘pot’ but hey-ho) we moved on to twinkles; Grain Store’s aptly named champagne cocktail. It is seemingly harmless; elderflower cordial, champagne and vodka with a lemon twist. But I can imagine you’d be more than a little fuzzy after a few of these. Thankfully we had just the one each with our desserts; a lime cheesecake and strawberry coulis for me and some sort of white chocolate rice krispy thingie with chocolate mousse for the blonde. Both perfectly edible and satisfying.
So, fed and watered…what did I think? The food was largely great bar a few concerns (principally, the apricots in the ravioli and the salt content of the padron peppers dish). There’s no star dishes here. They all worked as a concept and delivered on flavour together. Where one dish left you wanting, another fulfilled. For this reason, and for the refreshingly courteous staff, I’d happily return to gobble up more food and urge fellow mummies to take their little ones too. I’d give it a 9/10 for baby friendliness (The one missing point is for strangely keeping their disabled toilet locked. Not realising this, I thought someone was taking an awfully long time and anxious to get back to my delicious twinkle, I bravely changed baby8cake in the ladies toilets!)