Caravan – Kings Cross

Reviewed on June 2nd, 2015 by Dina

Birthdays are always good to be celebrated but sometimes the organising of such an event can require some time. Hence together with a friend, we decided to plan a birthday dinner for a close friend. Originally Grain Store was suggested but as it was fully booked even though the booking was tried to be made a few weeks before the event, the next option was Caravan next door.

The area in and around Kings Cross and the canal has undergone a big change compared to a few years ago. The regenerated area has made way for Granary Square, “grass” covered stairs, deckchairs and playful fountains. Granary Square has also become home to a few restaurants.

Caravan has a lively atmosphere and a great vibe about the place. It has a warehouse feel to it with exposed metal frames. The kitchen is at one end. Candlesticks and low lighting decorate the windows and the dining area.

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The menu is split into small plates, large plates, breads/cheeses/meats and sides. This makes it great for a group of diners as it enables you to try a variety of dishes. Caravan boasts a fantastic range of really fresh seasonal vegetarian food. The dishes are brought out as soon as they are made so they come at random times. This is not a bad thing as it gives you time to start sampling the delights.

For the breads, a corn bread and focaccia was chosen. The corn bread was not spicy even though it had jalapeno. It had a nice flavour and was more cake like than bread. The olive and herb focaccia came as two wedges with la saba butter. It was not oily at all.

Caravan puts flavours that you wouldn’t think to put together such as watermelon, tofu, coconut yogurt and lemongrass caramel but it really does work. One of my favourites had to be the chickpea chips with the jalapeno ketchup. Gone away is the grainy falafel like texture which is what I was expecting. Instead, the chickpea chips had a wonderful smooth puree like interior with a crispy outer.

Butterbeans with heirloom tomatoes and goat’s curd had a real freshness to it. This was helped by the gazpacho dressing. Contrasting colours of the heritage carrots was beautiful. The carrots had a bite to them and hence were not overcooked. The dish also had goats cheese, sultanas, greens and ras el hanout. The large place of aubergine maghmour, courgette, dukkah, yogurt and sumac focaccia was delicious and hearty.

For dessert, I was lucky enough to try a bit of the chocolate pot with raspberry and blackcurrants. The rich chocolate contrasted the tart berries. What is there not to like?!

Caravan specialises in coffee and they are coffee traders and a roastery. The decaffeinated cappuccino was really smooth and made a good end to the feast. Hot water was also served and this was given in a teapot.

The only qualm that I have about Caravan is that they only give diners two hours and fifteen minutes at the table. So the issue that we came across was that when we were told that our time was up at the table, the staff still let us order more drinks. This brought about some confusion as in where were they expecting us to drink the drinks if we had to leave the table. It seems like the days are gone where you can just spend as long as you want out for dinner. It is a shame to have to be time conscious, especially when you are out for a special occasion.

On a plus note, when Caravan was emailed prior to the booking, asking about certain dietary requirements and queries about their food, they did respond with some good suggestions. The staff and service was good and friendly.

All in all the evening out at Caravan was a success! The main thing is that the birthday girl did have a good time for her dinner out with friends. Guess we should start planning something for next year!

Caravan, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square (off Goods Way), London, N1C 4AA

Rating: ★★★★½

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The Waiting Room – Whetstone

Reviewed on May 10th, 2015 by Dina

A slightly different take on a cafe, The Waiting Room teams itself with its small home furnishing store. The Waiting Room is a really cute cafe adorned with fairy lights, dressers lined with lamps, frames, tealights and flowers. A garland of hearts decorates the cafe window. Stars hang above the lamps and small chandeliers also make up the lighting.

At the back of The Waiting Room, there are a few cosy seats. The rest of the cafe is made up of table and chairs. The soft lighting and jazz music create a lovely ambiance. Even though the cafe was busy, it was not noisy. There was a gentle hum about the place.

The staff were friendly and not intruding. They provided excellent personal service. The Waiting Room seemed to have its regular customers with the staff taking time out to chat to them. It made it feel like the staff were caring.

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As I was seated at the back of the cafe, I was next to the kitchen. It looked clean and compact. There was not much noise from the kitchen and hence it did not impact on the atmosphere.

The tea that caught my eye was the rooibos with cherry. The tea was from the Little Sparrow range of loose teas. A heavy silver teapot with its own stand contained the tea. There was a traditional feel to the teaware. Small flowers decorated the teacup and saucer.

The aroma of the cherry was strong from the loose tea. Sometimes teas can be a letdown, as in they do not taste as good as they smell. With this Little Sparrow tea, the taste of the cherry with the rooibos was divine. The staff had no problem refilling my tea when the pot was empty.

The Afternoon Tea continued with the silver theme and it was presented on a square silver cake stand. Squares of soft bread, one filled with classic cucumber and the other with cheese and pickle were the fresh sandwiches. It was nice to have a combination of white and brown bread.

The two small fruit scones were delightful. The attention to detail really made the Afternoon Tea at The Waiting Room great. Shot glasses with teaspoons contained thick clotted cream and strawberry jam. Whole pieces of strawberry made the jam more special.

The last of the cakes were the macaroon and chocolate brownie. The almond macaroon was perfectly crispy on the outside with a chewy texture and creamy filling. Rich, gooey and moist made up the intense chocolate brownie. Just to make it more indulgent it was lovely to have it with a little bit of the clotted cream and jam.

The Waiting Room gives a ray of sunshine to a dull rainy day. It definitely brought me that happy feeling. It is a gem of a place and I am excited to introduce my friends to the wonderful world of The Waiting Room!

The Waiting Room, 50-52 Totteridge Lane, Whetstone, London, N20 9QJ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Kentish Canteen – Kentish Town

Reviewed on December 20th, 2014 by Dina

Arriving at Kentish Canteen on a Sunday for a friend’s birthday, it was jam packed. An eye catching collage on one of the walls was a great feature. Various breakfasts and lunches were being brought out as we waited in the entrance for the table.

There were salads and cakes on open display right where the customers were asked to queue for a vacant table. This meant that people were basically having their coats and clothes touching the open food as the customers were leaning on the display table. It is a shame as the food looked fresh and if it had been covered, it would have been a lot better.

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The Tropical Popical smoothie was a thick fruity concoction of passionfruit, papaya, mango and pineapple. The Veggie Bean Burger with all its sides was presented on a wooden platter and there was enough to share between two people. The bean burger was dense and the bun had a brioche taste to it.

The skin on chunky chips were very moreish. The combination of sides went well together with the tasty bean burger. The sides included sweetcorn with star anise and coleslaw. A small dish of button mushrooms was also added to complete this filling meal.

The dining area was made up of wooden tables, chairs and some cushioned seating. The staff seemed to be rushed off their feet which resulted in the service been a bit hit and miss at times. A few times we had asked the staff for things and we had to ask again after a while. On a couple of occasions, even by the end of the meal, the requests had not been met.

Kentish Canteen does stock the local Kentishtowner newspaper and also did seem a popular place with the locals.

Kentish Canteen, 300 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 2TG

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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