Grainstore, Granary Square: where veggies take centre stage
If you want to understand where the London restaurant scene is heading you need to go to Grainstore. Sure, the capital is still in thrall to pork, barbecue and street food but Bruno Loubet’s exciting and ambitious new project is a clear pointer to the way things are going.
Loubet’s been around for a while. He was a leading light of the restaurant scene back in the '90s then disappeared to Australia, returning in 2009 to set up Bistro Bruno Loubet in the Zetter which celebrated his French roots. But he’s been nursing the idea of Granary or something like it for some 20 years apparently - a restaurant where vegetables play centre stage and meat and fish are just an accessory.
The menu takes some grasping. Veggies are listed first so it’s easy to skip the fact that there’s a protein element. Main courses are modest in size - it’s all about small plates and sharing. At least that’s how the two of us justified ordering three starters. Four if you count the bread - some oddly disappointing focaccia and flat-tasting dukkah (middle eastern spice dip) which just tasted of nuts and sesame seeds.
Seared asparagus with green gaspacho sauce was a lovely idea though as were courgette, broad bean and prawn felafel (right) though the mojama in the daily special of borlotti beans and charred spring onions was a bit elusive. Early days, early days.
A main of smoky corn and quinoa tamale and properly sticky pork belly is understandably a best seller already but our favourite dish was a beautifully balanced dish of fresh salt cod, sautéed padron peppers, almonds and black olive oil (black tapenade in effect) which made me long to try it at home.
It was also a star pairing with the Roman smoked paprika white wine (yes, you did read that right) which I couldn’t resist ordering from a list of aromatised ‘Greco Roman’ smoked or herb infused wines devised by top mixologist Tony Conigliaro. It was supposed to go with the chilli con veggies which we didn't order but its smoked paprika notes just hit the spot with the cod.
So yes - trend alert! - the drinks are worth paying attention to as well. There are several cocktails which have been paired to individual dishes which are flagged up on the accompanying cocktail list. I also tried the Granary Martini, a fiery concoction of mustard vodka and dry vermouth which was recommended with the felafel but I think went better with the mealy beans but suspect there would be as many views on this as there are vodkas in Congliaro’s back bar. (You’re more likely to get agreement on the fact that £4 is a lot to pay for a small glass ‘hay and grass water. It’s pleasant, but should cost about half that. A French Blonde (grape juice, elderflower cordial, lemongrass and verjus) sounds much more exciting.)
Desserts? Yes, I loved them but suspect that those with a sweeter tooth might not - or opt for the white chocolate rice crispie and dark chocolate mousse instead. We shared a fabulously wobbly goats’ milk panna cotta with spiced candied tomatoes (look out for tomorrow’s match of the week) and strawberry and balsamic ‘jam’ with a spicy hit of horseradish ice cream (right) - neither excessively sweet which is a plus in my book.
There’s so much to take in here - not least the huge and beautiful room with its open plan kitchen - that I feel I need to go back to get a full grip on it. Preferably in a month or so once the kitchen is fully into its stride. But it’s an exciting and genuinely original project which I’m sure will be a game-changer for the London restaurant scene. If you’re remotely interested in where food is heading you should go.
I ate at Grainstore as a guest of the restaurant. You should get away with paying about £25-30 a head for food plus drinks and service. There's a 'surprise menu' available in the evening from £35 a head but it needs to be ordered by the whole table.
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