The post-industrial interior with exposed piped and ducting honours its warehouse past and is artfully dressed with period elements such as a a bar in an old perambulator. But what about the food?
The charming ex-St John waitress offered us the 6 course Suprise menu (a very reasonable £40) which bizarrely enough is not on the menu, unlike the 5 course £35 version. We then had a long succession of sharing plates arrive with many more hits than misses that seemed to overshoot the promised 6 courses by some way-but we weren’t complaining…
I was drinking Butter and hay champagne, a blend of Toasted butter and hay liquor and champagne. I struggled to detect any additional butter or hay notes in my glass of fizz so this was a bit of a disappointment. Catherine chose a Tuberose Collins, a mix of Gin, fresh lemon, Tuberose infused syrup and soda water. The Tuberose is a white flowered plant in the agave family much used in perfumery that the Victorians forbade young women to smell as its scent was liable to bring on a spontaneous orgasm! Catherine found the drink refreshing but sadly it didn’t induce a When Harry met Sally moment….
Cocktails are priced at a very reasonable £7.50.
Onion bread @ Grain Store
Onion bread had a crispy crust and good texture and flavour. It came with a light and creamy creme fraiche butter.
Crudités, cashew and yeast dip, olive soil.
Crudités, cashew and yeast dip, olive soil. Fresh radishes came with a hummous-like cashew and yeast dip and the playful olive soil.
Potato and rye bread, seaweed butter, oyster and borage leaves-this dish was sensational. I’ve never had oyster leaves before and they tasted of oyster! This wasn’t a piece of Blumenthalesque trickery but a naturally occuring phenomenon. This northern leaf will be appearing on a lot of menus soon.
Mushroom croquettes @ Grain Srore
Mushroom croquettes were perfect examples of their kind., crispy on the outside, creamy and full of flavour on the inside.
Baked Beetroots,pickled onions, goat labneh (strained yoghourt) were delicious as was a Vegetable salad with Roquefort and borlotti beans. Annoyingly as the light grew darker in the restaurant my Iphone camera couldn’t cope so that was the end of my photos for this review…
By now I was drinking one of ’Tony’s Greco-Roman wines’-a selection of tumblers of wine (£6.50) with smoked or herbal infusions. Cassis and clove Cardinal was really a Kir with added clove (a Cardinal should really be a Kir made with red wine). A home made cassis and clove cordial was combined with Aligote, the second-grade Burgundian white traditionally used for Kir, creating a robust, spicy, fruity blend that easily stood up to the Vegetable merguez, aromatic vegetables and preserved lemon salad. The merguez sausage, served alongside a pod of peas grilled to open and a preserved lemon salad, was made with chickpeas and cumin and paprika, and it was great to taste those flavours in a non-meat dish.
Pumpkin ravioli was silky and light and a deconstructed Asparagus gazpacho with seared asparagus, green gazpacho sauce, rosemary and pink peppercorn Melba toast was a playful early summer take on a classic.
Our waitress was in a birthday mood (hers) and insisted I try another of the Greco-Roman tipples. This time I had the Roman smoked Paprika with white wine- a glass of Grenache Blanc aromatised with smoked paprika cordial. The smokiness of the paprika didn’t overwhelm the wine which again stood up to our next dishes; Buttermilk and caraway braised cauliflower, wood baked onions, devilled duck’s hearts featuring the meatiness of the very trendy duck heart and the vegetarian Corn and quinoa tamale which was maybe a trifle heavy going after the feast we had just consumed.
And then to dessert..
Spicy candied tomatoes goat’s milk pannacotta-the pannacotta wobbled deliciously with the goats milk flavour being delicate rather than too strong. It was the perfect foil for the tomatoes which were astonishingly sweet and juicy, almost cherry-like.
Strawberry and balsamic jam, Horseradish ice cream, nasturtium leaves. This was similar to a dish I had eaten a couple of weeks previously in Paris at Ze Kitchen Galerie with Wasabi ice-cream. But the horseradish flavour was too intense here and needed to be toned down.
I really like Grain Store. It’s an optimistic life-affirming sort of place that is looking forward, trying to create a new less meat-intensive style of eating. It has a great buzz and energy and will be much copied. Having the involvement of Tony Conigliaro brings an added level of creativity to the drinks list and the Greco-Roman wines are an intelligent and creative response to the food offer. Some critics have felt that the Surprise menu lacks coherence, but that is surely missing the point. It’s a global food feast not a formal exposition of an out-of-date classical paradigm. Go and enjoy it!