It’s a space the size of Trafalgar Square. Instead of a single fountain, there are 1,080 water jets. A pretty canal runs along one side. It’s home to one of London’s newest restaurants, which also serves wonderful coffee.
And you may never have heard of it.
Granary Square, between King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, is built on an old railway goods yard that dates back to the 1850s. The Regent’s Canal, built in the early 1800s, is on one side, across from the Granary Building, from 1851.
The building, which in January won the Mayor’s Award for Planning Excellence, is home to the new campus for Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, part of University of the Arts London. It’s also home to an outpost of Caravan, a restaurant and coffee roastery owned by friends from New Zealand.
“We were offered what I regard as a pretty unique opportunity to expand our business in a brand new part of London,” said Miles Kirby, 39, who founded the original Caravan on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell in 2010 with Chris Ammermann and Laura Harper-Hinton.
“It’s a pretty old part of London but the development’s exciting to us, in that there’s so much history here and there’s no one here yet, so it’s a bit of a building site,” Kirby said in an interview. “It just seems like a fun place to be and a place with so much potential.”
Shrimpy’s -- a quirky restaurant in a former gas station -- has opened nearby, and French chef Bruno Loubet is in talks to open a venue called Granary Square Kitchen & Bar, where he will promote vegetables from garnish to star billing on most dishes, and generally reduce the protein element on the plate.
For now, Caravan, which opened on Monday, mostly has the St. Martins students to itself. Kirby says he’s hoping they will be attracted by an adventurous menu that reflects the fact he was formerly head chef at the fusion restaurant Providores.
Fancy fried chicken with watermelon, pomegranate and chili? How about a pizza with smoked trout, roasted eggplant, creme fraiche and rocket? Or maybe you’d prefer grilled quail with chickpea puree, sumac and charred lemon. Prosecco is on tap.
Kirby started his career back home in New Zealand at a restaurant called Mondo Cucina in Wellington and worked in the Netherlands before settling in London. Ammermann and Harper-Hinton previously worked for the event caterers and party planners Urban Caprice. Kirby declined to discuss the cost of setting up the restaurant.
How nervous is he about the new Caravan? Granary Square is currently rather quiet, and the King’s Cross area has some way to go before coming a big dining destination.
“Incredibly nervous,” he said. “It’s still a building site. It’s not the footfall we have at Exmouth Market, so we’ve got to rely on people coming to us, which is why we’ve got to make sure that everyone who walks in the door is treated like a VIP.
“The name Caravan derived from the fact that we are three New Zealanders. We parked up in London for a while. Maybe we’ll stay forever. Who knows? It depends if anyone moves us on.”
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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