Thursday, 12 March 2015

Grain Store

I won't lie. When I first heard about the Grain Store restaurant, I thought it'd be purely vegan meals and plant based drinks. Don't get me wrong, I think you can do some amazing plant-based meals, some of which I've tried myself. But the thought of basing an entire menu on one left me a little skeptical. Luckily, I was totally wrong about the concept. The menu has a great mix of meat and fish based dishes, but they often keep vegetables at the heart of each meal. Of course there are vegan options, but you are not solely limited to that. Created by chefs Bruno Loubet and Michael Benyan, the inspiration for the menu comes largely from Loubets' proudly owned vegetable patch! 

A two minute walk from Kings Cross station, the relatavely new Grain Store occupies a space on Granary Square. I was surprised by the large interior... for some reason I had more of a cafe-style space in mind. How wrong was I? The modern yet rustic decor has been designed to look like an exploded kitchen, with a huge open preparation area that everyone can see, no matter where they may be sitting. It's definitely a relaxed environment but is done in such a way that it feels a little bit special at the same time. I would definitely recommend booking ahead. The restaurant itself doesn't open until 6pm, although there is a bar where you can drink beforehand. As soon as 6pm hits, the place is RAMMED. 

The drinks on offer look incredible and are certainly different (celeriac bellini anyone?). But tonight was all about the food. What we have here is the Sprouting Seeds & Beans, Miso Aubergine, Crispy Citrus Chicken Skin with Potato Wafer. I know what you're thinking... chicken skin probably doesn't sound too appealing. But trust me, this was. Just think of childhood roast chicken dinners when the chicken is cooked to have a crispy skin (don't tell me you didn't pick at it. We've all been there). Without this element or the miso aubergine, this could've fallen into the "bland" category, but the flavours worked together so well that it could never be described as that. 

My companion/housemate had the Wild Mushroom Croquettes with Pine Needle Salt. These get top marks for presentation alone. These were incredibly light and not at all oily, which you quite often find with breaded mushroom options. From the look of sheer bliss on my housemates face, I could tell she was enjoying these. Perhaps a little too much?

Onto the mains and, as predicted, I went for one of the fish options: Steamed Seaweed Sushi, Braised Pak Choi, Black Garlic Puree with Hake in Vanilla Butter. There was a lot going on in this one dish but it all worked together perfectly. I'm not a massive fan of rice in general so, personally, wouldn't have chosen to have the sushi rice as part of the meal but I suppose it acts to bulk out the finished product. The fish was cooked perfectly (soft flesh, crispy skin = winner) but I would've preferred the pak choi to be cooked for slightly longer as it became a chore to get through it. Again, presentation cannot be faulted. 

Also served up was the Preserved Piquillo Pepper, Artichoke & Vegetable Chorizo Paella. Vegetables definitely dominated over the rice in this. How they put together the vegetable chorizo, I will never know but it added an interesting level to the overall dish. My housemate made a comment about how the size of the vegetables could've been smaller but I think it made the dish look wholesome and rustic. To be honest, I think she was still gutted about not being able to have more of the mushroom croquettes.

Now for a sweet fix. I went for the Goat Milk and Yoghurt Pannacotta with Poached Rhubarb and a Wild Strawberry Sauce. Now, I LOVE pannacotta. However, I hate goats cheese so I probably shouldn't have gone for something with goats milk in it. The flavour is so strong and overpowering that it dominates anything you put it in. If you like it then this would be great for you , but if you don't then steer clear! Having said that, the rhubard and strawberry sauce was incredible. Although it was only supposed to act as an accompaniment to the pannacotta, I'd have happily munched away on a bowl full of this. 

My housemate opted for the Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Citrus Curd and Dill & Vodka Ice Cream. This isn't something I would ever have gone for just because it seemed a bit heavy after a big meal but my housemate is one of these annoying people who remains slim regardless. She was slightly disappointed by the doughnuts as they tasted just like any other doughnut. I suppose the sweet potato provides a gluten-free base but, flavour-wise, it didn't add much. However, this was all forgotten when we tasted the dill and vodka ice cream. Mindblowing. It shouldn't work but it absolutely does. I'm tempted to try and make this myself at home (watch this space). 

So there you have it. Do not judge this little establishment in the way that I did. There really is something for everyone and what I have reviewed above is obviously just a small snippet of a pretty generous menu. With drinks, I imagine this can become pretty pricey but, when you know you're getting good quality, wholesome food, as opposed to mass-produced chain food, I'd say it'd be worth it!