Caravan Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1

Here’s what it would take to make Caravan worthy of Granary Square

For the past four years I've cycled to work. The beginning of my journey has two main attractions. First, the offices of The Guardian. Never underestimate what nourishment to the soul a daily sighting of the enemy can provide. Second, what was a once a vast forest of cranes and concrete has, by some mysterious urban pupation, recently turned into one of London's most lovely piazzas. It takes the name of Granary Square, and on one side of it, next to a branch of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, is Caravan.

I cycled to the square a couple of times during the Olympics, part reconnaissance ahead of this report, and part an attempt to soak up the atmosphere of our sporting summer. What I saw was quite the picture- postcard: parallel fountains spurting water; children gambolling through their foamy residue; adults everywhere smiling and reading. Freed at last of the grey clouds that have hovered over us since March, this scene was the highlight of my year – apart from getting engaged and scoring 40 at Lord's for the Authors CC.

The Grade II-listed Granary Building, which dates back to 1851 and dominates this square like a playground bully, was given a special award by Mayor Boris Johnson in January in recognition of the clever planning behind architect Paul Williams' restoration. Its refurbishment was timed almost perfectly to start with my new cycling route, for which I am grateful, though the main beneficiary is the campus full of fashionistas, with their workshops, studios and salons.

Next door to them, however, the foodies should consider themselves pretty lucky, too. The interior of Caravan feels like an industrial-scale riposte to the summer bliss outside. It's warehouse-chic with a touch of class, all high wooden beams and low-hanging lights. The kitchen runs along one side, and behind the bar is a giant Probat coffee-roasting machine. The vibe, as at the sister restaurant on Exmouth Market a mile-and-a-half away, is humming and friendly. And the service is a triumph of professionalism and joy.

There are oysters, deep-fried or natural; seven choices under "bread, cheese, meats"; 14 small plates; five pizzas; five large plates; and gem salad, green beans or fries for sides, all at £3.

Let's do the positives first.

A few of the plates are wonderful. The jalapeño cornbread with chipotle butter (£3.50), baked cauliflower with smoked San Simon cheese, breadcrumbs and sage (£5.50), and chorizo-and-butternut-squash croquettes with saffron aioli (£6) are in this category. The ox tongue with mustard, honey and beetroot (£7) isn't far off, either.

You'll have noticed that, like everywhere else you seem to read about in London, Caravan has gone down the tapas route. If you're a plate-half-full kind of person, and I generally am, you might say this is a good thing, as it means you get to try many different flavours and textures in one sitting.

But the flip side – and this is where the negatives begin – is that if you're paying up to £8 for a small plate of, say, grilled quail with chickpea purée, sumac and charred lemon, it really needs to last longer than a mere two chews.

This is a recurring theme. Most of the other plates are not bad at all, and much better than OK, but they're so small that you have to spend a lot of money to fill an empty belly.

The new potato with samphire, duck egg, peas, mint and mustard (£5.50); octopus with shallot, parsley, sherry vinegar and paprika (£7.50); and the scallop ceviche with green tomato, lime, chilli and olive oil (£7.50) are all far too small for the prices being charged. The pancetta, Serrano ham, green olive and Taleggio pizza is lovely; but again, too small for £9.50. And the same, I'm afraid, has to be the verdict on the cocktails, which are fine, but over in about three sips.

Most of the ingredients for a lovely restaurant, albeit one stuffed full of fashion types and Guardian hacks, are in place: a solid menu, excellent architecture, etc. But to be worthy of the glorious piazza it occupies, either the prices need to be smaller or the plates need to be bigger. If both happened at once, you'd struggle to get a table.

7/10

SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HELP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PROMISE, 7 GOOD, 8 CAN ’T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Caravan Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1, tel: 020 7101 7661. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Mon-Sat; breakfast and lunch, Sun. About £160 for four, including two bottles of wine

Warehouse wonders

Grain Store

30 Victoria Street, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 225 7635

Creaky wooden floors and candlelight help set the tone of this former New Town warehouse; with its quirky vibe and authentically Scottish cuisine, it offers a good all-round package

Bistrotheque

23-27 Wadeson Street, London E2, tel: 020 8983 7900

Quite a mainstream crowd now frequents this once-edgy East End warehouse-conversion; it still feels like a bit of a secret, though, and makes a great venue for brunch

Six

Baltic Centre, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Newcastle, tel: 0191 440 4948

Tremendous views reward visitors to the slick space atop the impressive Gateshead art complex

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor