Shrimpy's, King's Cross Filling Station, London

 

Where have they all come from? All these hipsters, tiny of beard and large of spectacle? Is there a shuttle bus, bringing them over from east London? Why is that man wearing some kind of shortie pyjama suit? And shouldn't that girl try and cover up some of those tattoos with a pretty scarf?

This week we're in Shrimpy's, which pretty much represents the cutting-edge of London dining, at least for those of us who don't get out much. Look away now, if you are sensitive to any of the following words. Pop-up. Art space. Urban regeneration. Calexican food. For Shrimpy's is – in a move guaranteed to stymie even the most ardent parodists of trendy nonsense – a temporary diner housed in the kiosk of a former petrol station. Marooned in the interzone of high-rise developments behind Kings Cross, the old filling station has been re-purposed as a canalside gallery, bar and restaurant, and rebranded as – hah! – King's Cross Filling Station. Once, this was a notorious red-light area. Now the miniskirted girls are buying, rather than selling.

Last time I queued in this space, it was to pay for pump number four and a packet of Rolos. Now I am threading my way across an al fresco terrace, through what seems to be a staff outing from Perfect Curve, and lining up for a table in the booked-out diner. It's small – imagine, say, a petrol station kiosk that has been taken over by architects. The look is American diner with a quirky urban twist, the counter lined with bar stools but sporting flowers and thrift-store pineapple lamps, the walls painted with naïve primary-coloured motifs, like the window display of a particularly inept tattoo parlour.

But the welcome is warm, the velvet banquettes comfortable and the tables draped in crisp linen. Staff are impeccably turned out, in classic French waiter garb of white jackets and black ties. The formal effect was slightly undermined by our Amazonian waitress's double-decker hairstyle – a bleached white bubble perched atop a dark buzz cut. "I've never been intimidated by a waitress's hair before," whispered Harry.

The men behind Shrimpy's are Pablo Flack and David Waddington of Bistrotheque, who have form in creating arty restaurants, both temporary and permanent. Their chef-director, Tom Collins, has apparently travelled through the Americas, both North and South, in search of inspiration for Shrimpy's menu. It reads well, taking a road trip through Mexico (tuna tostadas; skirt steak with chimichurri) Peru (ceviche with plantains) and the Deep South (sweetcorn chowder; fried chicken; soft shell crab burger) with stopovers in Portugal (salt cod croquettes) and Italy (veal chop with fennel, olives and Sambuca). It's so modish, so directional, you'd want to laugh at it, if you didn't want to order everything on it. The cocktail list, too, is full of come-hither tempters, though the margarita with hot Habanero sauce isn't one of them. And prices are generally far steeper than the diner-like plainness of the setting suggests – starters average around £8, and mains from £16 to £19.

So, time to fuel up. Sweetcorn chowder, too often a one-note blast of creamy sweetness, was well-anchored with salt and spice, and swirls of sour cream and chilli oil to keep things interesting. And Shrimpy's must-have dish – the soft-shell crab burger that had its own Twitter following within days – lived up to its rep, the soft sesame bun char-striped from the grill, the crab's distinctive flavour shining through a golden puffy batter. But tuna tostada – fried tortilla decorated with raw tuna, shredded lettuce, avocado and tendrils of fried onion – seemed to have been put together purely for visual effect, the tostada itself as chewy as an old toenail.

No modern menu worth its salt dares not to offer onglet, or skirt steak, these days. But it was the salt that sabotaged Shrimpy's version, apparently the creation of a heavy-smoking chef. Or one who hadn't tasted the pungently acidic dressing on a green salad, or the overwhelming chimichurri sauce which prompted Harry's gloomy Alan Hansen impression – "thyme, and thyme, and thyme again". If that sauce had been petrol, it would have been heavy-leaded four star, and swiftly withdrawn from sale.

The 50-shades-of-Shoreditch clientele is clearly carb-averse; the menu offers only three desserts plus cheese. But the two we tried were good – particularly the brownies, served in a sundae coupe with chocolate ice-cream.

It's a fun place. We loved the vintage wine glasses, and the penguin-shaped ceramic carafes. And we loved our waitress, whose every movement was performed with such a precise, silent-movie flourish, I correctly guessed she trained as a mime artist. Ah, London 2012. The petrol stations are restaurants, the waiters are mime artists, and the hipsters are out on the street, desperately trying to flag down taxis to take them back east. But maybe taxis don't come this way so much, not since they closed the petrol station.

Shrimpy’s, King’s Cross Filling Station Goods Way, London N1 (020-8880 6111)

Around £55 a head including wine and service

Food ***
Ambiance ***
Service ****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary. All service charge and tips go to the staff’

Side orders: American dream

Bell's Diner

The steaks and burgers at this popular local eaterie are outstanding – try a delicious beef patty with a garlic, mustard and Roquefort topping.

7 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh (0131 225 8116)

Meat Market

New on the menu is the chilli dog made with a smoked beef sausage at the latest outpost of Yianni Papoutsis's cult burger joint in Covent Garden market.

Tavistock Street, London WC2 (020-7240 4852)

Atomic Burger

Try the Woody Allen salt beef sandwich: slow-cooked beef in a bap, covered in Swiss cheese and drizzled with thousand island dressing with gherkins on the side.

96 Cowley Road, Oxford (01865 790855)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
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

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits