Thursday, 13 May 2010

Caravan of Exmouth Market

When I recently visited this new restaurant/bar in Exmouth Market, I don't think I experienced the best of what it has to offer. Despite most aspects of Caravan being perfectly good, I imagine it really comes into its own for breakfast or a leisurely weekend brunch to fully enjoy the delicious coffee they roast onsite.

That said, we had a very enjoyable evening. It was a mild and sunny and Caravan’s light, corner site was an ideal spot. What’s more, you are immediately struck by the friendly, relaxed atmosphere (the team behind it are Antipodean and chef, Miles Kirby, previously worked at Providores). My friend had already arrived and was sipping a virgin mojito and I opted for a glass of Picpoul de Pinet from quite a succinct wine list offering an interesting selection from around the world. Most wines are priced below £30 per bottle and about half are served by the glass (from £4.50). There are also some tempting sherries and ports, draft and bottled beer, organic cider, malt whiskies, fruit eaux de vie from Alsace, cocktails (including a tempting pear bellini £6.50; others £7.50) and thoughtfully selected soft drinks such as Fentimans ginger beer and lemonade. If you’re serious about coffee, several single origin coffees are available, as well as more regular offerings using the house blend. To continue the experience at home, bags of beans or ground coffee are on sale at £4 per 250g and £15 per kilo.
We selected our food from the all-day menu (served Monday to Saturday 12 noon–11pm). Wanting to try a few small dishes, I went for falafel (with apple and pepper relish, tahini and coriander), salt and Sichuan pepper squid with chilli mayonnaise, with a side dish of corn bread with chipotle butter. Other dishes from the ‘small plates’ section of the menu that caught my eye included golden beetroot, berkswell, poached egg and watercress and, secondly, home cured organic salmon, sesame cucumber and rye crumbs. 

My friend had almond couscous, tomato ragout, aubergine and sumac yoghurt from the ‘large plates’ section which she described as very tasty, but a bit sloppy (above). 

My falafel was okay, but a bit dry (above right) and the squid nicely spiced, but chewy (below). What stood out for me, though, was the cornbread and chipotle butter – lovely contrasting flavours and textures: the smoky chilli warmth of the butter worked brilliantly with the sweetness of the corn, refreshed by a squeeze of lime (above left). Great.

We skipped pudding and coffee, although I was sorely tempted by the chocolate, espresso pudding with crème fraîche sorbet. Our bill for two with a couple of drinks came to about £40.

I’m sure I’ll be getting back there very soon for weekend brunch with husband and small daughter in tow. I’ll be needing another bag of fabulous Finca Irupana Bolivian coffee. (The picture above shows the imposing looking coffee roaster in the cellar.)

11–13 Exmouth Market
London EC1R 4QD
Tel 020 7833 8115
Open 8am–11pm Mon to Fri; 10am–11pm Sat; 10am–4pm Sun.

Square Meal