The universally adored Exmouth Market venue gets a little sister over in King’s Cross, serving up superb small plates, some excellent pizzas and more of that very fine coffee everybody's always banging on about.
Part of the continued redevelopment of King’s Cross (it might take some time…), Caravan can be found in the Granary Building, part of the St Martin’s College campus. And whilst it certainly can be found, the huge shrubbery almost completely covering the entrance doesn’t exactly make it easy for those who might have forgotten their spectacles. Exmouth Market's hotchpotch medley of mismatched bits and bobs has been faithfully transferred over to King’s Cross, and while some things might grate (literally, in the case of the bobbling, scratchy banquette seating), and the venue itself echoing a canteen (in line with the college, perhaps?), it certainly looks good, with enough industrial elements to keep it on-trend and a few attractive little nods to the building’s granary past.
There’s quite a lot of space to fill, but instead of it feeling a little vacuous it’s actually surprisingly intimate, with some excellent table spacing enabling groups to feel nice and isolated. The sounds of Jimmy Cliff provide a suitably informal edge to proceedings, even if his dulcet tones don't quite do justice to the meaty Funktion-One soundsystem ready to rumble throughout. Staff are pretty well drilled, a little bit flirty, and on hand to make sure you never run out of the free water.
Keeping with roughly the same format as the Exmouth Market venture (a fair few small plates, a few larger ones, snacks and sides), it’s good to the see the quality is retained too, with an almost annoyingly appetising menu influenced by everywhere from South America and the US to Isreal, the Med and Japan. The superb brunches also remain, but one small addition comes by way of some really very good pizzas, with a chorizo, courgette, goat’s cheese and garlic creation (£9.50) good enough to have those Pizza Pilgrims at nearby Eat St sweating. Well, maybe.
Other notable highlights include jalapeno cornbread with chilli butter (£3.50) that boasts a real bit of kick and a really good pan-fried crust; some very impressive chorizo and butternut squash croquettes (£6), deep fried to crisp perfection and served with a nicely delicate saffron aioli; and a beautifully balanced dish of fluffy light goat’s curd with nectarine, braised onion, rocket and pine nuts (£6).
Fried chicken (£7.50) is cooked brilliantly, it’s just a shame that the watermelon accompanying it isn’t quite sweet enough to avoid watering down the fried flavours of the meat itself, let alone the barely-there chilli and pomegranate. Octopus with shallot, parsley, sherry vinegar and paprika (£7.50) is a touch bland, but fine.
Oysters seem popular, and there’s a good selection of breads, cheeses and meats, but you get the impression that brunch and the small plates will remain the big culinary draws, just as they are at the Exmouth Market branch.
The coffee at this place has quite rightly won the hearts of many a fan of the bean, and although there’s been something of an influx of decent coffee houses recently, Caravan remains right up there with the very best of them. They roast their own carefully sourced beans, and when something is such a labour of love, you know it’s going to taste good. And taste good it certainly does, with superb flat whites (£2.60), excellent espressos and one of the best, creamiest lattes in London. Fresh juices are worth trying too (the carrot, apple and ginger version - £4 – is particularly good), and the wine list is perfectly sound (if not extensive). Most people, though, walk out of here talking about the coffee – and with good reason.
The Last Word
The Exmouth Market venue is always heaving so most foodie folk will be very pleased to hear there’s a new Caravan parked up just down the road. And given that’s every bit as good as its sister, expect it to be similarly rammed soon.