Credit: Issy Croker

Caravan comes to Chelsea with Vardo

Duke of York Square has been lacking a good restaurant for some time so our ears pricked when we heard the news that Caravan were opening a new venture here, housed in the circular pavilion slap bang in the centre of the square. New Zealand-inspired Caravan shook up the brunch scene when they opened in Exmouth Market in 2010 serving speciality coffee (roasted in-house) and an eclectic menu including fluffy buttermilk hotcakes and their renowned spicy jalapeño cornbread. Four more restaurants followed suit earning Caravan a good rep for casual daytime dining. Vardo, meaning Romani wagon, also does brunch – but much more besides. It’s motto ‘dining with no boundaries’ is all about travelling and picking flavours from around the globe, sprinkling a little of this and a little of that. At first glance the menu feels a bit all over the place. There’s so much there; dumplings alongside croquettes, there’s burrata and then tandoori chicken, pizza as well grain bowls. But the brilliant thing is, it all works.

Credit: Issy Croker

We went for dinner, and ordered plenty to try. One of us started with a cocktail, the other with kombucha  and it’s the sort of place where this combination feels easy. Then came sharing plates; sticky pork dumplings and that legendary corn bread. Our favourite here was the garam masala labneh with fenugreek-chilli butter, spiced chickpeas and flat bread – so good and generous too, a plate would easily serve four as a starter. Next came the crispy sea bass which was cooked to perfection. But saving room for pudding is key, everyone must try the soft-serve ice cream, made each morning in-house and served out of an artisan Mr Whippy machine. Order the vanilla bean with olive oil and smoked sea salt – we’ve not stopped dreaming about it.

Credit Issy Croker

With vast floor-to-ceiling windows the space feels fresh and contemporary. Co-founder Chris Ammermann tells us that they’d been apprehensive about the Chelsea clientele – perhaps they’d be looking for something more polished than their usual laid-back, Caravan style? He had all the staff on best behaviour, but needn’t have worried. A very happy crowd fill the banquettes and smaller tables, a hum of satisfaction in the air as people share the delicious dishes and check out what other diners are having. But really it’s a place where everyone can have exactly what they want. There’s something for everyone, for any occasion from coffee and brunch to an evening cocktail and snacks. We’ve found a new favourite.

Credit: Issy Croker

What:
Vardo
When:
Monday to Friday 7.30am - 10.30pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am - 10.30pm
Where:
9 Duke of York Square Duke of York Restaurant, SW3 4LY
— Daisy Allsup
17th October 2019