We don’t believe in denial, even in January. We still want to drink and we still want to dine out. After an intensely carnivorous Christmas, however, we feel the need for a slight gear change. Grain Store serves our needs at this time of year perfectly: many of its dishes have a meat or fish element but chef Bruno Loubet aims to give vegetables ‘equal billing, if not the starring role’.
Grain Store is probably not an ideal restaurant for vegetarians: on the night we visited, there were only two vegetarian main courses available (a butternut squash ravioli and chilli con veggie) which were possibly the least exciting options on the whole menu. This restaurant works better for those omnivores or pescetarians wanting to scale back the amount of meat and fish they eat, or at least think about it slightly differently.
We started with onion bread with homemade crème fraiche butter and wild mushroom croquettes served with pine salt. The latter was presented on tree bark and garlanded with pine needles which turned out to be less fiddly than you might imagine. Grain Store is designed to be a slightly disruptive, memorable experience – not an unpleasant one but not one you should be complacent about either. The kitchen is not just open but is in fact ‘exploded’ with all the units on castors. Thankfully, there are also cosy alcoves if you prefer a more intimate setting and being able to have a proper conversation with your dining companions.
For mains, the squid steak au poivre was a definite hit without any trace of the chewiness so often associated with squid. It was accompanied by roast potatoes, baked garlic and pumpkin puree. Our roast partridge breast also came with a puree, this time of slightly jammy wild fruits. This was a surprisingly successful combination and was served alongside parsnip crisps, potted cabbage, bacon and a chipolata. On eating this, we realised that we had possibly not placed vegetables centre stage, so promptly ordered some chips served with a parsley-flecked mayonnaise and a mixed leaf salad. Whilst we want to eat differently after the Christmas break, we’ve never said we want to actually eat less.
For dessert, we shared a baked apple stuffed with a rosemary crumble and served with chilled crème fraiche and a salted caramel sauce. It was light years away from the school dinners-y apple crumbles we are used to and all the better for it.
There is also an excellent cocktail list of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, devised by Tony Conigliaro – the man behind 69 Colebrooke Row, one of the best bars in London. We tried the Quince Bellini and the Tuberose Collins which were both very good but next time want to try his Greco-Roman inspired drinks which make use of ingredients such as dried rose petals and paprika.
The Grain Store is an imaginative restaurant, showcasing delicate cooking and exactly what we want to eat whilst memories of turkey, mince pies and Quality Street are still fading.