Grain Store is undoubtedly one of my favourite restaurants in London at the moment, and yet, until Friday, I had only ever been there for lunch, so I spent most of last week looking forward to Friday’s dinner, and to catching up with two good friends of mine.
The evening didn’t start particularly well as they had somehow lost our reservation, even though I could show the maitre d’ proof that we had one on my phone. For a few minutes we had to sit at a table right in front of the door – and therefore in quite a strong draught – until apparently another table failed to show and we were moved further into the dining room.
First of all – of course – we all ordered wine. We went for the 250ml individual ‘pots’. We then decided to go with starters and mains. I had tried a dessert once before and wasn’t particularly impressed with it (interesting to see that it’s still on the menu…) so it was an easy choice for me. I began with the lentil cake, which came with a small salad and banana ketchup, which I thought would either be interesting or a disaster; do lentils and banana as a combination naturally spring to mind?
Quite a large size for a starter, as you can see! The ketchup was actually delicious; slightly spiced and not too strong a banana flavour. The lentil cake was nice and crisp on the outside and the freshness of the asian-style salad cut through it nicely.
One of my friends ordered the butternut squash ravioli with apricots, rocket and pumpkin seeds (something I’ve ordered many times, and it is excellent):
The other ordered something I would have considered, were I not a vegetarian – the smoked aubergine salad with grilled sardines:
She said it was good, but didn’t sound overly impressed, and added quite a lot of pepper . . .
I was clearly desperate, however, for aubergine to make up a part of my meal that evening, so I ordered the aubergine salad, pea and broad bean ragout and piquillo pepper purée. On the menu, this was served with ‘lamb confit.’ However, I asked the waiter if it could be made into a vegetarian dish for me, in whatever way the chef thought best. Luckily for us, the chef-patron himself, Bruno Loubet, was in the kitchen that evening, and I saw the waiter go over and talk to him about my request. The suggestion was tofu. I must admit that initially I was a bit worried. Tofu is something I never cook for myself as it does not turn out well. For the same reason, I rarely order it in restaurants, unless it comes in some oriental-style soup. This was Bruno Loubet’s tofu:
The dish looked and smelled delicious, and appeared like a celebration of spring with really vibrant colours. I have to say the tofu was amazing. It was the silken instead of regular variety, was lightly grilled, and went perfectly with the mediterranean-style vegetables. I think the chef had also added some kind of basil dressing to it, as you can see.
My friends went for slightly heartier mains, one ordering the saddle of rabbit wrapped in bacon, which was served with heritage carrots and artichokes:
The other opted for one of the day’s specials, which was a roast duck with duck heart, spring onions and cranberries:
We were all quite full by this point, but one of my friends and I had seen the cheese go past, and couldn’t resist ordering one piece each. I went for the goat’s cheese, which came with a delicious, tangy chutney, a small slice of bread and a cracker. The cracker was actually really good, thick and sprinkled with sesame seeds, while the bread was rather dull in comparison (especially because there’s some really amazing bread you can order when you first arrive). Next time I think I’ll ask for another cracker instead . . .
One of my friends did manage to find room for dessert, and ordered the chocolate and peanut delice, which was served with pineapple that had been marinated in mint and eucalyptus:
I did try a mouthful of the pineapple, though can’t say I would have noticed the eucalyptus if I hadn’t been told of its existence. Apparently the delice was amazing though, with a really smooth centre and crunchy biscuit base. I think there were also shards of peanut brittle on top…
We had a little trouble with the bill, in that we’d been charged for four pieces of cheese instead of two, but that was quickly rectified. Overall the service was excellent, though the male waiters do seem to have a thing for wearing hats which we couldn’t quite figure out. Our meal came to about £45 a head, including two glasses of wine. Not cheap, perhaps, but very reasonable for food of this quality, and for a restaurant where they are willing – and actually give a great deal of thought – to making substitutions to dishes for vegetarian or vegan diners. All the vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu are clearly marked with special symbols, and Loubet’s inspiration in setting up Grain Store was to give vegetables equal billing with meat or fish in each dish, and often they have the starring role. Wonderful news for vegetarian and vegan diners in London, and I recommend you all visit Grain Store quickly, whether or not you eat meat.
Categories: Food & Drink