Brecher managing partner Nicky Richmond found she wasn’t keen on surprises when she visited Grain Stores.
You know when a new film comes out and even before you’ve read the reviews, somebody tells you that you’re going to love it and it’s the best film they have ever seen? That.
I’d been looking forward to going to Grain Store for weeks. Lots of food people were saying great things about it. And because it was so exciting and so new and so marvellous, I wanted to go with somebody who would really appreciate it, and when fellow lawyer and food-blogger N suggested we go together, it just felt right.
Arriving on a balmy summer’s evening, the coloured fountain outside the restaurant was spectacular – such an archetypal London space and the restaurant itself, with its stripped-back walls, open pipework and frankly unfinished appearance, with bleached white furniture, is a bit urban bistro.
We were placed right next to the kitchen. I’ve been to restaurants that show you what purports to be an open kitchen, but is really just a glorified food assembly area. Here it’s the real deal.
And the great man himself was presiding over the show, not cooking as far as I could see – just conducting the orchestra that is a professional kitchen. Brave. I wouldn’t want my clients seeing me at work. They’d be shocked at the swearing. Or possibly not.
The unique wine list was where I got my first real indication that this was going to be very different from your run of the mill.
My companion chose the fennel pollen vinus lupus. Lupus sounds like an illness. Indeed it is an illness. But not here. Containing said fennel pollen, clover honey, mastic, verjus, stirred with sauvignon blanc and gros manseng, this really tasted like sauvignon and honey. Not in a bad way either. Gros manseng. A white wine that sounds like a feminist insult. I’m going to try it out.
Because I didn’t really like the sound of it but I had to try, I ordered the Roman smoked paprika white wine. This was a Grenache blanc, with smoked paprika cordial. It tasted like smoked white wine. Not something I would make at home.
And because we were in the mood to be adventurous, we chose the Surprise Menu.
I do love a good surprise. *Sarcastic face*
I hate surprises. I hate not knowing what’s round the corner. I hate it when the phone rings with a number I don’t know. I hate it when the phone rings with a number I do know. I hate the phone. I hate it when someone says do you want the good news or the bad news. The fact that there is bad news means that there can’t then be good news.
And because I am a control freak of the first order and surprises do not fill me with joy, I surprised myself by ordering the Surprise Menu.
First a chiselled out log, with pine needles and a deep-fried mushroom croquettes. Frankly, I could have eaten a dozen of these. The mushroom filling was rich, full of umami flavour – a little ball of intensity. I’m not sure the pine needles added anything other than decoration.
After that, radishes in a flower-pot with a cashew and yeast dip with olive “soil”. Very clever, but we couldn’t work out what the “soil” was made of – we could taste some sesame seeds and I see from looking at the menu that this was made of olives. You couldn’t really taste that. And there were apparently oyster leaves. Leaves that taste of oyster. But we didn’t know, because no-one told us. So we thought that they were just leaves. Which on one level they were. Interesting that, as a thing – if you know that a dish contains something, you look for it and taste it. If you don’t, you might miss it. As we did. Things can be too subtle sometimes.
And then the lobster bloody Mary. My companion really liked this, but I have to confess I was a little disappointed. It looked beautiful and it was fresh and delicate but it was a little too undifferentiated and the tomato water didn’t knock me out. it was a little too insipid, when set against the other fairly punchy dishes.
A dish of roasted pigeon breast looked great but I don’t eat pigeon. That was entirely my fault for not checking what was on the Surprise Menu. But then the surprise would have been lost.
The dessert wasn’t one I would have chosen either. It was perfectly well executed and tasty, but again, having to eat something I wouldn’t have chosen (tapioca) is my own punishment for letting someone choose for me. Can you sense a theme here?
I see that this is a very interesting restaurant. I see that it wants to do something new and different, which I applaud. I see the novelty in letting the vegetables do the talking and I am very much in favour of that as a lapsed vegetarian. I can see the inventiveness in the combinations. I just wasn’t as blown away by it as I’d hoped to be, given the hype.
And because I think it’s my own fault for allowing someone else to dictate my choices, I know that I would have enjoyed it much more if I’d ordered the things that actually appealed to me. Which is what I will do next time. No surprises please.
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