"Bruno Loubet shows his know-how with vegetables"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
“This is the restaurant I have dreamt of opening for years and the time really feels right now. I love meat and could never give it up entirely, but the endless opportunities that focusing on vegetables allows me - the colours, flavours, layers and textures - are so exciting”. This is what Bruno Loubet told us about his latest restaurant, where vegetables take the lead and meat and fish are very much the support act.
Grain Store is in the newly buzzing Granary Square, in the same building as Central Saint Martins and Caravan. It’s vast, with alfresco space and more seats at the bar, which comes courtesy of Tony Conigliari, who also oversees the drinks at the Zetter Townhouse, where Bistrot Bruno Loubet is located. (We try a fantastically potent Granary Martini, made with mustard vodka. It’s great, but don’t expect to be able to taste anything else for a few minutes afterwards).
The décor is very warehouse chic, except that just for a change, this actually was a warehouse in a past life. Plenty of light floods in and large frames with coloured perspex hang from the ceiling, breaking up the theme. Rather than be partially exposed, the kitchen is entirely out in the open, and on the evening we visit Loubet himself can be seen hard at work with his team.
Instead of choosing from the à la carte we go for the “surprise menu” of six courses. The first thing to arrive is a plant pot of radishes with a dollop of tasty cashew and yeast dip, the “soil” is made from olives, and a thick slice of toasted potato and rye bread is spread with intensely savoury seaweed butter and foraged leaves, some of which are “oyster leaves” and lend the mixture a surprisingly briny flavour. But that’s not all - a tray fashioned from bark covered with pine needles and pine cones has two mushroom croquettes oozing hot creaminess.
The chilled lobster 'Bloody Mary’ has an awkward layer of sweet jelly, and the soup itself lacks any of the kick of its namesake. But the next course, a colourful mélange of salted watermelon, confit salmon, peach, baked beetroot, pickled onion and garlicky goat’s labneh, is tremendous, with fresh, salty, sweet, and earthy flavours marrying as naturally as eggs and bacon. In keeping with the theme, the salmon is merely fodder for the other ingredients.
Falafels sprinkled with sesame, with shelled crunchy broad beans and cucumber yoghurt, are served alongside butternut squash ravioli. Lamb belly kebabs are skewered with chunks of pickled cucumber, the only instance where we wish there was more of the perfectly fatty meat as the cucumber adds little other than bulk. It’s accompanied by roasted aubergine stuffed with mince; a second plate has a corn and quinoa tamale with almost-rare duck hearts, with the warm tastes of offal and spice.
Dessert is vanilla panna cotta with slow-roasted candied cherry tomatoes, sweet yet tangy enough to make our mouths tingle.
The six course menu priced at £40 actually lets you try 10 different dishes, which is fantastic value (with wine, cocktails and service, the bill comes to £124). Loubet's handling of vegetables and world cuisines are nothing short of masterful.
Leila reviewed The Grain Store on Mon 24 Jun 2013