You may have heard, but Amy and I have left the provincial Essex life to make our names in the big city, where bigger and better brunches are to be had. We’re living on the northern end of the Piccadilly line, and on bleary weekend mornings, brunch is never more than a few tube stops away.
That is how, one Saturday, we made our way to the King’s Cross branch of Caravan. I had heard a lot about Caravan, which recently opened in the rejuvenated Granary Square by King’s Cross, which is becoming a weekend brunch mecca of sorts with The Grain Store and Dishoom (review upcoming). I thought we’d have to queue, but actually Caravan is huge – a converted canal-side warehouse with high ceilings and great long wooden tables. During the week it’s full of artsy-types in jeans and open-necked shirts, drinking lattes and staring at their macbooks.
Caravan has a menu of some incredibly innovative main courses, but when we went, I wasn’t in the mood for anything fussy. I ordered a banana and vanilla smoothie which was basically a milkshake, and avocado on sourdough toast with a side of bacon. It was a real lesson in how to do something simple, well. The toast was thick and piled high with ripe avocado mashed up with chilli, lemon and olive oil. The bacon I had with it was smoky and thick cut and perfectly crisp. It was incredibly filling – as a good brunch should be, enough food to last you through the day.
Some people have complained to me about the service in Caravan, that they’re understaffed when their restaurant is full. We weren’t hurried by any means, and if we’d been in a rush to get somewhere, we might have had problems. But I didn’t feel that the waitstaff were inattentive, and if you want a leisurely brunch, you won’t have a problem. It also has the advantage over soho equivalents (looking at you, Jackson & Rye) of not feeling overcrowded, or that you’re jostling elbows with the table next to you.
I think, of every place I’ve been to with Best Brunch Ever, Caravan is the one I can most imagine going back to. There was so much more on the menu to try. I didn’t even drink the coffee, which they’re famous for. I would love to try their pastries and cakes, their desserts, or more of their incredible-sounding mains – for example, their “Prawn and chorizo omelette, piquillo, almonds, chipotle lime mayo” sounds right up my street. But also, I know I can trust them for simple food done well – that if you just want eggs on toast, or a fry-up, you know it’s gonna be delicious.
The morning we went to Caravan really sticks in my mind, because it was the first time we were able to step back from all the stress of moving to London and appreciate why we’d done it in the first place. Now that we weren’t in Chelmsford, it was easy for two friends to come over after they had finished work the night before. In the light of day – as if to reward us for our excellent life choices of the last few months – there was not a hangover in sight. Sun was streaming through the windows. I was probably wearing dungarees. And brunch was just a short tube journey away.
I absolutely love the redevelopment of the King’s Cross area. It’s all quirky water features and refurbished warehouses, a hipster’s dream. There’s even a giant empty birdcage you can swing inside.
If that makes you want to run in the opposite direction, then don’t worry because the food is great too. In a complete role reversal with Hattie, I was feeling quite adventurous (possibly influenced by the intrepid spirit of Amy vs Fruit?) and I ordered the kimchi pancake, pork belly, fried duck egg and bbq crème fraiche. I had to google kimchi because I am extremely uncivilised, but I soon learnt that it is a spicy Korean side dish made of vegetables and seasonings. “Great!” I thought. “I love vegetables! I love pork belly! I love fried duck egg!”
When the plate arrived, it was stacked high with all of those things, and each was incredible in its own right. The pork belly fell apart at my touch, tender and delicious. The duck egg was runny in the most perfect way, so that the yolk got all over everything. The kimchi pancake was definitely more cake than pan: an incredibly thick wedge, which would have been filling all by itself. It had really interesting spices – I’m hopeless at identifying flavours, but they were subtle enough for a morning dish without being bland or overshadowed by the pork. I wasn’t convinced by the bbq crème fraiche, but I think that’s a matter of personal preference – I don’t like it with a lot of things, so far I’m only really happy if it’s mixed into a pasta sauce. That’s not Caravan’s fault.
It was a huge meal – leaning far more towards a lunch than a breakfast – and the pancake wedge was so thick that I wasn’t able to finish it. Next time I think I’d go for something smaller, but if you need something to really set you up for the rest of the day, you won’t go wrong here. And the coffee was smooth and strong – deserving of its reputation.
When we left, we found a canal boat that was also a bookshop, and stacked full of classics, smart young adult fiction, and Caitlin Moran. And that is why we moved to London.