Please note, Grain Store is now closed. Time Out Food editors, December 2017.
The one-time industrial wasteland north of King’s Cross station has been transformed by a hugely ambitious urban regeneration project. Grain Store occupies just one part of a vast former Victorian warehouse. Most of the rest of the building has been imaginatively transformed into Central Saint Martins, and so the forecourt, Granary Square, is now perpetually thronged with fashionably dressed students. Outdoor café tables are ready for diners and drinkers willing to brave the elements.
Grain Store inhabits its warehouse corner a little uneasily, but it’s prettied up with an open kitchen, batterie de cuisine and wine racks, reminiscent of a Carluccio’s in a shopping mall. The resemblance ends there.
The patron of this excellent new restaurant is Bruno Loubet, a chef who made his mark on London’s dining scene with the sensational Bistrot Bruno in Soho (1993-’95) and then, more recently, Bistrot Bruno Loubet in Clerkenwell.
Loubet is Bordeaux-born, and his cooking is grounded in the classical traditions of south-west France, but not bound by them. The menu is a pick ’n’ mix of ingredients and cuisines, yet there is a consistency of style and imaginative, successful flavour pairings that is recognisably Loubet.
Vegetables are his current passion. Pretty colours and simple preparation made a platter of baked beetroots, pickled onions and a strained goat yoghurt labneh into an attractive dish; a dill oil dressing made the disparate flavours hang together well. Curiously, this dish wasn’t marked as vegetarian, though ten other dishes were, plus there were two vegan options (from a total of 26). That’s a lot of veggie action.
Meat is also given serious attention, though used mainly as the sideshow. A cube of sticky pork belly was served as an accompaniment to a corn and quinoa tamale, the filling kept very moist by the corn husk wrapper while griddled.
The dessert list doesn’t play safe either. Strawberries both fresh and cooked in a balsamic jam were topped with a spicy horseradish ice cream: an unlikely yet inspired combination.
The big catch with Grain Store is that the phone number diverts you to an online booking site, which shows virtually no free tables for the next month. But some are held back for walk-ins – you have to arrive early and hope for the best. This isn’t too bad an option as there’s an attached bar with excellent cocktails conceived by barmeister Tony Conigliaro. And if you don’t get in at all, Grain Store is still a great wingman for the area’s other good new dining options.