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Fancy Granary Square and its flashy eateries – Dishoom, Granary Square Brasserie, The Lighterman and so on – might be the shiny face of ‘new’ King’s Cross, but the area to the east, below Pentonville Road, is still pretty dingy. Niven’s, though, is a little beacon of light against the darkness of King’s Cross Road. A rustic and cosy café/provisions store with a crammed counter space, a single scuffed wooden communal table and shelves full of dog-eared cookbooks and Kilner jars, it does a neat line in home-cooked fare that, while hardly refined, is both hearty and comforting.
There’s a range of hot tray-baked bits (pastas, pies, curries and so on), plus chunky salads and sandwiches on offer (including a knowing Brindisa homage/rip-off roll with thick-cut chorizo, sweet piquillo pepper and rocket. Nice). A gargantuan slab of sausage, sweet potato and mixed veg pie was the standout on my visit: a helmet-sized flaky pastry case crammed with chorizo and (I think) merguez-spiced pig, odds and ends of broccoli and cauliflower, pomegranate seeds and a dry tomato sauce buzzing with chilli. Add a side of cream-heavy celeriac-and-mushroom gratin and the threat of a mid-afternoon carb coma was rendered very real indeed.
Beef lasagne had a slightly one-note flavour that screamed ‘Sunday night supper’ – and was that cream in the ragú? – but was inarguably warming. A massive, sage-flecked chicken escalope looked a picture and was excellently moist, but remained a bit of an elevated caff dish.
Each plate, with a main and a side, came to £8 – a bargain for the pie/gratin, but a bit steep for the otherwise smaller portions. Still, if you’re after unprepossessing, deli-style comfort grub in this part of town, Niven’s is by far your best (and only) bet.
157 King's Cross Rd
|Transport:||Tube: King's Cross St Pancras|
|Price:||Lunch for two with soft drinks (no service): around £20.|
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