£30 - £49
Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Part of new retail quarter Coal Drops Yard, this branch of Barrafina is one of three planned openings from the Harts Group in King’s Cross. Alongside El Pastor sibling Casa Pastor, and wine bar The Drop, this fourth Barrafina will boast an outdoor terrace and a private dining room for 20. Coal Drops Yard opens as a whole in autumn 2018, following an extensive redesign from its old use as a Victorian coal house.
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Coal Drops Yard, Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Found right at the back of glamorous King’s Cross development Coal Drops Yard, is Anthony Demetre’s (of Wild Honey fame) latest venture, Vermuteria.
The concept for this intimate venue is inspired by cafés and bars on the cycling Grand Tour routes in France, Spain and Italy, which is immediately apparent when you spot the vintage cycling memorabilia that adorns the walls. Despite being packed on our Friday night visit, the atmosphere was nonetheless relaxed and languid – had time allowed, we could have stayed for hours.
While Vermuteria has a strong wine and cheese selection, it’s the cocktails which are not to be missed. Although, these punchy sips are not for the faint of heart: for a drink that really puts hairs on your chest, go for the Bicicletta, which is a mix of Campari and Picpoul de Pinet.
When it comes to food, expect lots of sharing plates at pretty reasonable prices. The ox cheeks in red wine are impressively tender, while other dishes include bitter and salty Padron peppers, as well as a gooey, creamy chilli and tomato croquette. The best thing we ate though was the indulgent duck confit, which was served with starchy white beans. A refreshingly caramelised and fleshy roast quince with crème fraiche is the only pudding option, but rounds off a meal nicely.
Vermuteria is a great addition to Coal Drops Yard’s roster of dining options, but be sure to get there early, as it doesn’t take bookings.
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£30 - £49
Great Northern Hotel, Pancras Road, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4TB
Referencing the carmine and white livery of the Flying Scotsman’s first-class dining carriages, Plum + Spilt Milk occupies the upper floor of the swankily refurbished Great Northern Hotel. While not blessed with the grand assets of the nearby Gilbert Scott, the dining room nonetheless oozes down-to-earth class with its brown-leather banquettes and gold-rimmed tables on gleaming parquet floors. The menu, meanwhile, is a please-all selection of modern classics overseen by chef/director Mark Sargent – albeit at whopping prices. To start, the Cornish fish soup has real depth, or you could try smoked haddock under glazed hollandaise concealing a soft-poached egg. Blushing pink lamb chops with crisp sweetbreads and courgette is a sound main course, but skip the namesake dessert for a ruinously rich chocolate mousse with cherries and honeycomb. Service veers from engaged to distant, while keenly chosen wines offer better value than a train buffet car.
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£30 - £49
2 Bagley Walk, London, N1C 4PQ
Designer Tom Dixon clearly has a thing for canals. His old HQ was by the Grand Union Canal at the top of Ladbroke Grove and featured a restaurant where chef Stevie Parle shot to fame. For his new place he’s chosen a brick warehouse from 1851 that gently curves around the Regent’s Canal in Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, immediately recognisable from the other restaurants in the new development by the Melt pendant lights that glow like illuminated amoeba from the windows of Dixon’s shop, studio and restaurant.
Cheffing duties this time around fall to Assaf Granit, the brains behind the world-famous Machneyuda in Jerusalem and a collaborator on The Palomar and Barbary. Some of The Palomar’s greatest hits are here, including addictive kubaleh bread to scoop up the sweet and sour of tomato confit and reduced yoghurt, while The Palomar’s deconstructed shikshukit kebab has been reconstructed as a superbly juicy chunk of lamb and beef – the best thing we ate.
Other dishes and flavours were new to us – ‘ironed chicken’ on a remarkable layer of violet polenta and black bulgur, by turns smooth and crunchy, and aubergine melted to a sticky pulp from the Josper oven so that it tasted transformed into essence of aubergine.
Not everything is so successful – shish barak, a sort of yoghurt ravioli, was a bland disappointment, ditto a fig-leaf ice cream, made on site – and prices are punchy to say the least: £16 struck us as very steep for a starter-sized portion of kebab that provided about four mouthfuls; arrive with an appetite and expect a food bill of £40 a head for the food alone.
And while the 160-seat site, spread over a restaurant, chef’s table, bar and roof terrace, might not have the hugger-mugger intimacy of Granit’s previous London restaurants, the vibe provided by global beats, shouts from an open kitchen and, especially, Dixon’s beguiling design imprint provide a seductively hypnotic buzz. If Coal Office is anything to go by, the rest of Coal Drops Yard is going to be smoking hot.
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£30 - £49
Coal Drops Yard, London, N1C 4AB
The atmosphere of creativity at Coal Drops Yard makes it the perfect fit for the high-energy buzz of the Hart brothers, who have opened three sites here, including wine bar The Drop and a branch of Barrafina.
Much larger than previous incarnations in London Bridge, this Pastor is split between a partially covered outdoor dining area (complete with a central grill) and a tightly packed indoors which boasts a bar and an imposing tree hung with lights. It’s also the first to serve breakfast, including the likes of huevos rancheros.
On our evening visit, we kicked off proceedings with a novel avocado and passionfruit Margarita, which was silky smooth and pepped up with a chilli rim. Food begins with tostadas: ‘apache’ is a Mexican take on steak tartare using flank, while a ‘cochinita’ sees shreds of juicy slow-roasted pork rubbed with an addictive mix of orange, garlic and red onion.
Tacos (two per portion) include the signature Al Pastor, which is a triumphant pairing of pork shoulder, marinated for 24 hours with sticky caramelised pineapple and finished off with a smear of guacamole. Surprisingly, star billing goes to the veggie option: oily, plump mushrooms paired with caramelised onion and wrapped in a crisp sheet of fried queso Oaxaca cheese. From the sides, a bowl of refried beans resembles a chocolate mousse, with a velvety texture to match, while crunchy toasted corn is topped with a thick dollop of cotija cheese.
Dessert servings are minuscule, but if you’ve got a sweet tooth, go for the chocolate pot, which is served in a glass teacup and avoids being forgettable via a spiking of cinnamon. Lots of fun and fairly priced, this Pastor is a welcome addition to the brothers’ ever-expanding brand.
Featured image credit: Sam Smith
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£30 - £49
Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9AG
Long before Coal Drops Yard upped King’s Cross’s cool factor, Rotunda was drawing in the crowds with its farm-to-table ethos and charming canal-side terrace. The restaurant underwent refurbishment in the summer of 2018 and while most of the cosmetic changes are subtle (splashes of orange in the colour scheme, a new hanging cabinet on display near the entrance), the biggest difference is the introduction of a buzzy chef’s counter. With much of the kitchen moved from downstairs into the restaurant, diners can now watch the chefs at work, while asking for their cooking tips of course.
Rotunda makes full use of its owner’s farm in Northumberland, while all beef and lamb on the menu is dry-aged, hung and butchered on site. Seasonally changing specials are also a fixture: on our visit, we devoured a tremendously decadent baked camembert, drizzled with honey and truffle oil and served with St John bread.
The kitchen’s commitment to process is evidenced in triumphs such as the 8oz beef burger. So often an uninspiring choice on restaurant menus, this perfectly cooked burger is gratifyingly greasy without overdoing it and is complemented by toppings of smoked bacon and Ogleshield cheese. If you’d rather eat fish, try the likes of fleshy, citrusy grilled Cornish scallops slathered in seaweed butter and topped with crispy samphire.
Things get a little odd come dessert, with some rather random combinations on offer (blueberry Eccles cake with espresso coffee choc pot anyone?). Nonetheless, our more conventional chocolate and almond lava cake with cherry compote was a warm, comforting end to a delicious meal.
Friendly staff and a fairly-priced wine list are further reasons to take a trip to King’s Place – it might have more competition now, but Rotunda’s still got it.
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£30 - £49
1 Pancras Square, London, N1C 4AG
Sip a pre-prandial sherry while you survey the convex bar, bulging forth to welcome you in from King’s Cross – the fifth outpost from wine wonders Vinoteca. Sit near the open kitchen for a glimpse at what's to come or punt for a table near the in-house wine shop and enjoy enthusiastic chatter from clued-up staff. Stylish wood and tables sans clothes tell you you’re in smart casual territory and groups of post-work drinkers coexist nicely alongside date-night duos. The menu comes with a selection of smartly-chosen wines and there's an extensive list for the curious. Start with crispy spiced Cornish squid, paired with a cava to cut through the creamy aioli before settling in to glorious steak bavette with a stack of enormous golden brown chips – crispy, salty and fluffy in the middle. Whole mackerel with piquant pickled vegetables is a light delight but you should ruin your diet with panna cotta and rhubarb – poached in pink moscato, of course.
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Unit 2, Eastern Coal Drop, London, N1C
Hicce (pronounced ‘ee-chay’, not ‘hicky’) is the first solo restaurant from Pip Lacey, the former head chef of Murano and 2017 finalist from Great British Menu. Officially it is part of Wolf & Badger, although if you approach it from the first floor of Coal Drops Yard, you’d be completely unaware that you were dining in a luxury lifestyle store – except, perhaps, for the fact that the sleek, Scandinavian-style furniture filling the light, warehouse-feeling space looks exactly like the sort of covetable stuff you’d find for sale in a luxury lifestyle store, and the smart young staff are as smiley and eager to help as any high-end shop assistant.
The kitchen’s speciality of wood-fired cooking includes not just grilling but also steaming and smoking. Highlights for us among the sharing plates included terrific breads – dense rye bread, sweet beer bread – to act as a base for superb pork rillettes, so smooth it tastes almost puréed, and well-sourced cheeses.
As well as cheese, charcuterie, fermented veg jars and cured fish, there are three fish, vegetable and meat dishes apiece; we enjoyed our lamb neck with mojo and tomatoes, but the side order of miso potatoes was even better, as comforting as a plate of mini jacket spuds with a flavour intensified by the miso.
Not only is this food that tastes good, it is also good for you – there is mackerel with radicchio and kumquats, or octopus with seaweed and fennel – though anyone feeling that they’ve eaten too puritanically should try the crème caramel to finish, made with condensed milk for added richness.
Lacey herself can be seen calmly beavering away in the open kitchen that runs along one wall of the dining room, while her business partner Gordy McIntyre heads up front of house as a charming host. Our only criticism would be that all of our food arrived pretty much at once, so we ate all of our hot dishes first – first week teething troubles, we’re sure.
If you’d like to try Hicce without committing to eating, a standalone bar offers beers from Hackney Brewery, biodynamic and organic wines and great cocktails including some creative non-alcoholic versions.
We’re big fans of what has been achieved at Coal Drops Yard, even if several of the restaurant concepts feel like highly accomplished re-treads. With Hicce, however, Lacey has brought something genuinely new to London’s hottest dining destination.
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£30 - £49
7 Pancras Square, London, N1C 4AG
Bill Granger’s relaxed, cool and seemingly effortless café and restaurant empire has expanded again, this time into St Pancras Square. His eatery in Notting Hill has come to be loved for its brunch dishes, particularly the scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. Here, these dishes are joined by the likes of stone bass tiradito with shaved fennel and soused onion, or sticky chilly belly pork with spring onion salad; influences on the menu range from Honolulu to Seoul. Locals who haven’t the time to down tools for the full Granger experience will be pleased with the takeaway service.
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Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
New from the Harts Group (Barrafina/Quo Vadis), this unfussy, upbeat wine bar is at the heart of Thomas Heatherwick’s inspired transformation of an 1850s canalside coal depot, now a well-collated shopping/ lazing/ grazing ‘lifestyle quarter.’
Outside, a cod-Victorian barrow’s bi-valves beg to be hooked up with a classy, crisp white; Luneau-Papin La Grange, entry-level Muscadet a light, lively drop with The Drop’s briny fresh molluscs. The 50-strong, largely European list - from which a greater percentage by the glass or carafe would be welcome - features entertaining finds: gutsy Greeks; bosky orange wine, Pheasant’s Tears, a game Georgian bird; and an Austro-Hungarian Sopron red, a ripe ruby tart with a heart.
‘Broadly British dishes’ might mean English onion soup, viscous and unabashedly rich; unctuous chicken liver pâté; beetroot and gorgonzola salad; guinea fowl and girolles pie, or slabs of superior boiled ham slathered in intense salsa verde. Finish with a dark chocolate pot served with shortbread.
Image Credit: Joe Woodhouse
More about The Drop
£30 - £49
3 Granary Square, London, N1C 4BH
An impressive, three-storey modernist addition to Granary Square, this new pub-cum-dining room is furnished in an inviting, understated style with abundant natural wood and stylish leather. It is owned by a sister company to upmarket pub group Cubitt House – as evidenced by a menu incorporating many gastropub favourites. Even on a Monday, the street-level bar was abuzz with chatter, though the first-floor restaurant is a more formal proposition with wraparound terrace, floor-to-ceiling windows and friendly staff. Fish & chips and lamb shank are main-course fixtures, but the wood-fired grill is clearly the intended star, producing various seared cuts of meat, seafood dishes and burgers. Starters are generous; our cured trout with cucumber, spring onion and spiced mayo was wonderfully fresh-tasting, if heavily spiced. Unfortunately, a main course of Aberdeen Angus beef fillet arrived distinctly less rare than requested, paired with an over-seasoned peppercorn sauce. Roasted cod with celeriac purée, fennel and pumpkin seeds fared better, being flavoursome and light. The large drinks list has an eye on current trends, encompassing orange wine, craft ales and seasonal cocktails. But in a space already hosting the dependable likes of Caravan, we reckon there are better gastronomic options than the albeit attractive Lighterman.
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£50 - £79
St Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR
Matching the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s awe-inspiring grandeur would be a tall order for any restaurant, but on current form, Marcus Wareing’s team can compete with the architectural splendour of this fabulous dining room. We swooned over plates of cooked-pink duck hearts and perky chanterelles on smoked bone marrow, before chomping on red mullet and roasted prawns perched on creamy brandade, and a dish of silky hake with pickled egg purée, summer vegetables and black pudding. As for pud, we’d advise saving room for the gorgeous praline tart with caramel ice cream. Lunchtime set deals such as mackerel with gooseberries and runner beans followed by lamb shoulder with glistening pea broth are worth it just to gawp at the room’s vast architraves, glorious art and gold lamé pillars, while suited service hits an informed (but informal) sweet spot. Linger over the chunky wine list or indulge in a swift flute of something English before the train.
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£30 - £49
Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
There were a few eye rolls when it was announced that the former site of Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store would become part of the increasingly omnipresent Ivy Collection. Here though, the iconic Ivy moniker has been ditched and replaced with Granary Square Brasserie (we hear the developers didn’t want any restaurant chains in the Square). Nevertheless, it’s very much in the Ivy Brasserie mould – think a jewel-box colour scheme, plush furnishings and switched-on waiters gussied up in suits. The menu isn’t much different either, comprising a selection of simple, well-executed dishes: crispy rings of calamari are pepped up with a sharp wasabi mayo, creamy sautéed mushrooms are piled atop a block of toasted brioche, and delicious balls of truffle arancini burst in the mouth. Mains include staples such as steaks, burgers and fish and chips; our vibrant salad of grilled chicken strips on a bed of crunchy quinoa, with an indulgent side of truffle and parmesan chips, hit the spot. Scotch-based cocktails such as The Flying Scotsman are a fun nod to nearby King’s Cross, while sugary desserts include a glitter-dusted chocolate shell melted at the table by a hot caramel sauce. Like its stablemates, Granary Square Brasserie is far from revolutionary, but for a luxe-feeling dining experience that won’t break the bank, it’s a good shout.
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£30 - £49
5 Stable Street, London, N1C 4AB
Deliberately evoking a railway café in old Bombay during the 1920s, this branch of Dishoom attracts young hipsters and die-hard Indian food fans in equal measure. The multi-tiered restaurant gets packed as efficient staff dart between close-set tables – although you may need to wait in the cocktail bar with a Bombay Martini until there’s a space available. Like its siblings in Shoreditch and Covent Garden, the signature black dhal is legendary, along with fiery-crusted lamb chops served with refreshing, yoghurt raita for dipping. Otherwise, bowls of ‘Ruby Murray’ go well with floppy roti bread, and the menu also runs to street snacks, kebabs, biryanis and desserts such as kulfi on a stick. Drink fruity lassi, exotic ‘coolers’, a bottle of London Fields IPA or something from the modest wine list while you bob to the Indian music and revel in the fun of the place.
More about Dishoom King's Cross
£30 - £49
24 York Way, N1 9AA
Messrs Farrow & Ball could well have provided the dark-blue paintwork and there's stripped wood aplenty, but don't pigeonhole this place as gastro-by-numbers. Whether you fancy sipping cocktails, nibbling on tapas or meeting up for Saturday brunch (buttermilk pancakes and Bloody Marys, anyone?), this member of the Geronimo Inns stable can provide. One reader who dropped by for a lunchtime burger describes it as "unexpectedly good", and the all-day menu offers everything from grilled aubergine and spiced wild rice salad to slow-roast shoulder of lamb with rosemary mash. The hidden roof terrace is a boon in summer, and it's worth venturing upstairs to The Black Door for weekly DJs and live events. With King's Cross station nearby, this pleasant Fellow is also "great for after-work beers" and doffs its cap to the modern-day boozer with aplomb.
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£50 - £79
1 King’s Boulevard, London, N1C 4BU
Built in 1864 for the German Gymnastics Society, D&D London’s immaculate restoration of the German Gymnasium is a return to the mega-brasserie style of their 90s heyday, with brasserie-style food served on the ground floor (lunch, weekend brunch etc.) and a more refined menu available in the main restaurant. The vast ‘grand café’ space is a real spectacle with theatrical staircases linking the sprawling, marble-floored dining room to secluded tables tucked behind gleaming white architrave pillars upstairs. By contrast, the Mittel-European menu is more homely than awe-inspiring, although its stellar renditions of think-cut veal schnitzel, beef broth with calf’s liver dumplings, stroganoff with spätzle or crisp, gooey apple strudel are certainly no less memorable. Meat fiends will warm to Black Forest hams and ample wursts (including a curry version), while a ‘butcher’s plate’ loaded with steak, ox tongue, sausages and sauerkraut outshines the pedestrian rib-eye with crispy onions. Ambitious pricing is offset by lunchtime specials, and the German-led wine list is heaven for fans of Riesling and Spätburgunder. “Exceptionally friendly” suited staff match the stylish setting.
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£30 - £49
Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, King's Cross, London, N1C 4AA
The whizz-kids behind Caravan Coffee Roasters have come a long way since opening their first gaff on Exmouth Market. Now spread across the capital, each site follows the formula with urban-industrial interiors and a seasonally changing all-day menu bristling with ideas from around the world – including the jamon and smoked san simon croquettes with saffron mayonnaise. A sure-fire winner with vegetarians (try the green quinoa grain bowl with burnt grelots, grilled broccoli, miso verde, sprouts and cashews), this mini-chain also offers delicious pizzas at its larger sites, alongside the small-batch coffees that helped to kick-start London’s latest love affair with caffeine. Caravan set the bar high with its trendy brunch options too (we like the paprika and spring onion waffle with thick cut bacon and maple-date butter). A packed, convivial dining room is pretty much guaranteed, ably buoyed by reasonable prices and inexpensive Old World wines.
More about Caravan King's Cross