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 soft, Josper-roasted flesh of roasted aubergine, swirled with tahini, tomato and pistachio dukkah.
Other dishes and flavours were new to us – a dish of Yellow Tail sashimi, pickled okra, mango, ginger and chilli rockets between sweetness, acidity and heat, in such a way that it took us a couple of bites to process everything that was going on. We decided, eventually, that it was delicious. The same can be said of gently roasted summer tomatoes, served with a strawberry coulis - a brave pairing but the interplay of sweetness and tang absolutely works.
The larger mains are a little less exciting, leaning on tried and tested flavours. That said, no-one is complaining when faced with a smoky, charcoal-grilled chicken skewer, served with the glorious, soft innards of a coal-roasted leek, or the pulled leg of lamb which we hungrily wrapped in lettuce cups, and doused in sharp cucumber relish. Signature cocktails can be a disappointment in many of London's more expensive restaurants, but Coal Office does a bang up job, offering some genuinely inventive, exciting drinks.
While the 160-seat site, spread over a restaurant, chef’s table, bar and roof terrace, might not have the 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 you love a restaurant with a vibe, Coal Office certainly won't disappoint.