17 March 2012
If one were crazy enough to open a restaurant in London then it's fair to say that King's Cross wouldn't be the obvious place for i unless you were intent on proving your craziness to all and sundry. Despite the money being pumped into the area, it's going to be a while before anybody in their right mind heads there for anything other than the train station.
That being said, if you are going to open a new resto, it's important to stand out from the crowd. And one way to stand out, when you're surrounded by a million and one single item places around serving only burgers or only fried chicken or only subs or only sarnies, is to make sure you serve absolutely eeeeverything…
After some excellent lemon soused pickled veg and moreish (if teetotal) bourbon pecan nuts we greedily attacked the menu. There's a lot I like the look of, but very little that readily goes together as a meal. From an overly diverse selection of hot and cold starters we travelled from Britain to Finland via the Deep South. With the exception of an over plasticised Lobster Mac ‘n’ cheese, the other plates worked well, if not necessarily together. Southern Fried Quail was finger lickin' excellent, the oft dry bird protected and gamey flavours enhanced by a spicy, crispy crumb. Scandinavian style eel on a dark nutty rye was a silkily simple morsel perfectly executed as was a firm and rich British classic of brawn on toast.
I'd tried to match the Southern theme with a main of ‘Shrimp and Grits’. Pleasant enough, it just wasn't as I'd expected. Traditionally served as a slightly looser mixture, the corn grits were here more like a firm toasted polenta cake, topped with four or five big plump shrimps and doused in a rich salty gravy. Not actively unpleasant, but neither was it entirely satisfying. The polenta came hotter than the sun, an unwelcome plating error. Other mains veered from Asian influenced fish, via Moroccan chicken through to North European potato pancakes. As I say, none of us had a bad meal, there just wasn't a central concept to hang it off.
Like the food, there's definitely a deal of thought gone into the design of the place, though it tries to be as all encompassing as the menu. The interior designer must have had an awfully challenging time. You can imagine the conversation over the mood boards. “Ok, I'm not sure on the menu concept, it looks like you're trying to offer a little bit of everything, which is great, so we could take the design from any number of these five different styles, which do you prefer?”. “All of them… Let's have all of them. At the same time…”
There's Lower East Side concrete chic into Scandi furniture and an eco/sustainable herb wall, a British member's bar downstairs next door to a Hard Rock styled section with plectrum tables and wall mounted guitars and that's without mentioning the black, red and gold blinged bathroom suitable for an oligarch. Enough already, just don't come here with a headache…
Quirks also exist at the similarly schizophrenic Bob Bob Ricard, but there the design pulls it together perfectly and while the menu moves around, there's plenty you can make a great meal from.
Neither Karpo's menu or decor really seem to know what they're trying to achieve currently, and to be honest neither do we, which is a shame, as there's definitely talent in the open plan galley kitchen at the back, focused too widely on an extensive range of disparate dishes. It's a pleasant enough meal, made good by excellent company, but there isn't anything else that'll drag me back here and I couldn't begin to describe it well enough to send anyone else.