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.