The child behind me was whining like a kid goat being dragged to slaughter. The woman on my right was snoring so loudly that she was trapped in an ineluctable cycle of waking herself up before falling asleep again. The man on my left had either forgotten that handkerchiefs exist, or rather enjoyed the sound/sensation of snorting every last drop of unconquerable mucus into the innermost depths of his Eustachian tube, only for it to creep back up again at ten second intervals. My choir master couldn’t have conducted this orchestral animal pen better. Before I’d even sat down, I’d already lost one armrest and some precious space to the woman overlapping my seat on the right. Not prepared to cede the other armrest, I draped my left arm determinedly over it, only for the mucus snorter to pile his arm on top of mine. I was forced to retreat after half an hour, having been worn down, too, by his second tier of offence: the occasional lifting of his arm to allow puffs of BO to corrupt my nostrils. The last straw was when the trolley, preceded by the unmistakeable signature stale aeroplane scent, reached my row, only to deliver some form of unidentifiable swill. My only escape was to conjure up a memory of last week’s brunch at Grain Store, King’s Cross….
An oasis in the desert that is the North London restaurant scene, Grain Store opened a year and half ago with others such as Caravan and Dishoom following suit. Locating it in King’s Cross has afforded the restaurant an atmosphere unlike most central London restaurants: a sprawling high ceilinged airy haven, urban rustic in feel, with an open kitchen. The cuisine is vegetarian-focused (very on trend for 2015) and excitingly innovative.
To start we tried the beetroot, apple, celery and pomegranate molasses juice and the hibiscus and raspberry cocktail. The beetroot was pleasant but, tastewise, the health benefits were a little too evident. The latter, however, was very good.
Focaccia with olive oil followed – freshly baked, with the crunchy dukkah addition an innovative twist on the standard.
I ordered the yoghurt and chickpea pancake with avocado, tomato and jalapeno salsa and merguez. The pancake, laced with slices of merguez, was velvety and wonderfully savoury. The salsa was well flavoured, but could have verged more dangerously on the side of spicy.
I’m a rather fierce food predator and so managed to steal a forkful of my dining companion’s Moroccan carrot salad, with spiced labneh and linseed flatbread. Well-spiced, fresh, and visually and texturally vibrant, I was struck with all too familiar food envy (not in place of my dish but as well as).
The empanada was also a success. I didn’t manage to try it but heard satisfied mumbles coming from my other dining companion.
I did manage to try the Korean slaw, Kaffir lime chicken burger with a fried egg on a muffin.
Succulent, savoury, spicy, slightly sweet and citrusy, the Korean slaw is a reason in itself to visit Grain Store. I shall dedicate some time attempting to replicate it. The burger was also delicious, although there was not enough of it.
Dessert was unavoidable. The baked apple, rosemary crumble, and crème fraiche with caramel sauce possessed all the right textures as well as flavours: sweet, salty and slightly perfumed by the rosemary. However, I am a crumble fiend and firmly believe there should be more crumble than fruit – much more – and this did not vaguely meet my crumble quantity requirements, nor those of my dining companion.
The special of the day was blueberry tart. It was as you would expect a good blueberry tart to be – the pastry crisp, and the blueberries jammy, but I would have liked a touch of citrus to offset the sweetness.
Overall, it was a great experience - so much so that it managed, in recollection, to transport me away from the animal pen sights and sounds during my recent flight. The atmosphere is informal yet chic, the service is fine, and the food strays into far more exciting and modern territory than many London restaurants dare to do, especially for brunch.
Suitable for: casual dates, friends, family, brunch, all-day dining, vegetarians, vegans