Hot on the heels of a new London restaurant opening and continuing my search of the city’s best quinoa, I stumbled upon the newly opened Granger & Co. in King’s Cross – Bill Granger’s third London branch – for a birthday celebration. Not only would supper here be a joint birthday treat for both my sister and I (whose birthday is the day after mine), but we were also enjoying a complimentary meal here – covering unlimited food and drinks – as part of their Soft Launch welcome. Although this had initially taken place the previous weekend, their forgotten call to inform me about it led to the oh-so-friendly Toby extending the offer to another evening, and when better than on a birthday?! A double treat this would definitely be.
This latest branch of Granger & Co. is nestled on the ground floor of the Stanley building in the bustling, foodie hotspot that is Granary Square. This is home to Grain Store (where I enjoyed a birthday brunch with school friends), Dishoom (which I sampled during their soft launch), Caravan, Vinoteca, Kerb Street market, the Greek Larder, Notes Coffee…the list goes on. As the Evening Standard reports, “[f]rom transport hub to foodie hub: King’s Cross has become a go-to dining destination” (http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/supersize-me-how-kings-cross-has-become-londons-latest-restaurant-hub-10151309.html). For Bill Granger himself, “King’s Cross is the most connected place in London, and is set up for ideas – Central St Martins, The Francis Crick Institute and Google are just a few of our neighbours. It’s a new creative hub in the most creative city of the world and I’m thrilled at the prospect of being part of it“. So popular is King’s Cross becoming as a foodie centre that it’s easily battling East London’s spot, Broadgate Circle, for a top new spot.
Yet Granger’s popularity spills far beyond this city. His relaxed, friendly and Australian approach to dining has become truly global. In 2008 Bill went international, from Tokyo and Honolulu, where he now has four successful eateries, to Seoul. I read that he even has five TV series which I look forward to tuning into. I’ll have to return for brunch another time – the staple meal of Australia; apparently, the Notting Hill branch has long queues at the weekend, and even early in the week, the tightly packed tables and stools along the bar are fully occupied. Granger & Co. is likely stiff competition for the brunch dishes of nearby Caravan. The Ricotta hotcakes served with banana and honeycomb butter (£11.80) are legendary: resembling American-style pancakes, they’re described as thick but ethereally light with spots of ricotta strewn throughout and served with ripe banana and a gooey honeycomb butter. I’ve seen them appear on many lists of London’s top brunch dishes. What’s more, Healthista votes breakfast at Granger & Co. one of London’s ten best.
Every Bill Granger restaurant seeks to reflect “the spirit we like to think of as “Australian”: sunny, easy-going and generous” – so an evening here would, I hope, take me abroad. Inside, the place is decked-out in a cool yet opulent way: light coloured walls, neutral flooring, modern Scandi meets East Asian looking furniture, and smatterings of brass on light fittings and other fixtures. The mini-mushroom lamps across the bar stood out to me. It’s comfortable, yet classy and spacious.
As we were enjoying Granger & Co. on the soft launch offer, and it was my birthday, I couldn’t resist a good perusal of the drinks menu. This was especially so as just that morning Granger & Co.’s cocktail list had appeared on Just Opened London’s “London Exposed: Summer’s Top 5 Cocktails“. According to this blog, the central ingredient of mixology is getting the balance right between forward-looking drinks and ones that represent the past. And for me, this is exactly what this birthday was about – a reflective yet positively future-orientated day. To pair with Granger’s fusion-style Asian cooking were experimental drinks; cocktails play with unusual beverage ingredients including jam, avocado, jasmine, wasabi and chilli. Less experimental for me, however, I couldn’t resist a birthday spritz which was a mix of Vodka, rouge rosso, aperol and (exotic/tropical!) passion fruit (£11). This was certainly a refreshing twist from the usual aperol orange spritz. My sister’s Summer cup (£11), meanwhile, was another summery option, although I found the Damson vodka and rhubarb bitters (£11) a touch too bitter.
A whole section of the drinks menu is also dedicated to Juices and Smoothies. Ranging from a simple Freshly squeezed orange juice (£3.30), to Bill’s cold-pressed beets (£4.80) composed of beetroot, carrot, fennel, and apple, the Greens (£4.80) also appealed. I was also incredibly intrigued by their Watermelon and lime frappe (£4.50), their Acai and raspberry frappe (£5) and pleasantly surprised to learn that their Coffee frappe (£5) is made with espresso, milk and avocado! Unfortunately, however, the juices and smoothies are only served until 5pm. I’m sure I’ll be back to sample these – especially as their coffee is sourced from Allpress.
The food, meanwhile, took me well beyond the bounds of Australia; many of the dishes had a fusion feel, inspired by Granger’s far-flung travels. Indeed, King’s Cross and St. Pancras, as a railway-station, is the ideal setting for travel-inspired foods. The menu showcases his trips to Tokyo, Seoul, Honolulu, Sydney, and many more I’m sure, and is divided into snacks, starters, pasta dishes and a range of salads. Speaking of salads, one of the highlights of the evening for me was the way nearly every dish that emerged from the kitchen was stunningly adorned with salad leaves – whether delicate watercress leaves or colourful chicory. Dishes were spilling over in healthiness!
From the small plate selections, I was attracted by so many choices, such as the Courgette chips, nigella seed & tahini yoghurt (£7.50) (partly so I could compare them to Tozi’s much enjoyed version), and the Whipped avocado, tofu & wasabi, served with breakfast radishes, seeded chia and dulse crackers (£7.50) as this was a combination completely new to me and I’m a big fan of crackers. As the portions were generous, we shared these dishes, as well as the other vegetarian options: Charred baby corn, mayo, and parmesan (£7) and Grilled asparagus, yuzu, pepper crème fraiche, and sesame salt (£8.50). Even the mention of exotic yuzu jumped out the menu at me, a citrus flavour which Kopapa whips up in their raspberry and mint smoothie!
The star starter dish for my sisters, meanwhile, was the Buffalo mozzarella, broad beans, garlic chives & nettle olive oil (£7). The seasonality of the ingredients is such that minimal fuss is required in their preparation; Granger & Co. allow the quality of the food to sing for itself.
For mains, one of my sister’s went for the Courgette, broad bean and spelt tagliatelle, with kale, parmesan and pistachio pesto (£13), whilst the other opted for Ancho braised lentils and buffalo mozzarella tacos, with avocado, coriander and fried onions (£13). I was so delighted that the tacos were made from blue-corn – which I’d finally managed to track down in Selfridges’ Food Hall as part of their Mexican Fiesta. The lentils were wonderfully flavoured and the perfect accompaniment to the creamy guacamole. The pasta, meanwhile, was adorned with the seasonal broad beans and the dish was oozing a fresh aroma.
I went for the Citrus Quinoa Salad, served with sprouting sunflower seeds, beetroot, chilli and tahini yoghurt to replace the feta (£12.50). The tahini accompaniment formed an ideal dressing-style addition, and the dish was beautifully presented with quinoa stuffed inside fresh lettuce leaves. I also enjoyed a side of Sprouting lentil croquetas with chipotle mayo (£6.50), which sounded to me like fancy falafel! Our food was flavoursome. Everything was incredibly light, almost airy, which is remarkable considering the impressive depth of flavour.
For afters, my brother-in-law – whose mother is a meringue champion – couldn’t resist the White chocolate and pistachio pavolva, with strawberries and rosewater yoghurt (£7.50). This was a visual feast. My other brother-in-law, meanwhile, went for the more Oriental and experimental Jasmine panna cotta and black sesame crumb (£6.50), whilst my sisters enjoyed scoops of Salted caramel and Vanilla ice cream. Apparently the vanilla was one of the best they’ve sampled. Although I was too full for another course, the nutty options sung out to me – from the Salted peanut brittle (£3) and the Dark chocolate pistachio fudge (£3), to the Bitter chocolate and peanut butter mousse (£7). These were all very much up my street.
Bill opened his first restaurant in Sydney’s Darlinghurst at the age of 24 – a year younger than my new age. Very impressive. Vibrant, fresh and bursting with unusual flavours, Granger & Co flies the flag for Australian fusion. And what better way to celebrate a birthday than at a soft launch?
Follow-up dinner at Granger’s & Co.’s Clerkenwell branch
For a catch-up dinner with my companion who now always chooses the venue we meet up at – a lovely relief for me as she’s well aware of my fussy dining requirements – she picked out somewhere very me – Granger & Co.! Although I’d already been here on my aforesaid birthday dinner, it was still exciting as this was a different branch and a new Autumn menu.
After much umming and ahhing, we both ordered the Puy lentil, burrata, basil and sourdough croutons (£13). Bowl food, for me, is the ultimate winter comfort food. The dish was fantastic: whilst the buratta was deliciously creamy, the real stars of the show were the puy lentils. Although lentils are so central to Indian foods, we don’t often use French puy lentils. They had a delicious bite, which was further enhanced by the croutons, and were very well seasoned, cooked in fresh tomatoes, plenty of garlic and a moreish smoky salt flavour. It was also very generously portioned. This is a dish I’d recommend and certainly worth a return trip to Granger & Co. A trip to the Notting Hill branch is now definitely in order, perhaps for brunch as I’m very keen on trying out their fritters.
Granger & Co., 7 Pancras Square, London, N1C 4AG / 50 Sekforde Street, London, EC1R 0HA