Grain Store Unleashed, an exciting new pop-up venture by Chef Bruno Loubet and The Zetter Group, was open for a limited period only at The Zetter Hotel. Reading reviews of pasta-free “ravioli” immediately attracted me to the idea of dining at Grain Store Unleashed on a work lunch. What’s more, Bloomberg’s opening line of its review was a major attraction: “Bruno Loubet is top banana when it comes to healthy eating”! Not only are Grain Store and Grain Store Unleashed health-conscious, but they’re also vege-focused. Grain Store Unleashed’s concept shares the same DNA as Bruno’s much-lauded King’s Cross restaurant, so vegetables are very much the stars of the show. Although I’d already sampled Bruno’s Grain Store innovation on a birthday brunch, this is furthered at Grain Store Unleashed. Here, it seems, Bruno takes an even more adventurous, risky and experimental approach to dishes, allowing his culinary imagination to be “unleashed”. Vegetables are the star of the show, rather than merely well-presented “sides” around predominantly meat dishes. Surely here carnivores can be convinced not to underestimate the culinary prowess of vegetables. This place certainly feels edgier than its sister restaurant.
The Zetter Hotel is also a charming venue. I’d been there once before when I visited Bistrot Bruno Loubet, sampling his “authentic” beetroot ravioli (made with actual pasta!). The décor is vege-centric, with fun images of vegetables. Indeed, our bill was even presented to us in a giant apple.
Whilst we persued the menu, we enjoyed our vege-centric beverages. Foregoing the cocktails, as a Vitamix addict I opted for a freshly made juice of Curly kale, cucumber, apple and lime (£4.50). This was refreshing and a naturally sweet – it was just the kind of green introduction to the venue that I was so expecting for the Grain Store Unleashed.
The cooking, meanwhile, proved to be fiendishly clever, with dishes tailored to the ingredients at hand. Many plates are built around herbs that Loubet has picked while walking in the countryside near his home, whilst vegetables growing in his garden also feature. Further, his dishes are originals and there’s no overlap with the original Grain Store. All in all, it’s a virtuoso menu and one that can be adapted to vegetarians (although vegans will need to notify the restaurant in advance). It’s also excellent value: the 8 course set menu is £39. At lunch, there is an a la carte menu available but in the evening, you can choose a set menu of 4,6, or 8 dishes.
The stand out dish for me was, of course, the Kohlrabi and Broad Bean Ravioli, Ramson (£7.50/£14), with the “ravioli” made from finely sliced kohlrabi. So light and ethereal was this composition that you’d never believe it wasn’t pasta, with the kohlrabi providing the perfect “al dente” bite. The dish was hugely playful. The pockets are filled with a custard of broad beans and tofu and served on a ragu of spring peas, broad beans and seasonal wild garlic. The creaminess of the broad beans – exceedingly generously portioned – soothingly mingled with the fresh tender crunch of the kohlrabi. This dish has the colour of spring, while the flavour is like a piece of music where you can pick out each individual element whilst appreciating the harmony of the whole. I was also attracted by one of the simplest dishes: Asparagus in brown butter, pomelo, and bronze fennel (£8). However, foregoing starters, I merely asked for some white asparagus, which featured in their special dish of the day, to be added to my pasta dish.
My fellow diners also enjoyed broad beans in their Spring vegetable cassoulet served with pulled lamb shoulder (£16). Our table was even presented with complimentary Corn brioche bread with avocado butter, which was deliciously green and fresh.
Even the desserts feature vegetables, demonstrating that greens do have natural touches of sweetness. Parsnips are served with white chocolate cream, matcha tea, pink grapefruit, passion-fruit gel and caramelised puffed oat (£6). On this occasion, however, we had no space, but I shall be sure to return to sample their delights, also eyeing another table’s Lemon and strawberry petit pot, served with a rosemary crumble (£6).
Grain Store Unleashed, The Zetter Hotel, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, St. John’s Square, EC1M 5RJ