A crowd-pleasing combination of creative small plates and cool interiors. Absolutely reviews Caravan
Words Helen Brown
With five outposts across London, you might expect Caravan to be on a slippery downward slope to the echelons of chain restaurant. But having frequented both the Fitzrovia and Exmouth Market outposts for two brilliant brunches and now the Bankside site for a sensational dinner, I can ascertain that there is not a whiff of chain eatery in sight. Like stylish sisters, each restaurant has its own cool aesthetic.
Where the Fitzrovia site is awash with dusky hues, thriving foliage and pink brickwork, the Bankside restaurant is an exemplar in Scandi-chic. Think soft grey upholstery, slick barstools and geometric fittings. The constant across all Caravan outposts is spectacular food. We kick things off superbly with the Caravan-famous stilton and peanut wontons. Who would have thought that such a pairing would work so well? The stilton oozes out from the crunchy wonton shell into the sweet soy dipping sauce. Next, it’s another iconic Caravan number, the jalapeño cornbread with chipotle butter. It’s cakey in texture and vibrant with spice and a squeeze of lime. It’s a tapas-sized portion of which I could have devoured many.
The chargrilled cabbage comes highly recommended; it’s gorgeously blacked in parts and adorned with vivid pink loops of macerated onion. A generous scattering of stilton and a sweet den miso dressing lift the humble cabbage to a whole new height. My friend swoons at the crispy pork belly which is glazed in tamarind caramel and served in bite-sized chunks with crunchy celery and salted cucumber. It’s divine but the star of the show for me is the split pea dahl. It’s a comforting bowl of soft textures and subtle spice. The dahl retains enough bite so as not to be sloppy and is accompanied with a ginger jam, a carrot relish and coconut yoghurt. It all makes for excellent eating when scooped up with cornbread, prawn crackers, fingers – however you deem acceptable.
The savoury menu is definitely stronger than the sweet but we are still tempted to eat more. The Madagascan dark chocolate ‘cream’ would be very rich if it weren’t for the gorgeous light, mouse-like texture and syrupy sorbet which smacks you in the face with peach flavour. It’s all so superb, I catch myself enviously eyeing up the neighbouring table as their plates arrive, wishing we could start it all over again.
Check out our review of Chandni Raja here