CARAVAN, LONDON

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I’m revelling in my new found weekend freedom in a big way. Time to make the most. Brunch, lunch, dinner out? Why not?

Following Friday night, we made a dash to Boyce da Roca for a restorative brunch. I’ve written about it before so I won’t bore you but it absolutely works wonders. Also, something I hadn’t been aware of, the quirky decor also comes ‘to takeaway’. Anything you like the look of, seats, wall art, plant pot, you can buy and I’ll admit I did love the colour of our table. Brightened my morning.

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Moving on, stop two was neighbourhood, Victorian pub, The Queen’s Head. In the main the décor is laid-back and cosy, with beautiful worn tiles and wooden floors. This charming venue showcases an eclectic range of beers and ciders and host live jazz on Thursdays and Sundays. We knew we had plans for dinner so we held back and didn’t splurge on the meat and cheese boards but they look generous and delicious. They also serve chilli rice crackers and wasabi peas by the tumbler full so we staved off hunger with a quick nibble.

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Just one problem with this place… no rugby. Dating an Irish man, the last day of the six nations means that loitering around in crowded pubs for hours with on-edge rugby fans is pretty much a given. I succumbed to the inevitable but negotiated dinner in Dishoom to sweeten the deal. The Irish match well won, we scurried towards the branch at King’s Cross. I naively believed that turning up at around 4:30pm might give us a fair chance at being seated – wishful thinking extraordinaire!

One little grumble, I do find it a little unnecessary and self-important when restaurants don’t take reservations, it makes the experience more frantic and artificially fuels some halo of exclusivity. Moan done, I hold my hands up and happily admit another day I probably will sit it out for the chance to eat there because, frustratingly, I recognise the hype around Dishoom isn’t all hot air.

Luckily Dishoom’s neighbours are worthy competition in their own right, a number of which feature on my to-do list. Caravan it was. Famed for their original, delicious pizzas, this restaurant has lots more to offer besides.

Minimalist and trendy but still family friendly, Caravan is beautifully turned out. The zoned café, bar and restaurant areas leave you to choose the vibe that suits you and the chefs in the open kitchen are a spectacle. Service certainly isn’t warm and friendly but efficient at least.

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The menu is a little opaque. When you’re picking chances are you won’t recognise one listed ingredient or other per dish so you have to just wait and hope but sometimes half of the fun is the discovery. We were still in the mood for a bit of pick and mix so avoided the pizza and instead plumped for a number of small plates, five in all. Highlights I’d say were the River farm smoked scottish salmon with avocado, chilli ponzu, nori and, surprisingly, the tempura tofu with mushrooms. Nice goats’ cheese and beetroot plate and decent soft shell crab.

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Price wise, this isn’t budget dining. It won’t break the bank but given the portion sizes, the price of some dishes seem pretty OTT. Five chickpea chips, however tasty, shouldn’t cost £5.50 in my book. In my boyfriend’s words, ‘I know exactly how much a can of chickpeas cost and no amount of fancy pants techniques can justify that mark up.’ Stingy maybe, but I’m inclined to agree. I don’t expect to leave hungry but to eat enough to satiate our appetite would have needed another 2-3 plates which we were loathed to order at the price.

In any case, I’m really pleased we went. Different? Certainly. Substantial? Not so much. Next time it has to be pizza. For me it was an interesting and refreshing interlude – we were straight back to the pub after for the second half of the England match!

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