Caravan EC1
REVIEWS, March 23, 2010
Overall Value
2.5
out of 5
Food 
Service 
Ambience 
2.5
£54
  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambience

On the former Clerkenwell site of Al’s (RIP) Caravan is a Moro-inspired bistro, which offers interesting ‘small-plate’ dishes; the atmosphere is agreeably laid-back, but service is sometimes just plain slow.

Too many restaurants in London in recent times have specialised in the known-and-usual. It’s understandable enough in hard economic times, but it’s getting a bit dull nonetheless. So all credit to this new Clerkenwell outfit for offering something rather different. Its menu reads like no other in town (well not that we can think of anyway).

That’s presumably because it combines a number of genuinely diverse inspirations, including Australia (the country) and Moro (the perennially trendy Spanish/Moroccan restaurant, just up the street).

The menu also features pork buns. Does this otherwise odd inclusion hint at further inspiration from New York, where the similarly grungily-located Momofuku Ssäm Bar has made quite a really big name – attaining 31st position in the most recent World 50 Best Restaurants Awards! – with a diverse small-plate menu famously featuring pork buns? Well, it could just be a coincidence’

Anyway, let’s start by getting the pork buns out of the way. The ones here are not up to the ‘historic’ MSB standards: they’re pretty good, but not so as you immediately have to order a second helping.

The other dishes we should frankly – in defiance of our usual approach – have noted at the time (or at least have taken away a copy of the menu). As it is, we fear the dish descriptions of which the bill is now the only record – such as ‘baked Ricotta’, ‘Pickled Mackerel’ and ‘Couscous’ – do scant justice to the almost invariably wacky combos. It is perhaps inevitable that this sort of pick ‘n’ mix cuisine will have its highs and lows: our meal had both, but with the emphasis on the former.

Puddings were a particular highlight, with a beguilingly simple-seeming blancmange a triumph. They make a lot of fuss about coffee, incidentally: which of three varieties did we want?. Well, what we’d really have liked was someone to warm the espresso cup properly.

Other quibbles include inexplicably slow service, and dishes (even the less adventurous larger-plate choices) whose generosity would make this a poor place for a trenchermen. For lunch or for light grazing, however, this is certainly a place worth at least one visit.

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