Monday, March 08, 2010

Caravan, Exmouth Market

Eating at Caravan was something very like living in a caravan, I imagine. Cold, crowded and dimly lit with constant noisy interruptions. Not that I’ve ever actually been inside a caravan, except for a very large RV in the US which doesn’t really count as it had a garage in it and I got lost looking for the toilets.

Caravan is something of an anomaly. On one hand there’s an impeccable pedigree with Miles Kirby, who was chef at The Providores & Tapa Room in Marylebone for the last six years, in charge. They roast their own coffee, they have some excellent baristas and from all accounts they serve an excellent brunch.  On paper this should be a winner. In reality, in the hurly burly of a Saturday night it had trouble fighting it’s way out a paper bag.

The food is as you’d expect, an Antipodean jag of small sharing plates based around 5 or 6 for two people with clean simple modern flavours. Sort of.  Salt beef fritters were warming but oddly flavourless. Wontons filled with cheese and peas, whilst harking to some classic comedy were not great. A mutton chop was lovely but microscopic; a mackerel dish almost saved the day, two simple little fillets that were stunning and the crowning glory, a great little dish of salt and pepper squid, reminding me of a similar dish at that Balmain in Sydney stalwart, Blue Ginger. Dessert was unassuming and the espresso great.

Being seated by the massive windows was a chilling experience, whilst I’m sure they’ll be lovely when it’s hot and they can throw them open, it was not pleasant with a chill wind blowing. Service was oddly over attentive, we got asked at last six or seven times if everything was fine, which whilst sweet at first got old and annoying fast. Oddly, three people from a large adjoining table decided they would stand next to our table and have a conversation. It was a perfectly civil conversation but they were standing with their backs to us and so their bottoms were at head height for about 20 minutes. It made it tricky to get the waiters attention. Particularly odd behavior as the bar was a couple of paces away and largely empty.

I can see that Caravan would be a hit with the Exmouth Market trendoid brigade and can imagine myself enjoying brunch with an impeccably made flat white in the sunshine of a summery Saturday. In the chill of winter it’s Antipodean charm doesn’t shine through.


Barbara said...

Such a shame when evenings turn out like this one. The arrogance(or maybe it is ignorance) of some people astounds me.A group of 3, standing talking in the middle of the footpath in our local area, means stepping on the road to get by.

Suzanne P said...

I had a stunning lunch here at the weekend. I'm not sure you went on the right night to be reviewing the place as badly as you have.

Monkey Gland said...

Barbara: Yup, unfortunate, but true.

Suzy P: Tell you what, I'll give it another go soon.

Jo said...

it's such a shame that you had a bad caravan experience. I've been there a couple of times for take away coffee and it was amazing and have been looking forward to trying out their food. I reckon I'll still give them a chance....let us know how it goes if you give them a second chance.