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Grain Store Unleashed review

Grain Store Unleashed review

by Ella Timney 18 May 2015

We visited Bruno Loubet's Grain Store Unleashed for a spectacular tasting menu that put vegetables first.

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For the uninitiated, Grain Store is the wildly successful restaurant of supremo chef Bruno Loubet. With an ethos of vegetable-heavy, cow-rejecting goodness, this King’s Cross behemoth has delighted diners not just for flavour, but with the ethical turn of Bruno’s cooking.

With the success of this model, and the chef’s growing love of all things non-animal, it comes as no surprise that this formula should be attempted elsewhere - in this case as a takeover of Bistro Bruno Loubet at the Zetter Hotel in Farringdon.

What made this prospect immensely appealing was that this new venture is not just a copy-and-paste replica of Grain Store, but a set of dinner tasting menus packed with playful ingredients and just enough mystique to be intriguing (without crossing over into the realm of eye-rolling vaguery). The buzz of the restaurant that greeted us was indicative of London Foodies’ verve for a reduced-meat menu.

We started with a dish of Vegetable oyster and caviar, “Bottom of the sea”. I am a supreme oyster lover but, thanks to my stupid body, I now am apparently allergic to these bizarrely sensual little molluscs. Thankfully, the vegetarian version offered all of the happy seaside smack in the face as its marine counterpart. Tapioca pearls served as the ‘caviar’, with the classic oyster shallot dressing tricking my mind into playing along with these vegetable interlopers.

Next was the Asparagus in brown butter, pomelo and bronze fennel. It’s hard to describe adequately how revelatory this dish is, the kind of thing where you question why pomelo and brown butter hasn’t made it into the canon of contemporary cookery. The way the sweetly tart pomelo nodules warmly popped in your mouth - all the while offering a tart reprieve to the intense brown butter - was a sensory delight. I’ll have a plate of that to go please, forever.

Next came a dazzlingly colourful dish of Pickled flowers and rhubarb with sea trout, jostling with green apple purée and bergamot emulsion. The rhubarb had a savoury bent to its pickle that melded beautifully with this plate of sweet, rich and sour. The bergamot emulsion was frothy, pithy and luxuriously rich in the mouth, the perfect match to the sea trout.

Asparagus in brown butter, pomelo and bronze fennel
Asparagus in brown butter, pomelo and bronze fennel
Kohlrabi and broad bean ravioli
Kohlrabi and broad bean ravioli

Next was a Kohlrabi and broad bean ravioli, with creaminess of broad beans soothingly mingling with the fresh tender crunch of the kohlrabi. Again, the balance of familiarly rich and distinctly French techniques were brought to life with a new set of unusual ingredients.

With that host of delights out of the way, it was time for the ‘meatier’ courses. First came the Charlotte potato, roasted with bay and served with an incredibly rich, slow-cooked egg that oozed happily over the plate. The spring cabbage was caramelised and sumptuous, and a shard of crisp chicken skin rested on top of it all like a wonky golden crown.

The next dish was the only out-and-out meat dish, with wood pigeon rubbing shoulders with sweet beetroot, a pithy orange purée and a caramelised, sticky sauce. The pigeon had a livery depth that coddled you into a rich, velvety reverie, providing a fantastically meaty crescendo to the meal.

Dessert was a Parsnip and white chocolate cream with a zingy matcha tea powder and a grapefruit and passion fruit purée to add a pleasing tang to proceedings. The caramelised puffed oats lent a glorious crunch, then followed a pot of lemon and strawberry delights to hold your your hand and skip through the finish line of this 8 course mega-menu. Yes, funnily enough, after 8 courses of mainly vegetables I felt devastatingly full, although not like I’d been assaulted with a full arsenal of animal fats that regularly cloak tasting menus. While meat is woven through the menu it merely plays a supporting role, used to elevate the vegetables to their rightful place high atop the pyramid of culinary prominence.

Grain Store Unleashed is mysteriously billed to be open ‘for the next few months’*. This is perhaps a move to test the waters, and see just how open to change people are - are punters really ready to swap in Bruno’s more classical French dishes for these bright young vegetables? If the joyous clamour that rippled through the restaurant on my visit is anything to go by, they most certainly are.

Grain Store Unleashed

St John's Square, 86-88 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5RJ

Phone: +44 (0)20 7324 4455

*Grain Store Unleased is open until the 31st July, 2015

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Grain Store Unleashed review


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