King’s Cross has yet another new restaurant. Such news is now met with either clamouring excitement or a stifled yawn. Don’t get me wrong: it’s fantastic to see such progression and investment in what was until the early 21st century the toilet of London. It’s just so difficult keeping up with all the new openings (a first world problem if there ever was one).
One undisputed star of this redeveloped area was Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store, located next door to Central Saint Martins, and known for being one of the first restaurants to put plant-based food at the forefront of its offering. This appeared to be in rude health but shut its doors last summer. So the story goes, an offer too good to refuse came through, so Loubet retired to Australia and the site became the new, gleaming Granary Square Brasserie just before Christmas. Out with a vegetable-focused eatery and in with a non-descript pan-international bistro.
In a way it’s a shame that a restaurant that was ahead of its time has been replaced with something so generic (though Grain Store’s Gatwick branch still exists). Not wanting to pre-judge its replacement of course, my first impressions of Granary Square Brasserie are actually positive. The front of house staff are polite. The lighting level is sensible. Seating is comfortable. There is an impressive bar taking centre-stage, an open ceiling revealing the air conditioning system (that industrial look that is so ‘in’ at the moment), and marble table tops which are mercifully covered in tablecloths in the evening. However, the background music comes from the Berners Tavern school of thought: loud, thumping, high-energy noise. Personally I find that irritating. Maybe I’m just an old soul – the kids might like it but I don’t.
From the bar I tried their English Amber Negroni – made with East London gin and Sacred Amber vermouth, it’s a little underwhelming and prepared with too much ice in the glass. The bar also boasts an extensive selection of beers and pale ales, all from the UK – perhaps necessitated by Brexit but why they’re all so expensive when there are no import costs I’m not sure.
Indeed, one thing that is abundantly clear about this restaurant is that it is overpriced. Once you add a mere side salad and chips to a rib eye steak it notches up to £40. A “snack”, aperitif, main course, glass of wine and coffee all came to £72. It isn’t cheap. As this is run by the Ivy group, I’m not surprised.
As for the food itself, its crowd-pleasing all-day menu is always going to be a red flag: it shows a lack of imagination, a cloyingly saccharine desire to please everyone. The cooks end up being a jack of all trades and master of none, serving the same old dishes time after weary time. And, well, it shows. Yes, there are some highlights: the truffle arancini are gorgeous, and the rib eye is cooked on the bone to maximise flavour. However, the meal I have is not without faults: whilst the steak is cooked to the requested cuisson (which really doesn’t deserve praise – that’s just meeting expectations), the bearnaise sauce is sub-par and gloopy (left too long under the lights on the pass?), the exorbitantly-priced green herb salad is under-dressed, and the chips are too salty. All relatively minor errors in the grand scheme, but one has to remember how much you’re paying.
As for the wine selection, there is virtually nothing with any decent age and, like with everything else here, it’s expensive for what it is.
Being part of Caprice Holdings I’m sure Granary Square Brasserie will be a successful business, and it’s not terrible, but the food is not worth crossing London for. I imagine this will simply be propped up by the nearby Guardianistas and Googleytes on their business lunches. If you happen to be in the area and don’t mind dropping 70 quid for an emergency steak, then perhaps it will do, and it does have the advantage of being open late (last orders at 10.30pm on weeknights) but there are better places where your money will go further. Having sampled all the other restaurants in north-central London, the Gilbert Scott remains the gold standard. Nothing else in the area compares.
1-3 Stable Street
by J A Smith