Caravan, King's Cross, London
The newish branch is spacious and high-ceilinged, and the food seemed better to me.
Omelettes are gorgeously and uncommonly thick and fluffy, and in the hang town fry there's small soft cubes of potato embedded in the egg, contrasting the steaky meaty bacon, and fried oysters, crispy on the outside, soft and snappy on the inside. Contrast from nutty leafy bites of rocket.
Parmesan grits are great -- creamy and rich and flavoursome. Excellent girolles and other mushrooms, including slices of a mild long stemmed variety that was oyster mushroom-like in its snappy texture. They work very well with the meaty salty wild boar sausage that take the mild ground flavour robustness, between light and bready to beefy and gamey.
Chicken and waffles were enhanced by some pickled yellow-green chillis, sour and spicy with a mild smoky bite. Fried chicken was nicely crispy on the breaded shell, and fairly moist on the inside. The waffles, whilst by themselves may not turn any heads, were competently made and combined crispiness with a medium fluffiness.
Coffees were well structured, smooth and deep, without any loose flavours jutting out in the flat white. Good conditioning of the foam and milk as well, tiny bubbles and very silky.
The chocolate in the hot chocolate is basic, but I loved the golden flavour of salted caramel shining through.
Very good butterscotch pudding as well, very smooth and stiff, but without a distracting starchy quality. The shortbread meshed well with the pudding, providing a good enhancement in the occasional touch of salt, and for its lovey texture contrast, a decisive snap before crunching into nice hard crumbs that provided a satisfying bite as they broke into fine dust on the teeth.
I do like Caravan although I haven't visited the new branch yet.
The coffee is superb, both the milky ones and the purest of flavour such as the long black. They have a roastery in the basement and supply a great deal of coffee including to, I believe, the St John group.
I would say it is the best brunch in North, North-Central London. They do a wonderful riff on ham egg and bubble and squeak. There is a mackerel and mustard omeletter which is excellent and the baked eggs are very good. Sides of mushroom and particularly chorizo are the best I have had at any brunch place.
There is usually a 5-10 minute wait for brunch.
The only downside to the Exmouth Market version is that over 10+ visits we have consistently had quite rude and unpleasant staff. Some of it under the guise of being 'trendy' (although they could do with seeing how Polpo do it if they're going down that track) but often just simple really bad manners. We are really quite accommodating customers most of the time and will always write off a couple of bad experiences but it's quite consisently poor at Caravan.
But as long as you don't mind that - no better place for brunch in London really at the price point.
I love Caravan on Exmouth Market - will be interesting to see the KX branch. Seems like the menu differs a bit, not a fan of chicken and waffles but i'd give it a go.
As for the staff - i went there right after getting off a night flight from the US last month and was treated very well despite wandering around like a zombie and forgetting where i had been sitting!
I remember when Thomas Keller appeared on Saturday Kitchen and cooked chicken and waffles, I thought it was very strange, I'm not really a fan either.
It's not all the staff by any means, we've just consistently had little bits of rudeness from numerous staff members over time and we've been so often that it can't be written off (which I'm usually always prepared to do).
I'm wondering if the chicken and waffles idea is inspired by a fairly well-known American dish of chicken and biscuits (the American type!). I remember eating that years ago, and it was fairly tasty and probably Southern in origin. Waffles should have a sweet something on top! Chicken and biscuits is served with a nice gravy, and that makes sense.