I've become somewhat of a camera snob since getting my SLR. Can you blame me though? Not quite an expert yet but am sure you'll agree it has the edge over these Blackberry ones. Apologies from Hungry Female Management, she will endeavour to not forget the SLR again!
So, Caravan. There's a song in there, something about being on the Caravan of Love? There is definitely a whole lotta food love in this place, it's a journey of many cultures, gastro-clashes and culinary mash-ups if there ever was. And it all works, which is why my heart (and tummy) swells with excitement when I recall our visit to this Exmouth Market newcomer.
How can I describe it? Since identifying the tapas trend in London, I see it going a step further. Caravan has a distinct influence of Chinese and African influence to the little and wholesome dishes it churns out. It's real talent to bring a unique take on such well-known and familiar dishes. Too many places in London have tried to "re-invent" a cuisine, only to do the food equivalent of a nightmare X-Factor contestant trying to become the "next" Madonna. Some things just don't work. This so does.
A little complimentary amuse bouche to start, Cauliflower and Chorizo soup: A lovely flavour pairing. For me, spicy chorizo to creamy cauliflower is the sizzling sun to a white, sandy shore.
Peanut and Blue Cheese Wontons with a Hoisin Sauce: Now on paper, this could have been a total disaster. Oh, quite the opposite! Crunching into the crispy skin, was a soft mash of peanut and blue cheese. This combo of nutty and creamy was a great balance of the two types of saltiness. Small dips into the sweet hoisin sauce was great too, I think this worked on the principle that salty and sweet succeed in cheese when the "weight" of both are similar. Kinda like manchego and quince?
Sharing platter of falafel, caponata, hummus, manchego and flatbread: Both dips were chunky and not refined, really good textures and flavours. Cheese was as good as you can get. Now I'll come back to those falafels in a bit...
Seared tuna, salad with sesame and chilli dressing: the softest, non-sashimi tuna with the chilli dressing on the salad was just divine. A slight nod to Japanese with that sesame/tahini punch.
There are way too many falafels which are dry, uninspired and just sand in the mouth. These were marvellously crackly to bite into, and oozing with Middle Eastern chickpea magic inside. The combo of hummus and sweet chutney on the top really brought it together.
Lamb Chop with Broad Bean Puree: now this is how good it gets. The chop tore apart upon biting into it, the puree on top was robust and full of earthy goodness. It was like Cesc Fabregas in the Spanish football team, even this star was fighting to shine amongst the other greats.
Squid Pancake: Not the best picture, but this was one of the really interesting plates. We think it may have been like a pajeon (a Korean pancake) in how bits of chopped squid and vegetables were wrapped in a light crispy dough and dolloped with a sweet and nutty topping. Delicate, yet strong, the fishy, squid taste had infiltrated the pancake perfectly.
Oxtail with Polenta: Aye Caramba! This was super fusion. We really couldn't decide if this was Italian or Chinese. The oxtail sat in a mushy stew of polenta, which really looks like baby food (especially in this pic!), but it was an awesome punch of all kinds of flavours. I could get star anise, cinnamon, and even evaporated milk (I agree with you, Best Friend M!) from this crazy melange.
Spicy Pork Bun with a Spicy Relish: My jewel in the crown. For the cognoscenti, this is a Char Siew Pao on steroids. A beautifully roasted bun containing a porky, spicy filling, going in heavenly harmony with the sardine, shallot and chilli relish next to it. Then I hear that Usher song. Oh. Mah. Gawwsshhhhh.
Black Pudding and Rabbit Pate: Now by this time I had died and returned from heaven after that Pork Bun. I regrettably admit I don't actually have a strong memory of this dish. Perhaps this meant our taste buds had been saturated, or maybe we'd finally found an average dish?! I can remember it being decent, just not stunning.
(Top) Fruit & Ginger Cake, (Bottom) Chocolate Pud with Elderflower Sorbet: Oooph. Short and sweet, these desserts were little delights that ended on the right note. My favourite was the dark, sticky chocolate dessert which got a light uplift from the sorbet.
Ab Fab! For all those gems, the damage was £35 per head amongst four, including 1 bottle of bubbly and 1 red. Related to the Providores in Marlyebone, Caravan has made waves and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It seems to cater for all occasions: its casual buzz and service makes it great for catching up with friends, an adventurous bite after work and definitely a fun date place. Honestly, it's so good, are you ready for the time of your life?