Balance Garden’s Editor, Jasmine Pradhan, pays a visit to Caravan on Exmouth Market as part of Balance Garden’s new “Taste” Column.
Exmouth Market isn’t short of tempting places to satiate appetites. It’s a pedestrianised street, which gives it a laid back European feel and plays favourably to the many restaurants that call it home, especially during this heatwave that we’re all sweatily pretending to enjoy, providing ample al-fresco dining opportunities.
Caravan’s entirely open front is what curried my favour over its competitors. I was able to sit inside, sheltered from the beating sun, with a welcome breeze blowing through the bright space and the satisfied feeling of letting summer in, without actually having to sit and squint in it.
The décor is understated but carefully put together. Muted greens and warm wood work feel sophisticated and high end, while hanging baskets, trailing greenery, and bare bulbs in geometric light fittings add a relaxed and informal touch. The staff are friendly and attentive in a laid back way, and tap water is bought to my table without me having to ask for it which is received gratefully.
Caravan describes itself as serving up “well travelled food and mighty fine coffee”, and with its eclectic menu it doesn’t disappoint. Each dish feels unusual and interesting due to the inclusion of less common ingredients, but nothing feels fussy, pretentious, or unrecognisable from its original inspiration. The miso peanut butter on toast and the granola bowl with, among the usual bowl ingredients, sorrel and ginger crumbs serve as good examples of this.
I was there for lunch, and there were just enough plant based options on their menu to make me feel like my eating choices had been carefully considered, but also plenty of opportunities to add eggs and meat if you’re that way inclined. Rather unadventurously I opted for smashed avocado on sourdough toast (I know I know, but I didn’t want a house anyway) which was well seasoned with chilli and lime, with a side of slow roasted tomatoes. The tomatoes stole the show with their promisingly shrivelled skins and glossy appearance, and on tasting revealed a rich and tangy sweetness, worlds away from the miserable grilled equivalent you find on most English Breakfast plates.
Portions were generous, which is always a good thing.
Although I didn’t have one of their “mighty fine coffees” due to a reluctant break from caffeine I’m going to make a safe bet that the coffee is good; given that they roast their own (directly sourced) beans daily. The menu assures customers that the focus is “quality, provenance, sustainability, freshness, and fair relationships with the growers”, and the back wall of the restaurant is given over entirely to coffee making paraphernalia which points to a committed relationship with all things caffeine.
Instead of coffee, I opted for a turmeric, ginger, cayenne and lemon shot which came in miniature measuring beaker which made me feel half New York hipster half Walter White, was suitably potent, and went some way to filling to hole in my heart left by caffeine’s recent departure. They also have an extensive menu of nutritious superfood smoothies, mylks, homemade fermented sodas and kombuchas, fresh juices, and although it was a bit early in the day for booze, an impressive wine and spirits list.
My meal came to £11 in total including service which I felt was fair given the portion sizes and the quality of the food.
Our Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
11 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QD