CLOSED Grain Store: model of sustainability for London's dining scene
The Grain Store’s expansive “veg-centric” casual dining room is devoted to sustainability, sociability and fun. By reducing the function of meat and fish into a garnish size on the plates, sourcing locally, seasonally, when possible organic produce, being more energy efficient, limiting waste, and by using eco-friendly materials such as refillable glass and paper boxes, sustainable business is ensured. Awarded The UK’s most Sustainable Restaurant right when it opened in 2013, the Grain Store continues to inspire other dining businesses in London.
Rather than assuming the leading role the [animal] flash held in our abundance-born generation, it is sided next to a starring vegetable or grain on each plate that is not vegetarian or vegan. Otherwise for the less limited diners, sustainably certified seafood and ethically raised grass pastured or local grain fed meat like the Denham Castle Lamb that grazes freely on a sprawling Suffolk estate, are used in the food preparations.
Healthier eating is made simple right on the menu. A carrot symbol for a purely vegetarian dish, leaf for vegan, yet if you don’t have any dietary restrictions and allergies and are just searching a balanced plate, you can order anything you momentally crave. Some popular dishes remain on the menu throughout the year as their seasonal availability allows for, while others are shuffled around with the changing seasons. Locally grown produce is preferred to imported stuff, but the chef could not resist to shipping some French cheese through the London branch of a Paris-based centenary master cheese monger Androuet. They also supply local British cheese owing to their partnership with Paxton & Whitfield, the oldest cheese shop in London. Naturally fermented ‘slow’ organic sourdough bread by nearby-based Boulangerie de Paris, accompanies the cheeses perfectly.
From the year around menu I enjoy the lushness of the Sprouting seeds & beans, miso aubergine, crispy citrus chicken skin, topped with air-thin potato wafer. For a warm main course the Hot seaweed sushi, glazed pak choi, black garlic purée, hake à la plancha in vanilla butter feeds and nourishes in a perfectly balanced plate.
To drink, if you want to avoid alcohol, it is easy here. Cocktails made with fresh pressed juices are seductive. Try the ROMAN REDHEAD squeezed from red grape juice, beetroot and verjus or the FRENCH BLONDE of grape juice, elderflower cordial, lemongrass and verjus. For a fizzy energiser the GOOSEBERRY LEMONADE sweetened by gooseberry syrup, fresh lemon and bubbled with soda is fun.
For a warm pick up the Matcha latte with soy milk is cholesterol free, while the caffeine-free Orzo, a roasted barley drink enhanced with Indian spices satisfies any coffee craving abstinent. Ethically sourced tea from the award winning We are Tea warms you in a cold day, comforts in a typically rainy London weather or helps to flush toxins after an indulgent night out.
If you feel like sinning a bit then most of the wines are organic or biodynamic, plus the skilled cocktail master Tony Greco invented tempting blends inspired by ancient Roman custom of infusing wines with herbs. Try the Gewurtztraminer infused with herbs in CHAMOMILE VINUS LUPUS or Grenache Blanc in ROMAN SMOKED PAPRIKA WHITE WINE.
The Grainstore as its name suggests is located in a former wheat granary, where now after the immense regeneration project of a large warehouse area just behind the San Pancras train station, the space invites for a more forward looking dining. Being next to the Central Saint Martins College of Fashion and near to Google’s offices, the crowd certainly is more young, energetic, creative as well as futuristic. In front the Regent’s Canal, a pedestrian only zone and bubbling water fountains do not fit the London box, but feel more like smaller English town. Still, the restaurant is ideal for a social brunch, a work lunch or dinner with friends rather than a romantic candlelit occasion.
The interior design of the restaurant itself feels very busy and rather factory rustic, highlighted by its “exploded” open kitchen. Transparence is what defines the Grain Store’s philosophy – from the no-fuss, open kitchen through listing their purveyors on their website to providing dietary guidance for its diners. In a democratised world of restaurants this is how everyone should be doing it. In the ravishing competition for survival, now is the time to be as much consumer-friendly as each restaurant can to keep going. Of course, still, the food has to taste good, and the Grain Store manages the appeal of their dishes very well.
Address: Granary Square, 1-3 Stable Street, Kings Cross, London
Contact: +44 20 7324 4466
Opening hours: Daily for lunch noon-2:30pm (Sat: 11am-3pm & Sun: 11am-4pm); dinner except Sun: 6-10:30pm