'Have you heard of a Bayswater bar called "Old Marys?"' asks a colleague. I have not. The name conjures up a last chan...
Thursday, 25 July 2013
The Carriage Bar at The Grain Store, King's Cross
Set in a former Victorian warehouse where "acieeeed!" warehouse parties were once the thing, the arrival of Bruno Loubet's Grain Store underscores the hood's relentless upward trajectory. From the haunt of shady old pimps and leathery prozzies, to Proenza Schouler bags and Prada shades drawn to Bruno's artfully arranged modern veggie mouthfuls on pristine white plates; that's King's Cross 2013. With dancing fountains outside, and an over-designed tricksy interior that is somewhere between a (very big branch) of Carluccio's and a Jamie's Italian speaking with a Gallic accent, The Grain Store is pure theatre. So too, the star of the show's supporting cast: a good-looking/quirky chorus line in jaunty neckerchiefs à la Pirates of Penzance; a quaint German receptionist/ MC who is Joel Grey in Cabaret, the remake; a colourful camp maître d' who acts like he'll presently do a razzle dazzle 'em soft-shoe shuffle on the bar top; and the Carriage Bar's philosophical, phlegmatic Galician manager who rightly belongs in an old Buñuel film. As with some of that director's work, I'm not quite sure what to make of drinks directed by Loubet's consultant shaker, Tony Conigliaro. Several ideas have been designed with a specific dish in mind. Partnering courgette broad bean and prawn falafel, for example, is a singular sinus-tingling vodka mustard martini a must, or a must to avoid as Herman's Hermits sang it? I initially like it. After swig two, I'm less sure. As the novelty wears off, I grow more inclined towards my date's take: "Ugh! Like swigging Colman's." Another sip and I'm in love again. Blowing hot and cold (literally in this case) about people is my default position. Cocktails? Rarely. I am, however, decidedly down with Tone's Beefeater ‘green’ martini. But pumpkin and maple syrup Bellini? Smoked paprika white wine? Butter and hay Champagne? Silver tip tea with a hint of cassis, meanwhile, comes on like the sort of mouthwash you'd be given at the dentist's were goody gum drops Gywnnie Paltrow minsitering to your molars. Presently, the penny drops. Could Bruno's brief have stipulated devising drinks so leftfield, a punter needs to try them several times over in order to form an opinion? If so, you've sure succeeded, Signor Conigliaro.