Saturday, 4 September 2010

Caravan review - a satisfying brunch at Exmouth Market


Address: 11-13 Exmouth Market,
London EC1R 4QD
Tel: 020 7833 8115
Nearest Tube station: Farringdon

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ****
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
A pal of ours gave us a Nespresso machine (see four things that Singaporeans buy when they visit London) and another got us a milk frother when they bunked in with us some time back. There was a £40 voucher that came with the machine and apparently it can only be used to buy Nespresso coffee capsules. With each capsule costing 30p, we ended up with exactly 133 capsules that are due to expire in a couple of months. Needless to say, I am now really alert every morning.

“Would you like to have some coffee?” Wife quipped on beautiful Bank holiday morning. Nodding grumpily, I shuffled towards the Nespresso.

“Not this, I’m talking about this,” she pointed to her laptop’s screen. “The Caravan – Restaurant, Bar, Roastery”, it reads. With two coffee cups on its website and nothing very much else, it’s quite clear what Caravan would want to be known for.

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“Oh, we are extremely child friendly so no worries there. Unfortunately, we don’t take reservations during weekends and Bank holidays. But it’s currently half full here and I’m sure there’ll be space for you guys,” a lady cheerfully answered when I called to check the place out a couple of minutes later.

The Caravan, which occupies a strategic location at the mouth of Exmouth Market, was one of the few places that were opened on the Bank holiday. The others are Nero, Starbucks and probably Strada. Even Necco’s doors were shut. Probably because of that, the place was bustling and most of the outdoor seating area was occupied even though the temperature is closer to 19C that morning.

“What would you like to drink?” a waiter came right up the moment we sat down. Coffee of course, that was why we were there in the first place, wasn’t it? Oh, black please. No sugar, no milk. I like mine strong.

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To be honest, prior to the Nespresso machine, I was never a coffee person. I prefer my Breakfast tea anytime to an espresso. I was telling a colleague of mine (to her disgust) that the office vending machine coffee taste the same as the one sold at Pret.

Well, I can tell you that Caravan’s coffee is good.

If I can tell the difference, it must really be good. Or at least that’s how I like to think. Caravan’s coffee has depth without the acidity, strength without the bitterness. According to Caravan, their coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans freshly roasted in its basement. Now, that’s not something Starbucks can claim, can they? It reminded me of the humble coffee shops back home that use to roast their coffee beans just behind the shop before grounding them. At least they used to do that when I was a kid.

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It was past lunchtime but Caravan was serving an all day breakfast menu. I went for the grilled ham, which came with bubble & squeak, two poached eggs and hollandaise (£9). The single thick slab of still pinkish ham, half covered with a buttery poached egg, was a delight. The bubble & squeak lightly battered and buried under the other poached egg complemented the almost chewy ham and completed the meal. It does look a bit underwhelming but this one punches above its weight.

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Wife’s Caravan fry up (£8.50) was interesting. It comes in the form of two large lightly toasted sourdough bread, topped with two poached eggs and bacon streaks. Soft roasted tomatoes added to the texture and taste.

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We couldn’t resist ordering the ham and cheese muffin (£2). The ham bits embedded in the muffin was rather overpowering even when thickly laced with the accompanying butter. Wife thought that it would taste heavenly if heated up even for a bit. Definitely not for those on a diet and it’s only marginally less sinful compared to a slab of chocolate fudge cake.

With most pubs closed, The Caravan was perhaps the only place in the vicinity that served decent breakfast on that day. When it comes to hearty roast, trust the Kiwis.

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