I can’t believe Caravan is only one year old tomorrow. Since its opening last year, it has appeared like an established old hand at the restaurant game: nicely full all the time, with the owners or familiar front of house staff always in charge. Its relaxed overlay comes from the attitude of its Kiwi proprietors, but don’t let that deceive you about the attention to detail. Both of them are real pros: Chris Ammermann came from Urban Caprice, and Miles Kirby was the head chef at Providores in Marylebone High Street.
For a country of just over 4 million people, New Zealanders have made a big impact on the London restaurant scene, spearheaded by Peter Gordon, of whom I have written plenty. What impresses me particularly, is their generosity and support towards one another, even when a key member leaves to open his/her own restaurant. Providores has spawned both Caravan and Anna Hansen’s Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell. And the way they recommend each other benefits them all. They also understand the necessity of plain graft and staying power.
The idea of having a coffee roaster on site was always part of the plan at Caravan. This special Antipodean dedication to the perfect espresso/cappuccino/flat white has been a boon for us Londoners, while snapping at Italian heels. During the year, Caravan has built a good wholesale trade in supplying about 250 kilos of coffee to other restaurants (notably St John), and the Mount Street Deli. And of course you can buy it from them direct, or drink it while eating one of their delicious blueberry friands.
On top of all this has been their inspiring Antipodean fusion influences on the menu. We are now used to combinations in Caravan such as Brown Crab, Coconut and Cassava Croquettes with Tamarind Ketchup or Crispy Skinned Wiltshire Rainbow Trout with Sweet Potato and Chermoula.
I’m going there next Friday. The trouble is, for pudding, I won’t be able to decide between the Ginger Loaf, Poached Rhubarb and Maple Syrup Marscapone and the Pear Tart Tatin with Cardamom Ice Cream, or even the Tonka Bean Blanc Mange, Blackberry Sorbet and Mint, because I know it will all be delicious. But whatever I choose will be with a toast to a second equally successful year.