London favourite Caravan has a new Covent Garden branch and it does not disappoint, with top-notch food, drinks, and atmosphere.
I want you to picture the perfect millennial woman: she is gorgeous, stylish, fun, just wealthy enough to be glamorous while still surviving the inevitable class revolution. And she eats at Caravan.
Caravan Covent Garden represents true nirvana for the 30-40 year old crowd, seemingly designed to perfectly appeal to the senses of this demographic.
The lighting? Calmingly dimmed, while still allowing enough light to comfortably read the menu.
The music? Imagine “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being played at the perfect volume to allow for conversation.
The staff? Gorgeous, making me think they must have read my last review.
And the food and drinks? I’d say don’t get me started, but that is rather the point of this article.
My friend and I, for the record, got started by following the menu recommendation of ordering 2-3 small plates (we chose the burrata, jamon croquettes, and jalapeño cornbread), a large plate (the confit duck leg), and a bowl (with hummus and broken falafel).
The burrata was the most disappointing item of the evening, mostly by way of being rather average compared to the rest of the food- though the aesthetic delight of seeing the burrata turned pink by the accompanying beets was a solid consolation prize.
The jamon and smoked san simon croquettes, however, were very nearly life changing.
With a crunchy exterior,a filling which somehow managed to avoid being mushy, and a delicious saffron aioli, this dish had me convinced I could never love any other as much.
Then came the jalapeño cornbread. Then came me, falling to my knees in Caravan Covent Garden, worshipping the items of jalapeño, corn, and lime as new deities, as my personal holy trinity.
It took me maybe 10 seconds to fully realise how good this tasted- it came in waves as the jalapeño snuck up on me and then blended perfectly with the other flavours.
I felt like my best friend moved into my mouth.
Then came the mains. Full disclosure: I ordered the confit duck leg mainly because I didn’t know what confit meant and I was curious.
And what a brilliant decision that was- the skin was crispy, the meat buttery and falling off the bone, and the braised cavolo nero and salsa verde providing complimentary flavours which kept the dish interesting and varied bite-by-bite.
The final bowl, a medley of hummus, broken falafel, harissa, bulgur, sumac salted cucumbers, and halloumi which we chose to add on, was a lovely end to the mains; while the falafel wasn’t the most flavourful, the flavours of the harissa and hummus really shone through, and the absolute slab of halloumi certainly raised it in my estimation.
We finished off the meal with some drinks and dessert: namely, the chef’s margarita (with tequila blanco, mezcal, agave, and grapefruit), London spritz (with gin, rhubarb cordial, fig leaf liqueur, lillet rose, and prosecco), and vanilla ice cream with espresso salt caramel sauce.
As a certified tequila lover, I had high expectations for the margarita, and this certainly lived up to them.
My notes have the word “salty” underlined three times in relation to the cocktail, alongside multiple smiley faces, so interpret that how you will.
I also found the grapefruit to be an inspired addition, adding a hint of bitterness while still remaining a margarita, not a Paloma.
The London spritz was also absolutely beautiful, with the fig liqueur in particular elevating the drink to a more complex, interesting older sister of an Aperol spritz.
The ice cream, served with “as many spoons as you need,” was the perfect end to the meal.
The vanilla was so striking it made me regret ever disparaging the ice cream flavour, with the rich sauce balancing the flavours of salt, espresso, and caramel incredibly well for a delicious blend.
Overall, it seems Caravan’s status as a go-to spot for the hungry yet trendy will remain uncontested at the Covent Garden branch; if nothing else, you can always find me in a corner scarfing down cornbread.