Monday, 11 July 2011


Having had a very successful (pre-blog) brunch at Caravan before, I was excited about my lunch there. On a sunny Friday afternoon, Exmouth Market has a great buzz to it and Caravan definitely has the best site.

It’s Antipodean in initial approach, but not dominantly so with the food. The lunch menu is rather ‘global’ (horrible word, but better than ‘fusion’ surely?) and some of the ingredients used are really quite exotic, especially in their pairings. It’s quirky and eclectic without being too ‘world music’ and the decor is modern yet understated.

The peanut and blue cheese wontons (£4) are so unusual I have to try them. And they’re fantastic – the blue cheese isn’t too overpowering, the wontons are deep fried to absolute perfection and the nutty paste is creamy and moreish. I could eat another plate without blinking. But we press on…

Caravan has lots of small plates which are a bit smaller than a regular starter, but designed for sharing. I think the aim isn’t too ‘concept’ or ideological, but rather flexible and you can do it tapas, or starters/mains or however else you want. Take note Spice Market!

My dining partner par excellence (my Mum) goes for the asparagus with fried duck egg and prosciutto crumbs. She found the egg slightly overpowered and enveloped the asparagus (which is more than a few weeks out of season surely?) which when fresh can sing for itself. That said, the crumbs are a bold move (‘meatifying’ an almost very veggie-friendly dish) but taste like the real deal.

I have the tomatillo, feta and lambs lettuce salad (£4) which is delicious. It has some ridiculously loud crunchy nuts in it which I think might be African and the whole concoction tastes tangy, fresh and unusual. It’s not repetitive unlike many salads I find and my palate feels very refreshed and rather zingy.

The old girl has a small plate of Sichuan prawns (£6-ish) which are smoky, spicy and extremely aromatic, with five-spice wafting out and around the room. The portion is generous for a small plate, and they’re a big hit.

I have the pork schnitzel (recently downgraded from veal, £16) which I’m glad to report is quite hefty and not hammered to a wisp. The pork is good quality, and this is served with some salad and the intriguing gypsy potatoes. The schnitzel’s coating could have had more seasoning to it – dried lemon can work amazingly, or parmesan although it burns easily. Incidentally, the best schnitzel I ever had was in Australia unsurprisingly, at Bird Cow Fish in Sydney… life changing stuff…

schnitzel - small but thick!
The gypsy potatoes are strips of regular and sweet potato, fried with onions, torn pieces of ham and tossed in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Decadent, indulgent and a perfect nod to a schnitzel’s roots in Eastern Europe, these are seriously good and I could polish off several more portions!

gypsy potatoes
No time for dessert, but Caravan roast their own coffee which is superb and available to buy for home too. Service is solid – casual but well informed and the staff are very enthusiastic.

As my rather lacklustre visit to Lantana was very recent and the two places at first seem to be comparable, the comparison is not a difficult one. Caravan is a great, airy space (perhaps tiny, humid Lantana on a hot day will never yield friendly service?) and definitely a cut above the former in terms of food, imagination, service and vibe.

Caravan is daring, innovative and has great variety without trying to do too much or being spread too thin. The wine list is serious, they have Camden lager on draught and I can’t wait to return with some friends one evening, and try more of their zanier dishes; using espresso mole, cassava and of course the tempting fried chicken with watermelon, amongst many others. Bravo!

Food – 9/10
Drink – 8/10
Service - 8/10
Value – 8/10
Tap water tales – 6/10 (some iced top ups, one requested) 
Staff Hotness – 7/10 (sultry, tattoed and edgy, but clued up indie chicks mainly)

Exmouth Market - EC1
Caravan on Urbanspoon


  1. So if you have done breakfast and lunch at Caravan now you have to do dinner - which is also great!

  2. Yep I certainly will! Can't wait to get stuck in to the wine list...