On Saturday I took a trip up to the new King’s Cross development to try out Bruno Loubet’s latest restaurant, The Grain Store. A hugely ambitious venture located in a fabulous conversion of an old warehouse, this new opening has had food bloggers in a frenzy with its vegetable-led, highly eclectic take on classic French cuisine. Fancy a spot of “Chilled clear lobster ‘Bloody Mary'”? Or perhaps some “Buttermilk and caraway braised cauliflower with wood-baked onions and devilled duck heart”? If so, this is the place.
Before we were shown to our table, the very helpful bartender did a very good job of trying to sell us some of her very edgy wine-based cocktails (I say “good job” as we ended up taking one of each). The extraordinary flavour of these drinks was quite surprising, and led me to consider the future of wine as a cocktail ingredient – something that, with the exception of the age-old Kir and Champagne Cocktail, is definitely a road-less-traveled.
We kicked off with two versions of a “Cassis and Clove Cardinal” – namely a rich cassis and clove cordial (homemade of course) stirred down with Grenache Syrah or Aligoté (yes, there were two versions – a tough job, this). This is Loubet’s take on the classic Kir; the exotic spice of the clove definitely lifting the earthy blackcurrant and zingy wine to a new dimension. A palpable hit, Monsieur Loubet. Next!
“Fennel Pollen Vinus Lupus” was, like its name suggests, slightly bonkers. A rather daring admixture of fennel pollen (where does one buy fennel pollen these days? they don’t have it in Waitrose), clover honey, mastic, verjus, stirred down with Sauvignon Blanc and Gros Manseng… even reading the ingredients on the page is enough to conjure up a taste explosion of great magnitude. Combined, there was something of the flavour of young celery to this drink: it was served in an earthenware tumbler and was incredibly refreshing. Another success!
It was some trepidation that we approached the final offering, “Roman Smoked Paprika White Wine”. This, allegedly, is the style of drink that legionnaires would have guzzled en-route to battle – the kind of tincture on which empires are built. What did it taste like? Well, it tasted like Sauvignon Blanc with smoked paprika in it. It worked but, for me, was a bit “meh” – not exactly the sort of thing that would have had me marching half-way across Africa (but then again, very few things do).
Overall, I applaud Bruno Loubet’s adventurous approach to wine. So, how’s about a spot of Les Arbousiers Rosé with a dash of balsamic, strawberry purée and a twist of black pepper? Or Highway 63 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc shaken over ice with a dash of soda water, a twist of cucumber, caraway seed essence (I’m still working out how to make this) and a sprig of mint? Food is adventure; so is wine. So… what are you waiting for? Raid that wine rack and spice cupboard right now!