One of the most wonderful things about reviewing restaurants is finding little gems. Occasionally you’ll stumble across hearty family run Italians, nestled down the back streets, or British gastropubs serving top quality Sunday roasts. Instead i came across a jewl in King’s Cross, slap bang on the Euston Road opposite King’s Cross Station. If i hadn’t already known where Karpo was, to look at from the street there’s nothing inviting you in, apart from a very shoreditch painted building, and of course if you look a little closer, a delicious sounding menu on the wall.
With the likes of Shrimpy’s, Grain store and street food market, KERB, King’s Cross is the place to be for the foodie scene, though there are rules to this. Unfortunately Karpo aren’t conforming to them. There on the wrong street and next to the wrong business’s. If all the commuters knew about this place, which they clearly don’t, it would be packed! Previous reviews since Karpo opened have praised its food, but not its menu. Back when they opened they had everything you could possibly imagine on their menu, which for restaurants these days doesn’t work. Small menus focusing on few dishes means better food, less waiting times and less mistakes. Karpo’s newer shorter menu has radically changed, it was excellent, we wanted nearly everything on it. The one thing we couldn’t get over was the prices, for just outside one of London’s busiest train station it was incredibly well priced.
Our first starter was actually the weakest dishes of the whole meal, but what is not to be forgotten is the quality of all the ingredients here, they are first class. A perhaps slightly small portion of hand dived scallops in a bath of jasmine tea, white soy and black radish had bags of freshness to it. The scallops were excellent and disappeared very quickly though while eating this dish i was hoping for a little more depth to it. If they could boost up the flavours just a notch then this dish could be hugely improved.
Again, another small portion size for our starter was a crispy veal shin which had been coated in breadcrumbs and fried. The outside was lovely and crispy, the meat on the inside was juicy, quite literally falling to pieces and seasoned to perfection. The smokey anchovy element to it gave it a lovely salty finish and tarter sauce on the side actually went very well. What a delicious starter.
Now i keep complaining about portion sizes when it came to our starters, but actually when you start with the main courses, you may be very thankful indeed, there is a lot of food. Both main course, and side dishes are incredibly generous. The slow cooked pork belly, whose skin was cooked perfectly, but not crispy was made even better topped with some seared scallops. Lovely slivers of jerusalem artichoke and the most enticing scattering of toasted hazelnuts around the edge of the plate really brought this dish together. I absolutely adored this dish, it really was excellent.
Even simple dishes such as sides were brought to life by their expertly chosen ingredients. A very large plate of broccoli cooked just right, and still with its great colour and crunch was made even better by delicious chunks of flavoursome parmesan cheese and a thick, rich and sweet balsamic drizzle. We never actually ordered this dish but our waiter insisted we needed a little veg in our life, and we are so pleased he forced this upon us.
One thing i am yet to mention here about Karpo, is the service. And let me tell you, its just as first class as its food. Front of house was welcoming and warming. The very eager sommelier was on hand to give us all the help we needed. And our waiter was extremely attentive and made us feel incredibly relaxed. To top it all off, another fantastic dish arrived. It also had a little surprise as well. Quality venison, was chargrilled and cooked to a juicy medium-rare, served alongside some red cabbage, a handsome cauliflower croquet (i think) and a peppercorn sauce which wasn’t very apparent. The surprise was a smear of dark chocolate which of course with the venison, and everything else on this plate, made the dish an even more exciting one than it already was.
A side of roosevelt potatoes, were to put this on record, the best potatoes i have ever had. How they achieved such crispy, flavoursome potatoes without being oily is beyond me. They look as though they were boiled till the skin started to come away and then sliced down the middle and baked in the oven. All these delicious potatoes were missing was a lovely home-made dip, blue cheese came to mind.
In all honesty the dessert menu did not excite us in the slightest. The descriptors of the dishes sounded a little dull, and dare i say it – healthy. When it comes to dessert, this isn’t something any of us want to see. As soon as the first dish arrived, we couldn’t have been any more wrong. A light chocolate mousse whose flavour was still rich and decadent and made even more enticing with a sprinkle of sea salt. Some salty peanuts and caramel popcorn made this dish sing.
Lemon curd cheesecake looked i’m afraid to say, revolting. Resembling a piece of cheese such as epoisse, i wasn’t looking forward to sticking my fork in. Thankfully it tasted delicious. As much as it looked though it was oozing out from the sides, it was thick, creamy, full of vanilla pods and both the biscuit base and lemon curd topping tasted very nice – with the lemon not being too overpowering. A great way to end our meal.
Before leaving we enjoyed a small glass of their home-made espresso liqueur over ice, which was yet again, stunning. When i come across restaurants like Karpo it’s an absolute a joy writing about them, and thinking about the food gets me so excited. Everything here was immaculate, both the food and service. There was not an ounce of stuffiness – it’s all very relaxed. Would i come back to Karpo? In a heartbeat, i’m already planning my next visit.