Caravan Restaurants, the group largely responsible for mainstreaming speciality coffee (and avocado on toast) a decade ago has announced it will open at Duke of York Square, off the King’s Road in Chelsea, later this year. The new site, with a vast terrace, will not be called Caravan; it will be called Vardo, named after the Romani travelling wagon of the 1800s. Owners, three New Zealanders — Laura Harper Hinton, Miles Kirby, and Chris Ammermann — again reference their “nomadic”, utopian “no boundaries” idea, with the new restaurant “influenced by the journey of the travelling wagon spanning the globe and collecting produce, spices and inspiration along the way.”
Vardo will occupy a newly designed, three-storey stone and glass pavilion, located in Duke of York Square, Chelsea, next to the Saatchi Gallery and a number of other restaurants and public space. The striking circular structure features 360-degree wall-to-floor glazing that fully retracts into the floor, allowing, they say, “for a seamless indoor to outdoor experience.”
Caravan now operates five sites in London, a London success story in the mid-market, after having opened the original site on Exmouth Market in 2010. Vardo will be different, and it seems, slightly less informal. That might have something to do with the monied new territory; it’s the first for the group in west London proper. They say the menu will put “back-to-basics food to the forefront — showcasing low and slow cooking techniques, with carefully sourced ingredients from across the UK with global influence.” If the wagon wheels ain’t broke, don’t fix them.
Dishes on the menu which will be served all day, will include: slow braised carrots, brined mustard greens, aji blanco; charred aubergine, saffron buttermilk dressing, grilled Turkish chilli; baharat rubbed lamb cutlets, green harissa, tahini; and green baked eggs with lentil, pine nut and kale ragu, cumin yoghurt, charred pepper salsa.
Caravan’s continued success comes at a time when its Antipodean, fusion-forward forebears have reached the end of their respective life-cycles. Providores, Peter Gordon’s seminal Marylebone restaurant, under whom Caravan executive chef, Miles Kirby worked, will close at the end of July after 18 years. While Anna Hansen, a fellow New Zealander, who worked with Gordon, will leave her restaurant the Modern Pantry after 10 years, having closed its sister site in the city at the end of 2017.
The Caravan group is also steadily relocating its coffee roasting production from Granary Square, King’s Cross, further north, along York Way. It is thought that site will also have a specialist brew bar.