Those who appreciate geometric art and walls that have plant formations growing on them
Those who seek a cuisine that’s somewhat reassuring, and consistent and that promises nothing too unexpected. Is that what Modern European is?
Anyone who really, really likes béarnaise.
In A Word
Living inside the unmistakably colourful Megaro Hotel, Karpo is perfectly positioned to siphon off some of the heavy foot traffic that you’ll find around the rather lively and ever bustling King’s Cross area. Not quite far out North London, nor tourist saturated central – it’s an area with charm and energy and it’s also not a spot full of competitive restaurants. It seems a good place to set up a bistro, if you can stomach the ground rent…
Entering, you immediately get a feel of an area that’s by design youthful and upbeat. Think mid volume reggae-ish music, that later turns into jazz and downtempo, plus low lighting, geometric wall patterns, and art made out of chainlink fencing. It’s almost a bit like a club, but without the gratingly obvious loudness and shitty, life crushing malaise. You may also get a highly cheerful greeting from one of the happiest looking front of house people I’ve ever come across. I don’t know his name but if you run into him you’ll know.
I’m steered towards a table just adjacent to the kitchen area. I wonder if this is so that they can keep an eye on me.
Staff uniform is generally cool muted cyans and greys, which again creates that informal atmosphere absent in places where people wear white and black, or stuff with ties and hover around, not allowing you to fill up your own glass…
And yes, if you sit by the plants, you might have a little soil land on you, from time to time. I’m OK with this. Soil is a good source of minerals and B -Vitamins. Karpo also offer free Wi-Fi – always a good thing. The downstairs is the main restaurant area, but the upstairs is home to the balcony, which seats 10, and the gallery, which seats 16.
In the European style it fills up later, around 9pm, though it closes around midnight. Anyone who fancies sticking around is invited to head downstairs to the aforementioned Magaro Bar for a respectable selection of cocktails and a few light ‘chef’s plates’. The punters are, on the whole, a mixed bag – some Londoners, along with a fair few French tourists – maybe due to the fact it’s easy to hitch a ride on the Eurostar, just across the road at King’s Cross.
Service is great here – or was when we went. The staff are friendlier than most, and the vibe is informal and easygoing. I get that feeling that the guy at the front of house would be a friend of mine, if I saw more of him. Within 5 minutes he’d engaged me in a conversation on the virtues of the Welsh accent and what it’s like working at Megaro (he enjoys it). Unless he has other plans, a guy with this level of people skills is probably gonna go far in the Hospitality business.
At another point my +1 gesturing a little… enthusiastically knocks over her (mostly full) glass of port. The waiter almost instantaneously appears, and without the smile leaving his face, replaces it for her at no charge. At this point I am pretty impressed.
Karpo’s cuisine is hard to pin down. Modern European (their description) is probably the most accurate.
The wine list is neither extensive, nor expensive, there are 10 whites & reds, plus one rose. There’s also nothing over £50 (barring one Brut champagne). There’s also a relatively limited cocktail choice (I spied four) – if you really want to go down that road, head downstairs to the Megaro Bar, where the choice is ample.
Again, going with the theme of a more limited selection, the food menu is limited to 6 starters and 6 mains. All the menus arrive on torn off paper, with a date, which suggests that they change regularly. Caveat: there are not enough ‘non bready’ options here, and it’s hard to assemble a reasonable selection of veg. So yeah, there are the glutenz everywhere, and you won’t get all of your 5 a day here.
Crisp Confit Rabbit
Crisp yet chewy – and creamy too, this was excellent – I suppose with the breadcrumbs almost like a giant fish finger… but full of really rich (and not at all gamey) rabbit. My gripe is that the portion was stingy, this really was a tiny little thing. It disappears in but a pleasant afterthought.
The dried black olives were thrill for the mouth – sharp and salty. That kind of taste you either love or despise. They’re also hard to keep on your fork, tending to disappear in every direction, like tasty black dust. The sauce has just a hint of spice to go with it’s garlic tinged undertones, which are subtle and not too overpowering.
Wild Garlic Bruschetta
OK, I dunno what it tastes like (I didn’t try it) but here’s a picture of what it looks like.
Rib Of Beef For Two
Originally I’d asked for the Galloway beef. Our waiter recommended the rib of beef for two however, since we both were planning to eat dead cow. They did a good job of splitting it between the two of us, blue for me and medium for my +1. It was a good steak, but not excellent. Perhaps it needed more marbling and juiciness, I can’t quite describe it. I just know an exceptional steak when I have one.
HOWEVER the béarnaise was legendary. Indeed, the best béarnaise I have had. Again, I don’t know exactly why, though the waiter later tells me that it involves a lot of clarified butter and shallots. I tried not to dip everything (including my face) into it.
The chips were also exceptional. OK, so I’m not really a chip fan (sweet potatoes are better) – but Karpo nailed both the chunkiness & crunchiness which makes a British style chip work so well. Chunky, but without that oily dripping wetness that some chips have.
WHERE DID THESE POTATOES COME FROM
We were also served some potatoes that looked a little like the tuber equivalent of Pigs In Blankets. They were cooked very crispy, like ovoid crisps, essentially. Kinda not nice but very ‘morish’. Like Pringles. After polishing off more than my fair share of chips along with a portion of these, I’d definitely overdone it on simple starchy carbs. Well, shit.
Mixed Leaves, blood orange dressing
The sauce for this was good fun. Subtle citrus flavours and an even subtler touch of creaminess. I would have liked more variety of leaves though – maybe a few more shades of green, along with some dark reds. This was a bit heavy on the Mizuna leaf and not much else (I think?)
Purple sprouting broccoli, balsamic, parmesan
Though the broccoli’s taste was subtle and characteristically understated, this was cooked a little too tough for my liking – I feel that it needed a little more softening. The broccoli was like a vehicle for delivering the parmesan cheese, which had a tendency to fall off of the broccoli (something of a design flaw?). They were also subtle with the application of balsamic vinegar, which is always delicious.
I also tried a White Port by Noval NV. This is my first experience with white port (which I had wanted to try for a while) and I’m not really sold. It’s sweet, but has all the dryness of a really dry white wine, which doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it grows on you. I will stick to ruby & tawny (and by stick too I mean massively overconsume at every opportunity).
Fun setting, fun people, fun atmosphere. Service is great, food is OK to good (based on one experience). Portions are reasonable. More variety would be appreciated, as would more vegetable choices. In the past I’ve dropped in for coffee and would happily do so again.
A: 23-27 Euston Rd, London NW1 2SD
P: 020 7843 2221