Coal Office – London, N1

I’ve been finding it incredibly hard to think of an angle for this write up.  I have been having some sleepless nights that I haven’t posted for a while and my extensive followers (all 22 of you!!! Thank you for following by the way) may be questioning why they started to follow this blog in the first place…

My main aim for this blog was yes, to document the numerous restaurants Jimmy and I are lucky enough to go to but I also want to provide witty repartee with clever comparisons, food puns & general sarcastic social commentary.  But what happens when one encounters writers block? I mean seriously I have thought of every possible angle for this and nothing sounds good.  Is this writers block or just a seeming lack of confidence?

Its times like these when I think to myself, what would AA Gill have done, what would he have written? Not that I at ALL compare myself to the great AA Gill.  I mean he was the Michelangelo of the food critic world and I am, well the guy from CCBC Art Attack (remember that show? If you didn’t grow up in the UK throughout the 90s you won’t!).

AA Gill’s articles will forever live in my memory as the funniest cleverest and most comforting of my life particularly one, which was printed 10 years ago this year.

In 2008 AA Gill reviewed Launceston Place for The Time’s newspaper when Tristian Welch was the head chef.  I remember reading this hilariousreview having been locked out of my boyfriend at the time’s house and I sat on the stairs in the public parts of the apartment block and read it.  The heavy sarcasm and hysterical analogies tickled me no end.  I remember he describes the pennywort herb as ‘the devils armpit hair’ and asked had it been ‘regurgitated by a pigeon’?.  Genius.  AA Gill is solely responsible for the gene that is genius.  Without his write ups, writing about food would be like dancing about architecture.  It just wouldn’t work.

He continues to describe the décor of Launceston place:

I went with the Blonde and my two big kids. The dark, rambling rooms have been made darker, the lighting has been improved – i.e., made darker – and there are some emptily moody, German boutique-hotel landscapes nailed to the walls. The tables have grown another layer of napery; there are preplate plates; and the wine waiter has a bunch-of-grapes brooch on his dinner jacket, just so you know he’s not a plate-stacker. I think all professions should do this, except gynaecologists. This is a restaurant that wants to be taken seriously by the sort of people who take restaurants seriously”

This got me thinking about where Jimmy and I had lunch last weekend, at Coal office. Situated in the heart of King’s Cross, Coal office is the lovechild of head chef Assaf Granit (brains & creator behind Palomar and The Barbary, Barbary being one of my fave restaurants in London) and Tom Dixon.  Although I’m not sure the extent of Tom Dixon’s involvement, only that the whole place had been baptised in his décor and he has a shop underneath.  Two words, Melt Pendants. Melt pendants everywhere. It was like sitting in one of those micro copper pans in a 90s interior theme park. Kind of cool but seen before….a lot.

The food however, the food was delicious….in parts.

To start off we had Kubalah with reduced yogurt, tomatoes confit and fresh oregano. The bread was like heroine, crack, Christmas and your birthday all in one bite. Delicious.  It was brioche which was puffed, buttery light and croissant like.  The dips on the side were spice harissa, green parsley, mint and herby and a cooling yogurty blissfulness. Truly I could eat that all day every day for the rest of my life and die a carb’d up bubble of happiness.

We then ordered Josperized Aubergine and Cantina’s Tomato Salad. The aubergine was sumptuous and oozy, but the tomato salad, was, well, a tomato salad. Sweet and yummy but not the best I’ve ever had.

I then had Seabass Charime in a chickpea stew and Jimmy had Shikshukit (lamb and beef kebab) and on the side he ordered the Clam & mussel tagliatelle.  My seabass was well cooked, and the stew was balanced and good.

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Jimmy enjoyed his fancy kebab, but the tagliatelle wasn’t great.  Note to self – do not order Italian at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Note to chef – do not serve Italian at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Big lumps of dry feta with dry tagliatelle. Confusion not fusion.

Pudding was my first sugar in 2 months. Yes, that’s right 2 months and it was a whopper. Not So Simple Cheese cake and a Tahini and sour cream ice cream on the side.  The cheese cake was an array of delicious textures. Gels, cake, soft cream cheese filling with crunchy pistachio and fruity blobs and gels.  Yum!

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Tahini ice-cream was very clever. It was a sweet savoury vibe.  A winner but a winner I think I could replicate at home. The sour cream ice cream was refreshing but didn’t have memorable flavour (and it was served in a copper martini glass. Ice Cream in martini glasses is bad enough but served in a copper one looks like they had run out of clean glass ones and they just found a lonely copper one in the back of the cupboard and thought “yeah this’ll do the job”).

The kitchen was also the bar which I like.  I like seeing the chefs at work like at Oklava and Barrafina (all reviewed on blog).

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However, there was something about Coal Office which was trying just a bit too hard.  Was it the very overdesigned stencilled logo outside in Avenir font, or the fact that it was an old building sitting on an old canal infront of a new glass building and the juxtaposition of modern builds and exposed brick caused a try hard vibe?

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Or was it the stoneware plates which were carbon cut outs of the real raw version and the overpowering lighting of 00s interior design du jour Tom Dixon. I’m not sure….

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So, yes AA Gill, this was also a restaurant that wanted to be taken seriously by those that take restaurants seriously but seriously though, the food wasn’t seriously good, good but not seriously so, as the Barbary and Palomar would have us believe and the décor was seriously dated.  But the cheery staff vibes were there, and everyone really looked like they enjoy what they do and what they do is serve good Middle Eastern food in Kings Cross and its worth pretty much every pennywort(h).

Rating (0-5) **

https://coaloffice.com

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