Launched nearly a decade ago as ground-breaking Scandi dining room Karpo – an eco-friendly affair complete with living wall of plants – this easy-to-miss restaurant on the Euston Road is undergoing some changes.
First, its temporary name the Megaro Eatery (after the boutique hotel to which it’s attached) will be replaced shortly; secondly, as the year progresses, plans are afoot to take over the former Barclays Bank next door and expand to a more striking corner plot.
In the meantime, the cooking is as effortless as it’s always been, with the same head chef at the helm; but it’s now on a ‘comfort food’ tip with more Italian touches than previously. At lunch, in addition to the main menu, there are focaccia sandwiches, smoked and cured meats, plus a short list of plant-based pastas.
Through an arch is Mini Mix, what they claim is the “world’s biggest mini bar”, where you can help yourself to pre-mixed cocktails like negronis (not for nada, of course) in a lightly themed, high-stooled sliver of a room.
An accomplished small plate (see below): glistening slices of tentacle perch on creamy hummus, with green beans and parsley. Only unnecessary touch? Boiled new potatoes – making it rather a filling starter (although, at £7, a good-value light lunch). Note to self: it makes a joyous companion to a frisky 9% vinho verde.
Smoked burrata, wild rocket
A little too fridge cold, in fact, so the smoked edge is slightly blunter than expected, but still the winning Italian cheese (£7) – textural from its outer shell of mozzarella, with soft Puglian stracciatella inside – is pure velvet, drizzled with punchy salsa verde.
Orecchiette, turnip tops and chilli
Otherwise known as chewy “little ears”, these pasta shapes (£8) cooked correctly are always a fave, and here they arrive al dente, strewn with breadcrumbs, lemon zest, a slight hit of chilli, and earthy, slightly sweet greens (known in Italy as cime di rapa). Another contender for a tasty light lunch itself.
Loch Duart salmon
The chefs cook here using a Josper, a charcoal grill with a front door which, when closed, ensures that zero natural moisture escapes (it’s basically the hottest indoor barbecue available). Top marks for this plate (£16) then: blistered with flavour from its ferocious heat, it is as delicious as salmon gets: rosy, silken, and with a real charred depth. A pot of hollandaise adds richness, although is almost not needed; more redundant still are grilled mushroom and tomato. The other surprise is the presence of the odd fish bone, easily removed, you would have thought, by the chef. An additional side of grilled radicchio (£4), drenched in gremolata, adds bitter, tangy notes.
It’s not often we’re in the mood for this most noughties of cocktails. But one here (£9) is a revelation, and our kind of post-prandial dessert: it’s sharp, potent and lacking in sickly-sweet gomme (the sugar syrup applied to cocktails too liberally). And, of course, you can enjoy it in the “world’s largest mini bar.” You won’t find it pre-mixed, however: these babies are strictly made-to-order.