23-27 Euston Rd, London NW1 2SD www.karpo.co.uk/
Lucy Self visits Karpo opposite one of London’s most bustling train stations but finds great food and a slick interior isn’t always enough to attract the crowds.
Karpo, on the opposite side of the Euston Road from Kings Cross Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is the sort of place a tourist might end up by accident. For a start it’s attached to Hotel Megaro which, when we ventured outside for a mid-meal ciggie, had an entrance teaming with people holding Lonely Planets. It’s also on a stretch without much competition (unlike the other side of the street which holds Plum & Split Milk, The Gilbert Scott et al) and has a precipice covered in a weird 90s graffiti mural.
We mention this, because once you get over the above facts – its actually quite good. It’s basement Megaro Bar is designed well enough to feel like a hidden gem (albeit, so much so, there was only one other table occupied) with retro reclaimed cinema seats and the right seductive lighting/red velvet blend to create that sexy brothel vibe. Head Bartender Nico Piazza took us through the cocktail list, eager to explain the concept (drinks are divided into’acts’ to create theatre and they make all their own bitters and cordials) and have us try a few (all highly suppable).
Upstairs the layout is unusual, but clever. With an open kitchen, central glass atrium, walls adorned with fresh foliage growing up towards the light and a winding staircase leading up to gallery seating above. It feels like you’re eating inside a very stylish helter skelter with its roof cut off.
Since it opened a few years back, both the menu and the kitchen have been tweaked. The current all day menu (created by Head Chef Joe Sharatt who has been attached to Petrus, Trinity, Greenhouse and The Harwood Arms) follows the small plate, large plate theme Ã¢â‚¬â€œ with medium thrown in for good measure.
We started with a loud-mouthed Sicilian pesto soothed by a creamy dollop of Buffalo mozzarella and stuffed courgette flower coated in golden breadcrumbs. The rib of beef for two was faultless. Served in soft slices expertly blackened and blushed, they came with a bowl of whipped garlicky mayo and a baby gem salad crunchy with breadcrumbs. Desserts, a strawberry cheesecake and a crumble, were okay but a little over-sweet.
If we were tourists lost on our way out Kings Cross station, we’d be pretty happy with Karpo. The food is good, the downstairs bar gorgeous (if a little empty) and the interior most certainly worth an anecdote to the family back home. But, as a Londoner passing by again, knowing better restaurants are around the corner? We’d probably keep on walkingÃ¢â‚¬Â¦