An uninspiring void of concrete, strip lighting and disappointingly soggy sandwiches – airports and their food have never been the highlight of travelling, but, thanks to a recent flurry of chef-backed openings (Heston’s Perfectionists’ Café, Ramsay’s Plane food), this food desert seems set to change.
The latest to open its doors is the Grain Store in Gatwick’s south terminal, bringing Bruno Loubet’s signature veg-led cooking (made famous at the original Kings Cross restaurant) to the bleary-eyed masses. Your first glimpse of this beacon of hope is before you even pass through security, thanks to a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass behind the Grain Store’s kitchen, allowing you to see the chefs at work at their glossy marble prep table. The restaurant décor itself is just as slick: it’s a huge space made up of graphic tiles, natural woods, zinc table tops and filament lightbulbs – so far removed from the sterility of the airport.
We stopped in before an early flight for a breakfast much more befitting of holiday mode. There are breakfast cocktails (naturally), including a bloody mary ‘Grain Store-style’ with celery vodka, passata, shimiji mushrooms, beetroot, hot sauce and soy sauce that’s full of umami goodness, as well as lighter options such as Eden’s Cup; clementine leaves, grains of paradise pepper, rose, lemon zest and champagne, and seasonal bellinis.
The majority of the food is vegetarian and split into several easy-to-navigate sections. The lighter side of the menu features pastries along with quinoa granola with goat’s milk yogurt, dairy-free porridge and bircher muesli with earl grey tea-soaked raisins. There is the obligatory full English and eggs royale, but where the cooking excels is with Grain Store specials, such as baked egg pot with shaved chestnut mushroom, rich, fragrant rosemary and parmesan velouté and Severn and Wye smoked salmon and scrambled egg served with a seeded scone, which was slightly dry, but made up for it by arriving smothered in salty, savoury whipped Vegemite butter and fresh dill fromage frais. For larger appetites, there’s salt-baked celeriac waffle with Baghdad eggs (top of our list to try next time), and Bruno’s Power Breakfast of eggs benedict, truffles, broccolini, ratatouille and dukkah with avo on toast – button busting.
If you’re visiting at a more sociable hour, expect dishes such as chilli con veggies, beetroot, ricotta and parmesan ravioli, a selection of burgers including confit duck with spiced plum relish and wild mushroom and truffle burger in a milk bun, and salads such as shaved fennel and burrata with chilli and confit tomato. Some desserts (pear and rosemary tarte tatin, and the intriguing ‘7 stages of cocoa bean’) are available to take-away if you fancy a plane picnic to get you through.
If like us your trips revolve around food, the Grain Store is a welcome addition to Gatwick, providing good food in an otherwise desperate situation, and an interesting selection of dishes no matter what time of day you visit. The staff are all incredibly friendly (even at the crack of dawn), and service is speedy but not rushed, leaving plenty of time for people watching. Worth arriving early for – this is our new go-to. grainstore.com