Chances are you’ll have headed to a Drake & Morgan establishment. They’re dotted around the city, spreading their special brand of charm and quirky frivolity, each slightly different from the last. Whether it’s the industrial chic of The Refinery, the whimsy of The Folly, or the delightful library-esque style of The Happenstance, they’ve been gaining fans since the first site opened in 2008.
Flying The Flag
And now there’s a new arrival on the scene – one that is proudly announcing itself with the official Drake & Morgan name, and touting itself as a destination drinking and dining spot in King’s Cross. Sir Francis Drake and Captain Henry Morgan are the influences behind the title, and this pioneering influence seems to be a factor here. King’s Cross might not be the first place you’d think to head for a night of revelry, but this is due to change. Drake & Morgan has firmly settled itself with promises of a lively hub for anyone wanting a memorable night of cocktail culture and great, unpretentious food – with two gorgeous bars, a buzzing dining room and lounge area, as well as private dining options, unique ‘kitchen pods’ and an outdoor terrace, it is catering for every whim of the good time Londoner.
I Spy With My Little Eye
Drake and Morgan have always offered little escapes in the city – respites from the world where imagination can run wild. Their new site is no different. As we approached, charming clusters of tables outside and splashes of greenery from the terrace foliage drew us closer – no doubt in the summer this is going to be a buzzing and popular sun spot. The main dining room is spread over two levels, with plenty of seating – banquettes, booths and raised tables all offer a variety of options depending on the kind of visit you’re intending. On a Friday night there was an lively and infectious atmosphere – the glow from the open kitchen gave a warm, inviting feel to the large room, while the glass windows ensured there wasn’t any stuffiness. Soft leather furnishings, exposed piping and wooden floors create a comfortable mishmash and the feeling of eating in someones extended dining room. It felt much larger than the other D&M sites I’ve visited, and has an extra sense of elegance about it. Still, the charm remains, and I loved the large painting of the cow’s face that stares calmly at diners.
On first arrival, we decided to descend the dramatic sweeping staircase to the lower floor, where a rather resplendent bar holds court. Marble topped, with glassware glinting seductively, it’s the ideal place to perch and catch up with friends, or ensconce yourself in a leather booth. There’s a wonderful feeling of voyeurism here, as it almost feels like you’ve been granted entrance to the test kitchen of a mad mixologist.
Drake and Morgan have made a name for themselves as cocktail maestros, and I was pleased to see some brand new concoction that make the most of current spirit trends. Although heavily tempted by the Bourbon Washed Negroni and the Goodnight Tommy (combining tequila and Aztec chocolate bitters), my eye eventually settled on the Naked Slap and Tickle. Combining Aperol, Tanqueray gin, yellow chartreuse, rhubarb, vanilla shrub and my favourite tipple of the moment, Mezcal, it arrived in a coupe glass a lovely shimmering gold. The taste was fabulous – the smoky pow of the mezcal had been tempered expertly with gin and the more delicate flavours, to create a complex and layered drink. My partner was indulging in a Lemongrass Collins – I snaffled a sip and was impressed by the balance of exotic ingredients. I can definitely imagine sinking a few more exciting libations in this underground den, forgetting that there was a busy world stomping above my head.
Food, Glorious Food
Delicious yet unfussy food; beautifully presented; using locally sourced ingredients; all made lovingly. This is the calling card of Drake & Morgan dishes, and is reflected in the new menu by Head Chef David Green. The focus is on small plates, the grill and comforting larger dishes – ideal for autumn. We began with two small plates that both shone in their own way – the Seared Rare Tuna fairly melted in the mouth, leaving behind the zing of sesame and ginger, while the Blackwood Cheese Curd served with courgette was unlike anything we’d had before, and was lifted in sensational style with a curry emulsion.
On to the main course, and the chill autumnal night outside, combined with the golden glow of the open kitchen, had me in the mood for comfort food. Enter the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese – decadent, luxurious, and yet also delightfully hearty. It arrived piping hot, the top bubbling slightly and coated in crisp breadcrumbs. When it had cooled I dug my cutlery in to find huge chunks of succulent lobster nuzzling next to curls of pasta, all swimming in gooey melted cheese. Needless to say, the dish was devoured, along with a sensational Pencarrow Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, New Zealand.
For dessert I couldn’t avoid the Salted Caramel Tart, combined with an Espresso Martini. It was rich, indulgent, with sweet pastry and just the right amount of salt to lift the caramel.
As my dining partner and I fought over the last mouthful, laughing over the wonderful dinner we’d had and wishing we didn’t have to actually leave into the cold night, I realised the attraction that Drake & Morgan in King’s Cross would have. It’s the ideal place to just sit and relax. It does all the hard work for you. Don’t know if you want a chic cocktail bar or somewhere a bit more casual? Shared nibbles or a hearty meal? An intimate meal for two or a booth for a group? They have it all. All you need to know is you can arrive, put yourself in the expert hands of the staff, and be assured of a good night where you’l leave feeling satisfied. And that, surely, is what will make it a key destination restaurant going into 2016.