King’s Cross is full of surprises. Peek behind the old green canopy of the station and you’ll find a cathedral like new concourse. Go for a poke about between a gas holder and the Guardian offices and you’ll find a thriving street food market. Likewise, if you peer around the fibreglass screen of The Filling Station, an abandoned gas station on Goods Way converted by Carmody Groarke, you’ll be presented with a secluded courtyard overlooking the canal in which sits Shrimpy’s, an offshoot of Hackney’s Bistrotheque.
Feeling very much like the bastard child of their previous pop-up eatery, Studio East, and the smartest of American roadside diners (with canal in lieu of highway), this is not the first Filling Station that’s popped up in London in recent years. The subtly lit, undulating facade – elegantly reminiscent of oft photographed roadside structures as silos and storage facilities – is obscurely inviting amongst the hubbub of York Way. Shrimpy’s theme is hard to tell from the decor, which is part Hollywood glitz a la Jackie O, part monkey-adorned Copacabana, but with Boccioni’s Unique Continuity of Forms in Space thrown in for good measure.
The menu, however, is decidedly American – as in the entire continent, rather than just the US. A pre-starter snack of chicharron and guacamole – ordered more out of curiosity than hunger – nearly proved fatal. These span-length pork scratchings, spiced up and served with chunky guacamole, rendered conversation nigh-on impossible, and a visit to a dentist a distinct prospect.
Many ingredients seem to run through the starter and main course dishes, making it something of a minefield to avoid ending up with the same dish twice, like some perverse culinary game of Concentration. A tender slither of veal heart was perfectly matched with spicy chorizo and briney capers, whilst fried pillows of plantain were a counterpoint to the chunks of citrusy white flesh of the Peruvian ceviche. For the main course a thick veal chop (*snap!*) was paired with fennel, sambuca and – less successfully – olives, whilst skirt steak was more traditionally served with chimichurri. But that’s all it came with – sides at around £4 each ranged from humita (creamed corn) to a green salad with capers and shallots which came shallot-free, but was none the worse for it.
Dinner for two, including cocktails, a bottle of wine, and two and a half courses each came to just under £130 including service. Which came as a bit of a surprise too.
Shrimpy’s, King’s Cross Filling Station, Goods Way N1C 4UR
The Filling Station’s courtyard is also set to become an events space and alfresco restaurant.