What's the draw?
They weren't exaggerating when they said Caravan's older brother is eye-catching: if you imagine the Black Mirror USS Callister spaceship and add the UK's first fully retractable glass wall, you won't be far off the Nex Architects-helmed design. Yet contrasting the intricate architecture is back-to-basics British produce that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients; think baharat-rubbed lamb cutlets with green harissa and tahini, and baked eggs with lentil ragu. Fun fact: Vardo references Romani travellers of the 1800s, who used to collect spices and recipes from around the world in their traditional horse-drawn wagon; kind of like a caravan.
What to drink?
From the assortment of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic aperitifs placed at the top of the menu, the Alpine Spritz is light and tangy with a fizzy elderflower kick that sucker-punches you in the jaw in all the right ways; while the Naked & Famous a fun low-booze twist, pairing Stryyk's non-alcoholic 'gin' with persuasive pineapple, fragrant kaffir lime and refreshing mint. There's also an extensive cocktail list, inspired by the Silk Road – the ancient network of trade routes linking the East with the West – so expect concoctions you've never heard of before. On the wine front, with the mains, a glass of Palacios Remondo's 2017 rioja is clean, fruity and floral, a great medium-bodied accompaniment for Vardo's wide range of textures and spices.
There's a whole riot of dishes on offer thanks to the 'no-boundaries' ethos. Spices, ingredients and recipes from around the world line the menu
What to eat?
There's a whole riot of dishes on offer thanks to the kitchens 'no-boundaries' ethos. Spices, ingredients and recipes from around the world line the menu, from Asian-inspired chilli-salt tofu – served with ong choy, salted black beans and sesame seeds – to charred aubergine drizzled in a saron buttermilk dressing and grilled Turkish chilli harking more from the Middle East. Of the small plates, the jamón and San Simón croquettes are everything you want from a meat-filled and deep-fried hors d'oeuvres, and the tomato, watermelon and feta salad offers a refreshing crunch of fruit and soy-toasted pumpkin seeds. The real star of the show is the Indian-inspired garam masala labneh, drowning in crispy, crunchy, moreish roasted chickpeas, fenugreek-chilli butter and served with warm, spicy flatbread made in-house. To finish, it’d be a sacrilege to leave without tucking into the chocolate and rye custard tart – a dish so decadent, dark and smooth that even Bruce Bogtrotter would shy away. Not us, though, obviously.
Plates from £4, drinks from £6; 9 Duke of York Square, SW3 4LY; vardorestaurant.co.uk