Coffee might be the Caravan team’s first love, but one look at the lengthy menu of their latest outpost is proof enough that the Kiwi all-day dining pioneers know what the public want to eat, too. VARDO – the trio’s first venture to eschew the Caravan moniker, following five restaurants across the capital – is a faintly more formal affair than their previous eateries.
You can’t miss it, since it’s uniquely housed in a three-storey stone pavilion in Chelsea’s Duke of York Square, with illustrious neighbours including the Saatchi Gallery. The building itself has garnered much of the buzz; commissioned by the Cadogan Estate, London-based firm NEX Architecture’s winning design is a circular structure with an architectural trick up its sleeve, in the form of 360-degree floor-to-ceiling windows that can fully retract into the floor when warmer weather arrives.
The restaurant itself encompasses an airy space at street-level, with kitchens in the basement below and a public roof garden – accessed by exterior steps – above. Yet step inside and any concerns about dining on full display soon evaporate. From the spiralling ceiling (softened by slatted timber) to the cosy booths, the interior takes its cue from the curve of the host building, and a mix of contemporary furniture in pale wood and rattan are characterised by soft lines. Restful hues of rose pink and moss green are punctuated by neat groupings of potted plants to provide a barrier between booths and bar, where stools provide a more casual way to dine.
Divided by breakfast, brunch and all-day, the trio of menus span inventive international fare, with labels for the plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free among us. With length comes flexibility, and there’s an extensive offering of both big and small plates, including a vast array of vegetarian options and and the health-boosting bowls and kombuchas that have proved popular at Caravan’s existing outlets. The jalapeño cornbread is a speciality for good reason (you’ll find it on the menu at all their restaurants) and the soft serve – in four flavours, including vanilla with Fontodi olive oil and smoked sea salt – borders on obligatory.
While an evening holed up in one of the booths is a compelling reason to book now, it’ll be in the warmer months, when the restaurant is transformed into an open air terrace, that this new dining destination will truly blossom. 9 Duke of York Square, Chelsea, London SW3; vardorestaurant.co.uk
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