With its own roastery in the basement, one would expect Caravan to serve up a good cup of coffee - and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
The coffee alone would be reason enough for a visit - smooth and intense, with an impressive depth of flavour, the small frothy cappuccinos, milky glasses of latte, and typically Antipodean flat whites were all delicious...However, Caravan has more strings to its bow.
A cool venue at the West end of Exmouth Market, with an 'industrial-cool' interior, a well-stocked bar, and tasty food, it is worth a visit any time of the day.
I spent a sunny afternoon revising at one of their shabby-chic tables - french windows rolled open imparting an airy al fresco feel - sipping on a stream of (fantastic) coffee and the free water the friendly waiters kept topped up for the duration of my stay.
My only gripe is that the coffees are somewhat pricey given their size: if you're anything like me (that is, if you have grown up in the era of Starbucks and its venti caffeine hits) you will need at least two, and while good...OK, very good...they are by no means cheap. The pleasant atmosphere and attentive staff do compensate for this though, so get your money's worth and make sure you set aside plenty of time for lingering!
At weekends, the place is packed and humming with lively chatter. You may have to wait for a table for brunch, but sitting on stools at the cool bar, nursing a coffee and people-watching was not really a problem for us!
My boyfriend and I both ordered the full English (unadventurous as usual!) - bacon, two eggs any way (we went for poached), a dense, buttered doorstep of sourdough bread, grilled tomatoes, and - my favourite - a helping of delicious 'soy' mushrooms, firm and nutty in a tasty creamy sauce.
The poached eggs were ever-so-slightly overdone, but with plenty of delicious sauce from the mushrooms we still had something to dip our toast into, so no real complaints there!
We also ordered a serving of chilli beans and bubble & squeak on the side. Chilli beans came in a large bowl - a huge portion we struggled to finish. Kidney beans and what I think were cannellini beans mingled with tomato and onions in a sauce that - although not especially spicy - had a strong flavour of chilli.
Bubble and squeak was more of a cabbage and potato croquette - mashed potato mixed in with white cabbage, shaped into a patty, and fried in breadcrumbs...not something that I would really eat (I prefer the traditional version, chock full of vegetables and colour), but I guess some people would prefer this - particularly people who prefer fried goodies to vegetables!
There was a lot of food...but we persevered!
The bar area is cool, and I'd definitely like to go back here with friends for a drink and maybe some light bites one evening - with such a great atmosphere at noon on a Sunday, when most people are nursing hangovers, I would love to see what it's like later on.