We were meeting a friend in Kings Cross and had heard a number of good reviews of the gastropub The Driver; however Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls have been put off by the website. Check it out reader and you will understand why; it looks as if it has been designed by a drug addict in the 90’s.
Anyway as we wanted a new place to visit we decided to give it a go. The pub is located a walk from Kings Cross station on the Caledonian road, we thought it was nearer than it was and had to ask directions a number of times to ensure we had not missed it.
The Driver is located on the corner of a side road and is a large brick building covered in ivy. It looks pretty impressive from the outside but as we walked in we had to push past the crowds that were lined up at the pub downstairs for drinking only, it seemed a little less Austin and more student bar.
We climbed the stairs to the restaurant on the first floor and let ourselves in the restaurant. This is one large room which has another bar nestled in the side. There are approximately eight or nine tables and booking is recommended. The trouble with the decor was that it was such a contrast of styles as if the designer could not decide what style they wanted. The windows were very French in style with wooden shutters; there was flowery decorated white and silver wall paper on three walls with the other covered in a kind of decoupage graffiti and Gothic paintings in another corner. A little strange if you ask me. The wooden tables had wooden chairs, not terribly comfortable but did fit in with the French country style of the windows so it is recommended that you are facing these to get the true feel for this style. On the plus side whatever your taste in restaurant decor you are likely to be catered for and just ensure you face that way!
We were seated at the table and ordered a bottle of the red house wine while we looked through the menu. We both ordered the pan fried scallops with red pepper salsa, black pudding & hazelnut pesto. My friend does not like peppers and said this to the waiter, who said he would speak to the chef. When it came out the dish was served with sun dried tomatoes instead of red peppers which was a nice surprise as usually they would just leave the offending ingredient out. The scallops were delicious and juicy although not as plump as we have had before in good restaurants. The rich black pudding went well with the zingy salsa and salty scallops and really worked. Presentation was good although we feel they went a bit trigger happy with the rocket that did not have dressing.
For main course we ordered the sirloin steak rare and fish and chips. We asked for green beans as a side. The fish was huge way over hanging the plate and was crisp and delicious. The fish inside was translucent and meaty however at the edges it seemed to be mainly batter. We were a little disappointed in the steak as it was a little thin for a sirloin and not the rich red that we would associate with good quality meat. Saying that, the steak was juicy and although not rare was well cooked and seasoned. The beans that we asked to be shared were served on my dish so was difficult to share.
To summarise the food was good although was not what we would call true gastropub food, good quality, hearty and well sourced ingredients. Instead the food focused on presentation and ingredient combinations. The décor was pretty terrible (although I have seen images of the second floor which much more innovative – and not to mention standardised – in its design). The service was good although lacking knowledge and a real care. Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls gives The Driver a score of:
Food Atmosphere Service