Self-service is the best worst thing in the world. For every self-checkout that wordlessly beeps another pack of Tangfastics, there’s an ePassport gate that laughs and rejects your teenage My Chemical Romance fringe. It’s seamless until it isn’t seamless, and all of it has been leading up to Parrillan: a King’s Cross grill-it-yourself terrace restaurant that turns DIY into a big old FU.
Parrillan comes from Ideation Land. A place filled with bean bags and fuelled by Camden Hells. Where any idea is a good idea, even if it’s a terrible idea. This makes it problematic. Not Nuts magazine problematic, but in a way that’s much more existential. One that will cause your internal monologue to go into overdrive asking and answering questions.
Is this a restaurant? Sure. It’s from the Barrafina people next door. And it’s a giant terrace, and terraces can be restaurants. Why am I cooking the food myself? Because it’s fun! Look! Your own personal grill! Wow! Then why does everything take so long to come if it’s raw? Chill. It’s relaxed. It’s summer. Have a sangria. But do people really want to eat opposite a nuclear tabletop box during the height of summer? Sure and it, um, gets chilly at night. What, you think you’ll be here grilling in mid-December? Well, no… And what if I overcook my own £9 scallop? Because I’m, like, talking? Or in the toilet? Or whatever? Well that’s your own fault, isn’t it. Oh, great.
You see, Parrillan’s real (and only) USP is its space. The terrace is objectively nice, perfect for drinking and eating things that don’t spit molten juices onto your favourite linen trousers. This is what the smart people who come here do. They sit in the sun, eat pan con tomate, and drink wine. Not because it doesn’t involve cooking, not because it’s more cost-efficient, but because it doesn’t involve R2D2’s disabled cousin being wheeled over to your table on a trolley.
The food is quality fresh produce - from red prawns, to peas in the pod, to pluma iberica - that’s priced high and tastes as good as you or your Robot Wars leper allow it to. Which means, more often than not, what should taste great is typically just fine. This is the right stuff in the wrong hands. A karaoke restaurant with the expectations and the prices of Glastonbury.
As for the human service, well, that too is robotic. It flits between microwave and washing machine time. A lone array of condiments: on the table within seconds. A plate of raw meat or fish: eternally, stuck, one, minute, from, your, table.
All the problems at Parrillan come back to the concept - retch - of the restaurant. It’s stupid. It’s nonsensical. And it’s appearing on Question Time next week. Sadly like many politicians, Parrillan will go far in London. But it will not be well liked. Because, like many politicians, Parillan wants you to do it all yourself, and then thank them for it.
This is some of the more standard stuff from Barrafina (their sibling restaurant) next door. Pan con tomate, anchovies, iberico ham. Nice to snack on with a beer, or wine, or whatever it is you drink and eat to avoid actually have to cook something yourself.
A selection of vegetables, freshly caught seafood, high quality meats. It’s all here. At Waitrose Granary Square, seven minutes from Parrillan. You can cook it at home. You can barbecue it outside. You can leave it raw on a plate, forget about it, and act like you meant to eat it forty five minutes later. It’s all the same experience.