Tucked under the archway entrance to Regents Quarter, besides Kings Cross station; VOC Restaurant and Bar is a stylish intimate space which serves sensationally innovative cocktails/punch and a delightfully morish small plates menu. Named after the Vereenigde Oost-Indische, more widely known as the Dutch East India Company; VOC is a cosy, welcoming, casual spot. Having watched the redevelopment of Kings Cross over the last few years it has been interesting to witness the variation in options that have sprung up. VOC is a longer-established occupant of the area and remains as relevant and contemporary in its offering as ever.
What is fantastic about VOC is the fact that you can happily go there for any occasion whether lunch, after work drinks, dinner with friends and colleagues alike. A real gem of a bar it embodies a sense of adventure and discovery featuring decadent, barrel aged cocktails inspired by the spice routes evoked by the bar’s name.
With a bespoke cocktail menu based on centuries old recipes brought up to date with modern mixology techniques you are spoilt for choice the minute you open the menu. It was therefore a tough choice with cocktails called Walsingham’s Interrogation, VOC Blazer and Dutch Daisy but I opted for the Pirate’s Curse – billed as a cocktail not for the faint-hearted. It is a blood-red twist on the infamous Reggae-Rum punch, incorporating pomegranate, spice and flames. A great way to reinvigorate the senses and to get the palate ready for the plates ahead.
The menu also embraces the concept of discovery and as such is a revelation of dishes from the sea, the land, the field and signature classics! The knowledgeable and welcoming staff encourage you to try between two to three dishes from each section of the menu to really experience the quality of ingredients, cooking techniques and the variety on offer. From the moment we tried the nibbles it was clear you are in for a treat. The grilled sourdough bread was just out of the oven fresh served with a fennel butter which was, light, rich and a perfect excuse to make sure you ate the entire bread portion. Large and juicy Sailor sherry washed olives didn’t stay on the table particularly long either. We then devoured garlic fried prawns, salt and Szechuan pepper squid and baked hake with sautéed spinach, fennel and sweet basil. The hake was cooked to perfection, tender, flaky and the kind of dish you want to rush home to recreate. The swirl of bell pepper coulis added a dash of colour to a plate which visually stimulates before you’ve even eaten the first forkful.
The stand out from the land dishes was the Scottish blackface lamb; herb crusted cutlets which were succulent, juicy and finished all to quickly accompanied by petite chargrilled asparagus, aubergine and peppers. The five day crispy duck and fifth taste marinated umami chicken with wild mushroom provide strong competition. The balance of flavours and the generous portion size mean you are not disappointed and you are nicely filled. We accompanied our meal with Jerusalem artichoke and walnut which is a dish I could eat at least once a day every day. Who knew poached artichoke, served with marinated grapes and walnuts could be so yummy.
It was tough but I made sure I could find space for dessert which was unequivocally an excellent decision. Well with a ‘Different Eton Mess’ on the menu how could I possibly resist. Eton mess and the chocolate mousse were duly ordered. The chocolate mousse is served on a chocolate biscuit base with a crunchy gianduia core meaning lots of play on textures. It was however the Different Eton mess I most enjoyed consisting of beetroot meringue with dried strawberries, sauce and lashings of cream. A total winner in my book and a well executed menu generally means that as I often find myself by Kings Cross and as the winter nights draw in the stylish and cosy VOC Bar has my vote for a destination stop-off.