|Muffin with Merguez sausage, rocket and a fried egg, with a pepper coulis.
I was particularly pleased because High Street is significantly closer to my office than the Depot, so it’s a much more realistic possibility for my half an hour lunch break. I have to wait until I have a meeting over that side of town to treat myself to a Gray’s lunch normally. I’ve stopped in a couple of times for their £4 muffins and found the service courteous and efficient and the quality of the ingredients meeting the high standard that I’ve come to expect.
This week I popped over because they were launching their new menu at a celebratory events with their housemates The Attic. You can’t ignore an event like that!
We were treated to some delicious cocktails from the Attic team. They have already firmly cemented their reputation for some superb cocktails and they were showcasing them with gin and tonic made with Broker’s Gin to your own specification from the menu. I went for the Copperhead, which had orange zest, cinnamon, bitters and a sprinkle of pink peppercorns. I loved the way the delicate spices worked with the aromatics in the gin, it was a really summery and interesting drink, even though sadly the weather was not on form so I was drinking it on the secret balcony in a fine drizzle!
They also had a carefully constructed Old Fashioned, one of my favourite drinks, which had been lovingly developed over several hours using all kinds of fancy processes which I have now forgotten (probably because I had a G&T followed by an Old Fashioned) but it definitely involved golden syrup! It was a much more entry level Old Fashioned than I am used to, the flavour of the hot, strong alcohol (hot in terms of mouth feel, they didn’t warm it up or anything silly) being nicely tempered with the slight syrupy sweetness of the syrup and a delightful splash of cherry juice to garnish.
While we sipped our drinks, the friendly team brought round platters of samples from the menu for everyone to try and happily explained what was in them and what made them special. One of the key features of the Gray’s at the Cookie menu is that it is assuredly inclusive. Each menu section contains clearly labelled options – meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan. We enjoyed crisp sweet potato fries with a spiced mayo and crunchy semolina crust. There were sweet and sticky onion bhaji kofta blends which were full of spicy crunch as well as a huge amount of gently cooked sweet onion.
I was surprised at how much I liked the simple toasty – the chicken, cheese and sunblushed tomato making a sweet combo in a perfectly toasted bread that was so simple but utterly delightful. The tempura cauliflower was also a real treat. As you can see, they take their menu inspiration from all around the world and this experimental feel makes the overall menu feel quirky and fun. It is all very well executed, with clear attention being paid to finding a balance of flavours within each dish.
It is also great to discover that the ground floor of the Cookie is accessible to people with mobility issues, or those with pushchairs, but I also found out that evening that if you would like to attend a gig (music, comedy and much more available!) in the basement and you use a wheelchair, they can arrange access for you by prior appointment. Just give them a call.
They are also the first place I am aware of in the city to have a gender neutral toilet, as well as providing a rare city centre Safe Space. These are not baby steps, these are giant strides towards equality in our city and I really hope that other independent venues in town sit up and take note.