Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Modern Pantry - Clerkenwell restaurant and deli, sambal and goreng pisang are to die for


Address: 47-48 St John’s Square,
London EC1V 4JJ
Tel: 020 7553 9210
Nearest Tube station: Farringdon
Make a reservation
Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: ***
Service: ***
Ambience: **
It’s often a dilemma when a restaurant is located near a major train station. On one hand, you would want to maintain a certain sense that it is actually a proper sit down restaurant and probably attract the right group of diners. But the allure of having a brisk takeaway business is always lingering.

The Modern Pantry, located at St. John’s Square – a short walk to Farringdon train station, is doing just this balancing act. The fact that it’s doing a takeaway is prominently advertised on a panel placed up front as well as on its menu. I would think that its deli beside its main restaurant would be doing a thriving business. A simple croissant to munch on your train ride sounds good. If only I could find the deli’s entrance.

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We had some trouble getting the pram up its two steep steps at its entrance. The staff wasn’t exactly helpful in this as well. But this is hardly an issue if the food is good, isn’t it?

Upon presented with the menu, Wife immediately pointed out that The Modern Pantry’s coffee is brewed with coffee beans roasted at Caravan. We ordered a coffee each immediately after that. In fact, I could see an entire takeaway business thriving simply because of this. Also, all eggs served in the Modern Pantry are free range organic. Gawd, I feel better already.

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We are certain that the chef has spent some time in the South East Asia as it was pretty evident in the dishes that we ordered. The grilled chorizo (£8.20) with slow roast vine ripened tomatoes and poached eggs came with caramelised plantain fritters (or what we know as goreng pisang back home). The fritters came with slightly crisp skin with a soft caramelised interior. That with the peppery rocket leaves was the highlight of the dish for me.

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Wife was dismayed at the size of her sugar cured new caledonian prawn omelette (£8.70). Other than spring onions and coriander, the usual ingredients, the prawns were lightly tossed with smoked chilli sambal as well. Good sambal is highly prized in Southeast Asia.

The funny thing is that while many back home would kill for a good sambal, no one seems to know how exactly to make a decent one (we’re still trying by the way). The thing about this chilli paste is that it goes well even with plain rice for the dried shrimps that go into it provides all the flavour that you’ll need. In fact, I thought that The Modern Pantry’s sambal rivals Sedap’s.

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The kink in the armour came in the form of the humble tea. Like most Londoners, we love our tea. While we don’t mind paying for teabags (as we so often do), we were understandably sore when teabags were served when it was stated explicitly on the menu that tea leaves would be. When we pointed this out, a member of the staff explained that “only teabags are available even though it says tea leaves on the menu”. What a bummer.

The Modern Pantry scores on innovative menu. However, don’t count on its breakfast meals to fill up your stomach, especially if you have a healthy appetite like mine. Having a square up front means that there’s ample space for outdoor seating – a perfect setting for an early breakfast if the weather holds up.
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10 comments:

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

food looks good! has been on my list for a while and it seems worth going to. IF they manage to buy tea leaves...

The Pleasure Monger said...

Did you just say sambal and goreng pisang?!! I'm coming over!

C K said...

@Ute,
Actually, if you are in the area for dinner, I would recommend Bistro Bruno Loubet, which is at the ground floor of Zetter Hotel (also in St. John's Square). For The Modern Pantry, like I said, it's more for a light bite.

Are you a tea drinker as well?

@Pleasure Monger,
Heheh, the sambal and goreng pisang (fried plantain) are only accompaniments. If only The Modern Pantry does a full dish with them.

At the rate that you're going, I'm surprised that you haven't make your own sambal and goreng pisang yet... or have you?

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

I will actually try it out tonight for a post-theatre bite - let's see... Bistro Bruno Loubet booked out :(
and I love tea! not so much black tea but green tea in every variation. Have discovered hojicha when I was in Japan last month and this is my current favourite. Which tea do yo like?

C K said...

@ute,
Sencha for me. Was quite surprised to learn that caffeine content in sencha is way higher than in hojicha. To think that all along I was under the impression that it's the other way round.

If you're into tea, try Teasmith at Spitalfields Market for a relaxing and refreshing session!

Tom said...

Glad you enjoyed your meal here (even if not completely filled).

We have always loved it and never understood the slightly negative vibe about it. I think the innovation is fantastic.

BTW awesome pics - the omelette ones are making me hungry for that very dish!

The Pleasure Monger said...

I've made nasi lemak chilli and chicken rice chilli, but not proper sambal, and nope haven't tried goreng pisang yet. Those are pretty good ideas for me to get cracking in the kitchen, but the house smells too strongly whenever I fry chilli! =(

C K said...

@Tom,
Thanks! We were enthralled by the sambal within the omelette, which makes all the difference. Have you tried its deli? I meant to check with the staff but just couldn't get hold of them after I paid the bill.

Oh, I must congratulate you on your awesome site!

@Pleasure Monger,
I'm not sure whether the bananas over here made good goreng pisang. The plantain back home are more suited for making the snack.

Can totally imagine the pungent smell when frying chilli... turn up the cooker hood and keep kitchen's door shut, that might just do the trick!

The Pleasure Monger said...

lol, i wish i have a kitchen door!! ours is an open kitchen concept flat...so my living room smells of chilli after each attempt. by the way, my hubby has been hinting at some nasi lemak again, i think it won't be long before i send my living area into pungen-ce.

C K said...

@Pleasure Monger,
Open concept kitchen isn't really built for frying chilli, is it? :) I'm sure he'll have no complaints though.