Friday, 3 December 2010

Medcalf review Exmouth Market British restaurant - didn't quite make the mark


Address: 40 Exmouth Market,
London EC1R 4QE
Tel: 020 7833 3533
Nearest Tube station: Angel

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: Below £20 pp
Service charge: 12.5%
Taste: **
Service: ****
Ambience: ***
Two things that set Medcalf apart from the restaurants and cafes along Exmouth Market. Other than its seemingly ancient façade that looks faded even when compared to Sweet (which has updated its look after my earlier visit), there was some conspicuous damage down to Medcalf’s front windows. In fact, we mistook it for an abandoned store when we first walked past it.

Apparently, Medcalf took it upon themselves to maintain the original façade of the storefront all these years and the damage was inflicted during an earlier council maintenance a couple of years back. Refusing to repair the damage, Medcalf is still trying to claim damages from the local council.

We decided to give it a go when someone we knew heavily recommended it, mentioning that the place can “easily accommodate a good size buggy”. Of course, we weren’t there solely for that – the McDonald’s along Chapel Market would be just fine for that. “It serves good food as well,” she quipped. So why not? We decided to check Medcalf out.

Medcalf was running a burger grilling booth outside the restaurant when we turned up for lunch that day and there was a short queue building up for that. Medcalf is one of those restaurants that is much larger than it looks from the outside. The seating area extends right through to the back and there is even a small outdoor sitting area (with a dartboard no less) towards the end, perfect for smokers and the summer season.

We were seated right at the back, which was just as well. Who knew when our little screamer would be awake (she eventually did and made it known to the entire restaurant). Instead of neat little pictures found on the rest of the restaurant’s walls, the restaurant’s rear seating area is adorned with building and architectural plans (no, I’m serious). The plan and side AutoCAD generated drawings would look not the slightest out of place in any architect’s office.

That said, Medcalf serves primarily British cuisine – bacon chop, Guinness braised ox cheeks, Welsh mackerel, partridge and smoked haddock etc. After some consideration, we went for the latter two.


My smoked haddock (£14.75) came with creamed leeks and crispy poached egg. I was half expecting the poached egg’s yolk to ooze forth when I cut my spoon through it. No such luck. The egg was like a half done hardboiled egg if you know what I mean. A thick slab of mildly smoked haddock was balanced on a thicker glob of mash potatoes engulfed by a small pond of creamed leeks. The cream, unfortunately, neutralised any taste the smoked haddock might have. In fact, I enjoyed the leek more than the fish.


Wife generously spared me a sizable chunk of her partridge (£15.95) knowing my lack of passion towards game meat. Something was amiss. I could perhaps take comfort that my smoked haddock turned out better than Wife’s partridge. It tasted bland even with roasted with bay leaves. She ended up polishing off the puy lentils and cavalo Nero that came with it and left much of the poor bird intact.

Looking through the menu, we might be better off ordering ox cheeks instead. But the fact remained that we left Medcalf disappointed. The saving grace? Medcalf’s staff was friendly and there was a fellow screamer in the restaurant that easily put our Little One to shame.

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Mr Noodles said...

It's a shame you felt that it was a bit of a letdown. Although I've not been in ages, this is one of my fave spots for British food.

C K said...

@Mr Noodles,
I recall that you loved the pigs' cheeks over at Medcalf. Should have gone for that really. Perhaps my expectations were pegged too high after hearing loads of good things about it but I still prefer St. John for good o' British grub.