Photo by Ewan Munro
I recalled that when The Clove Club opened to rave reviews. L and I hastily made plans to visit it one day. Alas the planned trip never did materialise and I keep wondering why I have not been given its proximity to my home whenever I read a glowing review of the restaurant. When I came across yet another review proclaiming what excellent value the set lunch was I could put it off no longer. I made a reservation and turned up the next day for lunch.
The Clove Club started as a supper club in a Dalston flat before making its big move to the the Shoreditch Town Hall. I could not but help notice the incongruous small room opposite the entrance to the restaurant where various meats were on display with a heater and a fan. I was informed by the warm lady who greeted me at the reception that this is their Salumi Room where they cure their meats but it used to be the Box Office for the Assembly Hall where people would buy tickets every Saturday in the 50’s for the boxing and wrestling matches that day. I complimented the lady on the restaurant’s playlist which was quite a refreshing change from the uninspired music usually played at restaurants. She was quick to point out that that the owners had taken great pains to ensure that everything about the restaurant down to the playlist was a reflection of their personal tastes.
I was seated in the bar area with a view of the incredibly big and busy kitchen. The restaurant was decorated in a safe white theme. I found the area leading to the loo to be more interesting with its wooden beams, huge vase of white roses and a lone burning candle. The loo itself has the same haunting quality. It brings to mind a Dickinson feel and was slightly creepy while atmospheric at the same time.
I went for the 3 course set meal for £35. There were three mini starters – fennel and paprika sausages, radishes , black seasame and gojuchang and buttermilk chicken and pine salt. Each was innovative in its own right but my favourite has to be the buttermilk chicken. Nestled in a little basket of pine leaves, the little golden nuggets were crispy without being cloying and the pine leaves lends its distinctive aroma to the chicken. I had the hay baked pheasant in its own jelly, which was easily my favourite dish of the day even though while the jelly has a medicinal taste to it. It reminds me ever so slightly of chicken essence, chicken goodness distilled and concentrated in a bottle, deemed to be nourishing to the body. I dare say it is probably not to everyone’s liking. The hay imparted an earthy taste to the pheasant. Line caught sea bass, spinach with oak smoked roe and crisp potato may not sound like the most exciting choice but in this case the sum really adds up to more than its parts. The fish was cooked just right with a slight pink translucence to it while the potato cigar rolls offers a contrast in texture.
The little balls of oak smoked roe adds richness and depth, making the dish just that bit more grown up. I thought this was a very clever example of modern British cooking at its smart, using good ingredients with creativity and imagination. I was really stuffed but how could I say no to dessert? I had chocolate malt ice cream and the coffee cherry jelly. It is the perfect desert for a dinner party with the right amount of bitterness balancing out the sweetness. Well the serving staff did say that the chef did not have a sweet tooth and liked to interpret deserts in his own way. The Clove offered up a final little something to round up the meal. It was a little pud that tasted of quinoa and the like. Again there is this slight medicinal taste to it which I find interesting but which I suspect others might find off-putting especially those who like their deserts sweet.
Service was attentive in a Shoreditch way. You don’t get a dedicated service staff. It seems that whoever happens to be available at that time will serve you your food. For my meal I had people in chef’s whites, service stuff in their uniforms and even someone who seems like one of the owners in his three piece velvet suit attending to me. I find this charming some might prefer the traditional setting and if so, the Clove Club is probably not the place for them.
The Clove’s set lunch, I decided, was the clear winner of my best value set lunch quest. I was so impressed by the quality of the food that I set off to try the offerings of their sister restaurant, Upstairs at The Ten Bells, but more of that another day.
That was TT's parting shot, no photos came with the review when she sent it to me. She did end up in Upstairs at The Ten Bells after that but I don't think she ever put her thoughts down in writing.
The Toby Carvery, South Croydon
9 hours ago