Ever since I moved to London, I have maintained an ever-growing list of restaurants I wish to try within the notes function of my iPhone. Nothing is more satisfying than finally getting around to dine at any one of them, producing the ability to plant a big fat thumbs-up emoji next to its name to indicate the visit is complete. It is all very high tech.
There is very little rhyme and even less reason when it comes to the list and it largely showcases an eclectic pick-and-mix of London’s food scene, from the likes of The Ledbury to Bleecker Burger. To be honest, I am not quite sure how or why some of the restaurants made it onto the list in the first place. I can only assume I implemented some kind of thought process at the time of addition. But then again, who am I kidding: probably not. All I know is that my tendency towards obsessive compulsiveness means nothing can be removed from the list once it is there.
With its supper club origins (and newly acquired Michelin star), The Clove Club has featured as one of my original listings. So when The Influencer suggested we skip on down to Shoreditch for lunch, I excitedly jumped on it. Hooray! Another thumb against another name.
The dining room was quiet when we arrived for our 1:45PM reservation, but I instantly fell in love with its airily bright interior and open kitchen. We settled on the three course lunch menu, which is a steal at £35, given all the additional treats the kitchen pass across.
A selection of starting ‘snacks’ seem to be a popular way to get a meal underway these days and The Clove Club followed suit with the trend. This filled my little heart with happiness, as these tend to be my favourite part of any dining experience. How can something so small be so packed with flavour! And what could be better than an array of bite-sized nibbles that don’t necessarily all fit together, but collectively showcase a chef’s creativity across a wide-reaching spectrum of tastes? Nothing, that’s what.
The restaurant’s signature buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt was the first of our salty schnacks. This was not new to me, as Sydney’s Duke Bistro served up a remarkably similar dish back in the day. Perhaps this may have been Mitch Orr’s homage to his mate across the pond, Isaac McHale? All I know is it kept me going back to Duke and it will probably get me going back to The Clove Club: greatest.fried.chicken.ever.
English bobby bean tart with hazelnut oil and parsnip purée. A great showcase of a seasonal ingredient, this was fresh and tasty, even if not particularly noteworthy.
Oatcake with goats cheese and a genmaicha and spinach powder was again tasty, but nothing to really write home about.
The chestnut and oyster broth with seaweed took me by surprise. All beige and unassuming, it jumped out and punched me in the face with its deep earthiness. I could have inhaled a huge bowl of this and still pined for more. A perfect bowl of warming autumnal comfort.
Red tuna tartare with aged beef fat and Celtic mustard was my favourite main dish of the day. I am a sucker for a good tartare and this one was absolutely delicious with its saline quality and strong meaty savour.
A between-course bite consisted of a delicate Montgomery cheddar tart with maltose topping. Liquid cheese goodness made for a really nice mouthful.
To change things up a bit, our beautiful waitress offered us each a wine glass laced with 1908 Madeira. She asked us to have a sniff and a small sip, following which she poured in a piping hot and deceptively robust pheasant consommé. With its perfectly paired flavours, this was another wonderful surprise of the meal. Eep! I got too excited by the aged Madeira I forgot to take a photo.
For my main course, I had the Cornish thornback ray with smoked roe, Musselburgh leek, samphire and a fine sprinkling of purple cauliflower. This was a good, well-seasoned dish and I particularly enjoyed the unique texture of the ray, which was new to me. However, it did not stand out as a step above any of the staple fish courses found on comparative menus across town.
The Influencer, quite possibly the world’s greatest cheese lover, could not go past the offering to end the meal on a dairy high. Myself, not being the world’s greatest sweet tooth, easily complied. Cheese for dessert it was! We were presented with a generous selection across a number of lovely varieties, all of which came as a very welcome addition to our table. Nothing amuses me more than to witness The Influencer move in on a plate of cheese with reckless abandon, all the while proclaiming the vast array of gym-bound activity she will be doing straight afterwards to justify it. Nothing quite like a bit of forward thinking to fuel current behaviour.
With some dishes exceeding expectations and others bordering the ‘good but forgettable’ category, The Clove Club was an overall very enjoyable meal. Service was fun yet professional and the atmosphere was casual and unpretentious. I would recommend a visit, even if buying a ticket (read: pre-paying for your meal) is not your thing [NB: this applies to dinner service only]. I will be back and would be especially interested to see what The Swede thinks. In the meantime, I am challenged with a list that I need to continue working on…
That said, I love a good recommendation. So please do tell me: what is on your list?