The competition for chefs in London these days is fierce. Food must be properly sourced, seasonal, taste incredible and look mighty fine on the plate. It’s a minefield. The restaurateur has their work cut out before they’ve even started in the kitchen. The bar, must be beautifully designed and serve top notch cocktails, with a wine list that covers most if not all countries. Staff must be courteous, knowledgeable, friendly but not too friendly and there must always be elements of style as well as surprise. Decor is important; it must be evocative yet not pretentious, comfortable but not so much that guests won’t vacate after dinner. Maitre D must be a character, appearing relaxed whilst managing to know exactly what is happening where at all times, a sort of omniscient narrator of the entire experience. I don’t envy their task. Yet when they get it right; then, and only then does one begin to simmer and seethe with a joyous envy. Welcome to The Clove Club.
This is the latest addition to the Shoreditch dining scene and is the creation of Daniel Willis, Johnny Smith and Isaac McHale who made his mark as one of the Young Turks, foodsploitationists extraordinaire, who have popped up in many locations worldwide. They also earned critical applomb during a residency entitled “Upstairs at The Ten Bells” in historic Spitalfields. Modern British fare. I’m a big fan of this gastronomic evolution that is taking place, strike that, that has taken place. When Johnny Foreigner looks blankly at us Anglo-foodies at the mention of the term “British cuisine” we can now point him in the direction of numerous establishments, conjuring up all manner of innovative and delicious surprises under the banner of the Union Jack. True, many of them are borne out of foreign influences and contain foreign ingredients but that is the beauty of British cuisine. It’s basically global.
Up the stone steps of Shoreditch town hall and in to the high ceilinged spartan old school space of the bar where we were served a cocktail that was somewhere between a negroni and a glass of Rose wine, served straight up in a coupe glass. Perfect aperitif. Through to the dining room, refectory chic, all chatter and clatter, towering windows out on to the back walls of buildings. It made me think of Brooklyn though I have no idea why.
The open plan kitchen is a hive of activity and it’s a joy to witness how smoothly the chaps all set to working with one another. We kicked off with a bottle of Chateau Mussar from the Bekka valley and took delivery of the entrées.
Beautiful blend of textures and flavours. The sweetness of the sauce countering the peppery fieriness of the radishes.
Thinly shaved Kohlrabi (turnip) wrapped around sunflower seed butter with a flourish of mint. A light, delicate surprise to enliven the taste buds.
Tender, soft, lightly smoked duck ham vanished from the plate in a flash.
It may look like a road traffic accident but the smoked mussels paired perfectly with the soft buttery leeks, offset by rich spinach sauce.
Just the most intensely umami flavour, which made perfect sense when they brought out the rib of beef. The marrow flavours were concentrated in the jus creating a deep, rich and punchy flavour that had us all grinning ear to ear.
The experience was only a couple of minor stops short of perfection for me and I won’t even mention the aspects that may require some attention because the over-riding sensation during and after the meal was one of sheer joy. Extremely highly recommended. If this club will accept me as a member, then sorry Groucho, but I’m in.