I have been hearing about The Clove Club for ages and I’ve been very curious to try though it was never near the top of my list as I had also heard some non-enthusiastic reviews from friends. I had also interviewed a chef at the Pellegrino top 50 awards (The Clove Club Chef) and to put it nicely, he was not the friendliest (maybe shy?).
But my friend Filippo, who is the editor of The Upcoming, raved about it and has been there multiple times so we scheduled a lunch.
I arrived 10 minutes late as Filippo is always late (I guess Italians are even worse than Brazilians?). I waited for him for a while and the waiters were very friendly. The girls at the table next to me later confessed, after I told them at the end of the meal that I was also Brazilian, that they had really wanted to invite me to join them, as they felt bad for me that I was by myself for so long.
When he finally arrived, we still opted for the 5 course menu. (I was leaning towards the 3 but he insisted the 5 course had better coverage of their must eat dishes.)
What we ate:
The meal starts with a procession of lovely snacks that were in my opinion the highlights of the meal:
Fried chicken with pine salt: piping hot, crunchy outside and very tender inside, presented in a basket full of pine branches. Very good.
Little tuna in a pastry shell with shiso leaf and oat cake with smoked cod mousse with green tea powder: both delicious but the tuna was sublime and the pastry shell was paper thin, crunchy and delicate.
Tartare of albacore tuna, potato salad, orange & sage: this was the first of the 5 courses. They were running out of mackerel and offered us tuna instead as another option, so I got the tuna while Filippo went for the mackerel. It was called a tartare but there were three gorgeous thick slices of albacore on a light potato salad with red pepper sauce drizzled around and fried mini sage leaves. Gorgeous and by far the best dish of the entire lunch.
Flamed Cornish Mackerel, English mustard, cucumber: I am not a mackerel fan but this was delicious. It wasn’t overly fishy and the flavours combined with the very light mustard and the thinly sliced cucumber was gorgeous.
Cornish sardines on toast, samphire, bobby beans: I really didn’t care for this dish at all, and even Filippo who tends to defend all their dishes agreed that it wasn’t good. The samphire foam with the bobby beans underneath adding colour were tasty but the sardine invention which pressed a very thin toast and sardines combined was too strong and fishy and I had to leave almost all of it on the plate.
Roast Scottish grouse, parsnip, fig and honey: I really didn’t care for this and neither did Filippo at the beginning. He professed on his first bites that it was overly gamey and partially raw. But he came around, and the dish grew on him. I had a bite on the piece that he claimed was better cooked and I still didn’t like it. I am glad I had asked for the rabbit from the three course menu instead.
Sautéed French rabbit, coco beans, girolles and tomato: this was an ok dish but a bit bland. The rabbit had the loin, kidney (hated it) and little ribs. It was served on white beans with tomatoes and mushrooms and was delicate and not heavy, but not special in any way. Filippo claimed that I shouldn’t expect special as I ordered from the cheaper menu but I disagree, in my book, every dish in a restaurant of this calibre should be special. Both his grouse and my rabbit came with a cute side plate and mine had liver on brioche with some stuffed pastry (tasty) and his had pate on brioche.
Mini palate cleanser: Rhubarb tart with Jasmin toast. Cute.
Blackcurrant leaf ice cream, beremeal (flour made of Northern Scottish barley) and blackcurrant jelly: this was a small dessert and a lovely ice cream with a blackcurrant jelly. Was nice and not too heavy but not something I will wake up the next day dreaming of.
Baked meadowsweet (herb) custard, rhubarb and puffed amaranth: another nice dessert and more interesting than the ice cream. The custard had a lovely texture and a nice flavour, but I prefer when I can describe my desserts as addictive, tasty, and can’t stop eating and this didn’t quite classify as that.
To finish we got a caramel chocolate and a pitted barley cake which was warm and very good. They also gave us a bar of their house-made chocolate as Filippo said its his favorite ever and they just hand them out on birthdays and special occasions, but since he had rave to me about it, they made an exception.
In sum: Filippo claims it is better at dinner. It was a nice meal, but to me not to the same level as the Ledbury or other meals that I really loved. I also think he loves it because he is a chef and can cook most of those things at home and can appreciate the skills involved in putting together a meal like this and the creativity that goes into it. To me, it boils down to: will I dream of any of the things I had and count the days till I can have them again? And sadly, I won’t.
Service was very good. The waiter picked up on the fact for example I didn’t love mackerel and when he brought a cup of broth between meals, Filippo got the mackerel broth and I got a veggie one.
The Clove Club http://thecloveclub.com/
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, London EC1V 9LT
+4420 7729 6496