Michelin starred, The Clove Club in the Grade II-listed Shoreditch Town Hall has been on my foodie radar for a very long time. Finally the time arrived to grace my tastebuds with its culinary delights.
One of the first things to strike you on arrival is the small, unassuming dining room. It’s not the grand interiors you’d perhaps expect when you walk through the big blue doors. No airs and graces – A sign from the start that the food will be doing all the talking. The high ceilings, dark wood and pale walls make up the simple decor. All eyes naturally lead to the bright azure tiled open kitchen where all the action takes place in full view of the diners.
This is a place where fine dining is turned on its head. Gone are the white table cloths and a table loaded with silverware. Instead the interiors and staff create a laid-back and casual atmosphere. From the moment we stepped through the door every member of staff we came into contact with also reinforced this relaxed ambience. You won’t find overly stuffy staff here. Instead you meet people like Bronte, our waitress who I feel needs a special mention – So friendly and knowledgable plus her attention to detail was so on point. Constantly replacing my napkin which would continually slip onto the floor every (what felt like) five seconds. Lesson learnt – do not wear leather trousers to dinner!
Another difference compared to other restaurants is the no choice menu. The only choice you do have is whether you go for five at or nine courses. Fear not vegetarians – they have a dedicated herbaceous plants menu and dealt with Mr S’s pescatarian ways too. Since I suffer from a severe case of FOMO when it comes to food, we headed straight for the nine courses.
We began with a selection of snacks. Frozen beetroot and apple gazpacho with walnut oil cream, salt baked beetroot on yoghurt encased in a thin pastry, turnip rolls with sunflower seeds and mint and vegetarian haggis. These bitesize morsals were all-powerful, tasty flavour-bombs and set the expectations high for the rest of the courses.
I began my veggie extravaganza with grilled butternut pumpkin with kumquat and buckwheat. It was like putting a hot knife through butter when I cut through the delectable sweet butternut pumpkin. Melt-in-the-mouth the tangy kumquat was a perfect accompaniment along with the crunchy buckwheat counterpoint dotted on the plate.
Mr S had the hay smoked trout tartare, pink fir potato and sansho. The potato element came in the form of a velouté poured around the cold fish at the table.
The confit Jerusalem artichoke with crosnes and winter truffle took the comfort dish crown. To relieve my confused expression upon presentation, Bronte explained crosnes is a Japanese artichoke. Dining – fills your belly and educates your brain. The small tuber pieces hidden underneath the foam were crunchy and nutty in flavour and married well with the earthiness of the truffle.
The truffle fiend sat opposite nearly turned green with envy until he caught sight of his own raw Orkney scallop with hazelnut brown butter and winter truffle. No prizes for guessing how that went down.
Prior to our feasting Bronte warned us that two out of the nine courses were in liquid form. It was time for the first, a warm chestnut broth with wild Scottish seaweed. There is also a version with oyster broth, which Mr S declined. An aphrodisiac for some but he’s never been a fan. Moving on, the sweet nuttiness combined with the salty seaweed lurking in the bottom was simply delicious.
My next course of Musselburgh leeks with Montgomery Cheddar and watercress purée didn’t score high with me. Mainly due to my not being a fan of leeks. The cheddar sauce and watercress purée helped greatly in disguising the leeky leekiness.
Mr S was rather pleased with the next course of hazelwood grilled pollock with grelot onions, cinnamon and curry leaf. I recall hearing something about the fish being cooked beautifully, followed by silence and before long an empty plate.
My pheasant egg with smoked potato and wild garlic was making its debut on the menu that evening. And boy was I pleased about that! The perfectly cooked egg with the mellow garlic flavour, subtle smoky tones and crispy bits of croutons left me wanting more. Truly delicious.
Our second liquid course arrived in the form of a hundred year old Madeira. The 1908 D’Oliveiras Madeira Boal Reserva was gingerly poured into a wine glass, then joined by a hot mushroom consommé from a brandy decanter.
The deep earthy flavours edged with the sweetness of the alcohol was surprisingly tasty and satisfying. Mr S wasn’t entirely convinced, and would’ve happily sipped the old wine itself. I however, loved supping on the light but rich soup from a wine glass.
Our final savoury was pot roast cauliflower with cinnamon, bay leaf and toasted bread sauce. The warming undercurrent of the cinnamon and bay leaf worked well with the cauliflower. The toasty flavours of the sauce I felt also helped enhance the dish.
Next followed the desserts. The burnt clementine sorbet and spiced meringue was hidden underneath a mound of crisp clementine leaves. Served in a burnt black clementine shell, the marmalade-esque sorbet was mixed with a delicious cream and topped with charred meringue. The different textures in each mouthful left a distinct taste of Christmas. I love Christmas, so all over this dessert.
The Yorkshire rhubarb, sheep’s milk yogurt and rose was encased between two wafer thin biscuits. I’m all for a rhubarb tang and thought the delicate flavours of yogurt and rose weren’t lost within. A great way to finish off the meal.
Of course that wasn’t the end as the petit fours soon arrived. In the form of a warm, comforting barley cake, a bonbon with liquid Fernet-Branca and crème de menthe filling and salted caramel chocolates.
The experience may be informal and the atmosphere relaxed, but you’ll still encounter a very smooth and professional service. I was very impressed with the vegetarian menu. It’s lovely to not feel like an afterthought, a lot of thought has gone into devising the menu full of seasonal British ingredients.
I also managed to get into kitchen and have a chat with sous chef Dan Smith, who was taking the helm that evening from Issac McHale. Recently featured as one of Forbes 30 under 30, he’s most definitely one to watch.
Is there a restaurant on foodie bucket list? Let me know in the comments box below
The Clove Club | Shoreditch Town Hall | 380 Old St | London | EC1V 9LT
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