Recently I met a friend who had recently undergone a serious health overhaul. It meant all gluten and dairy products were off the menu with only limited pescatarian items welcome. To make the restaurant search even trickier there was a radius restriction of not being more than five stops from Euston Station for the train back up north. Challenge accepted!
You’d think being vegetarian this would be no problem. However, I did end up going through my long list of restaurants, slowly crossing them off one by one due to limited choice. Then I came across The Modern Pantry, it has two outposts: one in Clerkenwell and one in Finsbury Square. The Finsbury Square one ticked the radius criterion and upon sending a quick email, confirmed they would fulfil the dietary requirements too.
Housed on the ground floor of the refurbished Alphabeta building on the corner of Finsbury Square you enter via the bar where a tapas style menu is served. The main dining room is all light wood panels, leather booths and huge ovoid hanging lamps.
Scouring the menu you’re immediately introduced to intriguing ingredient combinations. Chef Anna Hansen pushes all the culinary and global boundaries. I’m talking chicken kiev, but no ordinary chicken kiev. This one comes coated with Kashmiri masala and parsley panko crust. The Cornish Crab rarebit is paired with Iranian lime guacamole and the grilled ribeye steak is smothered in umeboshi, Urfa chilli and garlic butter. Intrigued now aren’t you? Of course there are plenty of veggie options too, in fact you’re quite spoilt for choice.
The first starter of crispy egg, soy mushrooms, tomato and lemongrass came on a bed of black garlic yoghurt (£7.20). The flavours married together perfectly. My only quibble being the crispy egg was overcooked inside. My preference is always slightly runny.
The second starter was tea smoked salmon, with lemon roast fennel, sweet potato and avocado salad (£9.50). The tasty salad can also be ordered as a main.
There was also another cheeky starter of seared scallops, with shallot and tamarind purée and wasabi tobiko (£9.50). Beautifully presented, the strong flavours were balanced well so as not to overpower the scallops.
We all ordered the same main of aubergine and miso cabbage roll with tamarind and dal curry. My dairy version came drizzled with spiced gooseberry and coconut yoghurt (£17). It was big and bold and spiced to perfection.
Dessert time was difficult. It was hard to choose since they all sounded so delightful. Finally the rosewater and cardamom poached rhubarb, lychee and lemongrass sorbet, topped with pink peppercorn and pistachio meringue (£7.5o) won! Being a big rhubarb fan I was excited at the amalgamation of all these ingredients. The rhubarb was delicately flavoured and the combination of lychee and lemongrass was deliciously refreshing.
Service although friendly was slow considering the restaurant wasn’t full when we were dining. However, if you want to tantalise your taste buds from the four corners of the world this is definitely the place for you. It just goes to show that even with numerous dietary requirements, food need not be bland or boring.
Modern Pantry serves a unique menu in a striking space. It will impress your breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner date for sure.
Do you like unusual dining or do you think simple is best? Let me know in the comments box below.
The Modern Pantry | The Alphabeta Building| 14 Finsbury Square | London | EC2A 1AH
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