There’s nothing like a new opening to get me hot under the collar and boy was I excited about the prospect of a new restaurant from the same stables as ‘Upstairs at the ten bells.’ Running hideously late, as usual, I stumbled into Shoreditch town hall which was all at once, austere, majestic and welcoming. Quite a feat. We had booked a table in the bar which turned out to be a ‘table’ as opposed to a seat at the bar; which my weary limbs were rather grateful for, I’m not sure I would have managed to stay upright for the duration of the evening.
I was enthused to see that the bar menu was pretty lengthy. They were offering so much more than just bar snacks. This was a proper menu and by some delightful coincidence, was also mostly gluten free. So, we began to order and then we couldn’t stop. I think in life there are two kinds of menu’s, there are menu’s which are so uninspiring that you take ages to decide and then have to toss up between the two options which you’re marginally interested in and then there are menu’s which are so inviting that you spend ages deciding and then simply order everything on the menu. We didn’t go quite that far but it sure was tempting.
Our superbly knowledgeable and enthusiastic waiter was very well informed and when we asked him to recommend a wine, he didn’t miss a beat and reeled off a glut of information. However… and this will be the only ‘however’ to feature in this piece, our drinks took an inordinate amount of time to appear and in the end, we had to ask after their whereabouts. We were concerned for their welfare. It’s not fun when you get your food before your wine. But what was to follow, more than made up for the faux pas.
We ordered Salumi to chew on whilst we waited for the more substantial offerings to turn up. Fennel with oak smoked cod’s roe was the star of the show, it came with rye crackers which I sidestepped but I did not miss them. Crunchy, fresh fennel smothered in the silken, smoky roe was simple but oh so effective. You could leave me in a dark room with a crate of fennel and a vat of that roe, come back for me in a month and I would be in a very happy place; a fat place but a happy place. The raw bream with turnip was fine but it was a mistake to eat it after the smoked roe, it was hard to appreciate subtle flavours after the gutsy roe.
Then my old favourite made an appearance at the table, Buttermilk fried chicken and pine. My dining partner was suitably wowed by what I had promised would be a pretty memorable chicken experience. I’ve told you about these nuggets of joy before. Moist yet crunchy, they alone make a visit to Clove Club worthwhile. Then, it was onto the now famous wood pigeon sausages, they were punchy, flavourful, fatty and expertly seasoned. However… oops, I promised there would be only one however in this article. I have to temporarily renege on that promise. The wood pigeon sausages were accompanied by Ten Bells ketchup, which is delicious but an incongruous match. A ketchup which featured heavy Asian flavours, stood out like a sore thumb next to the overtly British feeling sausages. Delicious separately, but together, it was clunky. So, I took to simply chowing down on the sausages minus their accompaniment. We rounded out the meal with pork cheek and hasselback potatoes, not exactly rebellious but really bloody tasty.
I went into the Clove Club with relatively high hopes, after having eaten some fantastic food at the Ten Bells and some mediocre food there, it could have gone either way. Lucky for me, and the rest of London, the Clove Club really delivers. This is so much more than bar food. I think next time, I’ll take a step up and opt for the set menu in the dining room. If smoked roe can get me that excited, I’m a little nervous as to what stratospheric heights they could take my tastebuds to when I visit the dining room.