Design-led Food & Travel
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The Modern Pantry – EC1, London

Clerkenwell’s creatives can’t believe their luck.  Not only has Anna Hansen (The Sugar Club; Providores) chosen their favourite square to unleash her eclectic, innovative cooking, but they get to pick from three distinct spaces in which to enjoy it: a white and antique grey painted open-kitchen style brasserie, plus deli on the ground floor, and the more opulent, grown-up dining rooms upstairs, set to open later this month.

Walking in off the street with no reservation on a Thursday evening, and only three weeks after launch, we deserved to be laughed at, but our quiet plea for a table was instantly met with a friendly smile and we were warmly invited to sit at the long canteen-style table in the hub of the restaurant.

Fittingly, the menu is as exciting and quirky as the largely local clientele, but in no way does this mean it’s pretentious.  This is traditional, simple, wholesome food with an unashamedly inventive edge.  The small plates are so deliciously different that a second truffled artichoke, tarragon and parmesan crostini was ordered, and the Krupuk quails eggs with a chill and lime dipping sauce were a treat.  Starters and main courses especially highlight the kind of fusion dishes Hansen is so well known for.  Grilled aubergine and thai basil with crispy shallots in a chilli and soy sauce was a knock out, while the grilled miso marinated onglette steak, which came with braised cherry tomatoes and – unusually – cassava chips, was sublime.  At £15, this underrated French cut was the most expensive item on the menu.

This is no place to miss desserts either.  Hazelnut and ricotta cheesecake with poached gooseberries, Earl Grey pannacotta with Maury jelly and sesame seed tuile, and Kaffir lime meringue with vanilla mascarpone and poached nectarine, all sounded suitably mouth-watering.  However, it was the chocolate liquorice mouse topped with whipped cream, chocolate brittle wafer and baked tamarillo which sucked us in and really blew our socks off.

The service is knowledgeable and patient (not an eyelid battered when our wine order changed three times) and the vibe is lively and buzzing with happy, intent chatter. In essence, this is unquestionably the best thing to have happened to Clerkenwell for a long time – dare I say since Sam & Sam Clark’s Moro first opened – and I for one am going back for more.

47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4JU
Tel: 0207 250 0833
Times: Daily 8am-11pm

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