The Clove Club opened in March 2013 in the old Shoreditch Town Hall. There is a bar area with a few tables, and behind it is the main dining room. The décor is simple, with bare tables, the room having good natural light. Chef Isaac McHale worked for five years at The Ledbury and then worked at the Young Turks above the Ten Bells pub. The restaurant had an unusual funding model, using “crowd sourcing” from a variety of investors using the website Crowdcube to raise the £250,000 that its three founders needed rather than a bank loan. In the end they were heavily oversubscribed and raised £408,000, with individuals investing from £1,000 to £50,000.
The wine list was fairly short, ranging in price from £19 to £150. Examples were Tenute Fessina Nakone Sicilia 2010 at £38 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £13, Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino 2009 at £55 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £26, and Mastro Janin Vigna Loreto Brunello Montalcino 2007 at £102 for a wine that retails at £48.
In a cupboard near the entrance hangs charcuterie, which the chef makes himself, smoking and ageing assorted meats and even bonito to make his own katsuobushi. We sampled two types of salami, one flavoured with nutmeg and the other with garlic and wine, as well as some cured pork from a Cornish pig. The latter was from the rare Lop breed of pig, being farmed by the Duchy College in the area in an effort to bring the breed back from near extinction. This was very enjoyable, and is good to see a chef making the effort to make charcuterie rather than just buying products in.
The meal began with English asparagus served with mayonnaise, and little croquettes of haggis. The asparagus was carefully prepared and the haggis had good flavour, hinting at the Glaswegian roots of the chef. The mayonnaise contained the Korean product gochujang, a spicy chilli paste, though it was not too strong (14/20). Buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt was made with a gluten-free batter using tapioca and was served in a basket of pine needles and pine cones. The chicken itself had good flavour, and the batter was light, the salt level just right (15/20).
Sand eels were in season, tasting a little like whitebait and served with a mint vinegar jell. The jell was quite acidic and very minty, and I wondered whether the sand eels really needed it to accompany them (13/20). Wood pigeon sausages were lovely, the pigeon liver included in the sausage and giving it depth of flavour, a little spicy ketchup enhancing the taste further; a sausage dreams are made of (16/20).
Sourdough bread with oat berries was excellent, the crust lovely, the texture airy. This bread was made from scratch and it really showed, being genuinely classy. I could have eaten this all day (17/20). Razor clams cooked in hay, served with smoked butter emulsion with sorrel and apple juice sauce. Razor clams can so often be hard and rubbery, but here were very tender, the light accompaniment working well with their natural flavour (16/20).
A salad of pheasant egg with ricotta, almond oil and aged balsamic was prettily presented, but the vegetables in the salad had limited flavour. Perhaps eating this just after returning from Italy was unfortunate, but even in the UK there are better vegetables than this. However the egg was carefully cooked and the balsamic added useful balance (14/20).
Mackerel was served with a sauce involving cucumber that had been pounded to extract its flavour, dill and elderflower vinegar, with a garnish of wild fennel. The mackerel was correctly cooked but was not of great quality, though the sauce worked nicely with the fish. This dish owes something to The Ledbury, where the chef worked, and the concept was fine, but was let down by the particular piece of mackerel (14/20).
Chicken (from France) was served with summer truffles, girolles, baked leek and a sauce of Montgomery cheddar. As well as the chicken breast with crisp skin was the chicken testicles, which resemble a boudin blanc. The chicken had quite good flavour, which is not something that can be said of many chickens served in London. The leek worked well with it and the sauce was nicely restrained, the cheese taste in no way dominating the dish. The girolles were also of high quality (15/20).
Lobsters from Christchurch (the Dorset version rather than the New Zealand one) was served with courgette puree, almonds in brown butter with Indian spices. The lobster was tender enough though I thought that the butter and spices were a little much for the delicate shellfish, so you ended up tasting more spice than lobster (14/20).
Lamb from Yorkshire was served with spinach, anchovy emulsion and spinach dust with kelp. The lamb had very good flavour, cooked a little longer than some might like but I quite liked it this way. However the anchovy emulsion was very strong indeed, and I wasn’t entirely convinced about this pairing (14/20).
Strawberries from Brittany were served with ewe milk mousse and almond crumble. The strawberries had quite good flavour and the contrasting textures of the crumble and mousse worked well with the fruit (14/20). Finally a prune ice cream was served with a sorbet of milk infused with rosemary and a prune soaked in tea. The prune flavour came through well, the texture of the ice cream and sorbet just right (15/20).
With only water to drink, this extended tasting menu came to £75 a head. The standard tasting menu is shorter and priced at £47 a head. Waiting staff were friendly. Overall this was a very enjoyable meal, with the attention to detail illustrated in the home-made bread and charcuterie, and with solid kitchen technique.