Clove Club

Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT, United Kingdom

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The Clove Club opened in March 2013, located in what used to be the Shoreditch Town Hall. The head chef and owner is Isaac McHale, who previously had worked at The Ledbury. The dining room looks out over the open kitchen, and are some additional tables in a separate room next to the bar. The full tasting menu was priced at £145, as well as a shorter tasting menu at £95, and an express lunch only menu at £65.

The wine list has expanded greatly since the opening. The wine list had 697 labels and ranged in price from £28 to £1,630, with a median price of £150 and a hefty average markup to retail price of 3.3 times based on the large sample that I checked. Sample references were Maison Belles Lies Bourgogne Aligote 2019 at £70 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £28, Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir Chapelle 2020 at £100 compared to its retail price of £22, and Chablis Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix Cote de Lechet 2007 at £150 for a wine that will set you back £38 in the high street. For those with the means there was Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Desiré 1998 at £650 compared to its retail price of £342, and Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion 1995 at £750 for a wine whose current market value is £281. Although the markups were generally very high there was the odd relative bargain e.g. the lovely Arnaud Ente Meursault 2017 at £500 for a wine whose current market value is £686. Corkage was available at £50 a bottle, but only one bottle per two guests, with some further options if you purchase some wine from their list; best to check directly for details. 

Our meal began with a series of canapes. Spider crab tart featured Cornish crab meat with pickled elderflower, Hollandaise, brown crab mayonnaise and some spices. This was very pleasant, the crab tasting quite fresh, and the peppery spice not too strong. Gougeres used Ogleshield cheese from Montgomery Cheddar, which resembles raclette. The choux pastry seemed a touch leathery on the outside and had a somewhat dense texture, but there was plenty of cheese flavour, with a liquid centre of cheese inside the gougeres. Snail cromesquis had snails braised in white wine with wild garlic and parsley butter, then wrapped in bacon. Snails tend to have rather mild flavour, and take on what they are cooked with, so in this case the main taste coming through was the garlic and parsley butter. It was pleasant enough as a nibble. Buttermilk fried chicken came with pine needle salt and presented on pine needles. This was nicely cooked, and it is easy to like fried chicken (the canapes averaged 15/20).

The first course was hot smoked Chalk Stream trout from Wiltshire served with almond milk and watercress, prune kernel oil and toasted almonds. It was topped (at a £20 supplement) with a dollop of oscietra caviar from the large supplier Petrossian. I liked the textural contrast of the toasted almonds, and the caviar itself was good, but farmed trout is as hard to get excited about as farmed salmon, and has little inherent flavour. Ultimately the accessories such as the garnish were a lot more interesting than the notional main ingredient (14/20).

Raw hand-dived Orkney scallop came on a bed of dashi gel made using the scallop coral, shavings of chestnut mushrooms, a little clementine and truffle. The scallop had good inherent sweetness and was nicely balanced by the acidity of the clementine. This was a pleasing minimalist dish that allowed the main ingredient to really shine (16/20). 

White asparagus royale had asparagus (which according to the server was from Wye Valley but was actually from Italy) set in custard, with asparagus spear, chicken skin, walnuts, ginger and Arbois wine sauce. The chicken skin seemed a little oily but the wine sauce was pleasant, and the walnuts added an extra texture. The issue was that the asparagus itself, which was cooked a little longer than I was expecting and so was a little soft, had very limited flavour, especially compared to white asparagus from France (e.g. from Vaucluse, Landes or Camargue) that I have eaten recently elsewhere. I gather that the kitchen sometimes sources white asparagus from France, but not today (13/20). At this point a basket of bread arrived, and very good it was too: sourdough with a lovely crust, made from scratch in the kitchen.

A trio of langoustine tails was next, with green tomato and white beer emulsion, leek gel, pomelo, Indonesian long pepper oil and langoustine bisque. The sauce was enjoyable, with the tomato bringing some acidity and the gentle hint of pepper complementing the shellfish. However, the langoustines themselves, which arrived lukewarm but accurately cooked, were quite small and lacked the lovely natural sweetness that large specimens have in abundance. For me it would have been much better to have had one large tail than three small ones (just about 15/20).

Monkfish was next, resting on a bed of celeriac and potato puree, with a hotpot of monkfish skin, Swiss chard and Sichuan pepper along with three-cornered leek (allium triquetrum). The monkfish, a fish that is tricky to make really thrilling, was just marginally overcooked and arrived a little less than hot. However, the earthy puree was enjoyable and the pepper was well judged (14/20).

The first of two meat dishes was chicken from the 70 year old Botterill farm in Lincolnshire, which raise their chicken free range with birds fed on grass with no supplements. The chicken was slow roasted and served with hen of the wood mushrooms, toasted hay cream and ballotine of the leg with potato terrine. This quite simple dish relies heavily on the quality of the chicken. Although the chef is clearly a fan, I found it lacked much flavour, certainly if I compare it to chicken from the Landes or even to the Sutton Hoo chicken I had a few days earlier at Humble Chicken. The dish was arguably under-seasoned, though it was pleasant enough (14/20).

This was followed by dry aged Aylesbury duck with braised and fresh endive, along with Turkish morels stuffed with duck leg. The duck was accurately cooked and the morels were a nice touch, while the slight bitterness of the endive worked well to balance the richness of the duck (15/20).

There was an unusual pre-dessert in the form of grilled habanero chilli granita with plum sorbet and sheep milk yoghurt mousse.  I am a big chilli fan and this was certainly interesting, but although the plum sorbet was good it was rather dominated by the distinctly peppery kick of the granita. The yoghurt was a good idea to provide balance, but even I would tone down the chilli a little (14/20).

The main dessert was gateau St Honore using forced Yorkshire rhubarb, the Chantilly cream filling dotted with little choux buns laced with lemon curd with a rhubarb sorbet and ginger ale crumble served on the side. This was a pretty dish and my only issue with this was that I would have preferred more rhubarb acidity relative to cream. Such a rich dish needs balance, and despite the lemon curd the overall effect was quite creamy. The pastry itself was a little unusual, tasting almost like a shortcrust rather than puff, though it was certainly very pleasant (15/20). Coffee was from Has Bean and was fine, but was only available as filter rather than in espresso form. This seems a little dictatorial to me: if you happen to prefer filter coffee then fine, but not everyone does, so why not offer the choice to customers?

Service was very good, and the sommelier (from Auckland) was friendly and knowledgeable. The bill came to £275 per person in total. If you opted for the short tasting menu and could find a modest bottle of wine to share then your bill might come to around £160. Overall, this was a meal that showed capable cooking and some inventive dishes, but at £145 for the food I would have hoped for some more luxurious ingredients than appeared here. The white asparagus was pretty ordinary, and monkfish, chicken and Aylesbury duck are pleasant but are not the kind of calibre of ingredient that I would expect to turn up on the plate of a two-star Michelin restaurant. The restaurant seemed to be doing very well, full on this Friday lunch, and it has clearly attracted a loyal clientele.

Further reviews: 08th Jun 2013

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