The Clove Club (London, UK)
Of all my snacking and meals I have had in London, The Clove Club is definitely one of my favorite meals that really stuck with me even months after eating there. The food is very different and exciting compared to the U.S. or New York City are having these days (see Adam Platt of New York Magazine’s interview.).
The Clove Club is sort of out of the way for those who are residing on the west part of London but certainly worth the trek.
When you enter the light blue doors of The Clove Club, the first thing you see is a small room full of hams and charcuterie hanging around there aging that you’d smell the sweet-salty pork getting more intense and delicious. Enter to the bar where the room is sparsely decorated with blonde wooden floors, bare white walls and in the center is a rectangular bar full of twenty and thirty somethings talking over drinks, while there were diners on two-top tables that are along the walls of the room.
Originally, I had my dinner reservation at the bar but after reading through the many menus presented to me by my waiter, I realized I might as well have the tasting menu (£55 or $93.29 in U.S. Dollars) at their dining room since I’m in London and not too sure when and might as well go all the way. Thankfully, there was a table available for me. (Note: The dining room serves the tasting menu only, while the bar room can serve both a la carte and tasting.)
When escorted over to the dining room, it’s definitely a different atmosphere. Strangely, it’s more livelier with the open kitchen that you could see Chef Isaac McHale and his team of cooks cranking out dishes in this bright cobalt blue tiled kitchen that stands out from the dark wood dining room with the white walls.
The first few dishes were a whimsically plated, hot nugget of buttermilk fried chicken and pine salt that placed on a bed of (inedible) pine branches to amplify the pine aroma. The fried chicken was fantastic. Piping hot, crisp exterior with a moist and tender meat and the pine salt was just enough that the palate gets a refreshing kick.
The asparagus, black sesame and gochuchang was a pretty crazy pairing, in my mind, something nutty with a mildly spicy sauce with asparagus and it worked.
I was pleasantly surprised when my waiter brought out a truffle tart. It was brimming with luxurious, fine truffle shavings set on a buttery crust and creamy sauce to enhance the fungus’ flavor and velvety texture.
The next series of plates that arrived were slices of their homemade and cured salami and red wine pancetta. These tissue-thin slivers of meat were sublime. It melted in my mouth and they were incredibly flavorful. I wish I had more.
The thick nubs of wood pigeon sausage dotted with greenage ketchup that were good. Sweet, dark meat sausage that has a slightly acidic-fruity bite from the ketchup.
The small bowl of wild Irish trout, smoked trout jelly and watercress was nothing but clean, fresh, sweet fish flavors with a touch of salinity from the smoked trout jelly. It was wonderful.
The more substantial dish of Thornback Ray, white asparagus, fresh early morels with cinnamon and curry leaf was delicious. The silky ray’s flesh was perfectly cooked. The morels added a subtle earthiness and evoked the thoughts of spring. The spicing of curry and cinnamon was delicate but enhanced the nutty and earthy flavors of the dish.
A plate of Scottish blood pudding, chicory and overripe pear was a delectable sweet-savory bite with a tinge of minerally flavor from the blood, and a delicate bitterness from the chicory.
The Herbridean Lamb, kale, potato purée, and wild seaweed sauce was delicious and it wasn’t as hearty as I was expecting it (I mean this in a good way). Supple, tender lamb meat mixed with that gently briny seaweed sauce manage to lighten the dish, while the creamy potato purée and crunchy kale added some textural difference and heft.
There was also a small wrap of lamb kidneys wrapped in cabbage that was tasty and I liked the subtly crunchy textures from the cabbage and kidneys (the latter is normal even in properly cooked kidneys, if you never had).
My waiter was lightly teasing me that I don’t drink so he brought out a special cocktail, if you will, of warm lamb and duck consommé and poured it into a glass partially filled with Madeira wine. I thoroughly enjoyed that glass as I have not seen many receiving this beverage and also it evoked a nostalgic memory of mine in regards to the flavors of the intense consommé and the earthy, sweet wine.
The first dessert was this beautiful plate of warm blood orange, sheep’s milk mousse, and fennel granita. It’s delicious in every way. The intense flavors of the citrus, anise-like fennel and tart sheep’s milk mousse. The mix of warm and cold temperatures. The varying contrast of sweet and tart flavors.
Like I wasn’t full enough, the kitchen presented me a whole apple tarte tatin?! Thankfully, they cut up into a manageable slice and topped it with a quenelle of lemon ice cream on the side. The tarte tatin was textbook perfect. Incredibly buttery and flaky crust with the not too sweet and wonderfully caramelized apple filling. The lemon ice cream was deliciously tart and creamy.
When I presumed I was done with the meal (I peered over on my copy of the menu), there were petit fours. My jaw dropped when the waitress kindly presented me the silver tray of these sweets containing a palm-sized, warm peated barley cake with Yorkshire rhubarb compote, a wrapped Clove Club Chocolate Bar, and Dr. Henderson’s Bonbons.
The cake was crumbly, moist with flavors of sweet malt and barley, and very smoky and peaty. The cake was made with the leftovers of the malt in the whisky making process hence this very robust flavors of whisky in this sweet cake. The “bonbons” were actually sweet and boozy hard candies made with Fernet Branca and creme de menthe that is dangerous for anyone to have as it’s so good. The dark chocolate bar was a good snack for the next morning, as I’m stuffed to the gills with the incredible food for the evening.
To view more photos of this meal, please CLICK HERE or view the gallery below:
The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall
380 Old Street
Telephone: 020-7729 6496