The Clove Club review

The Clove Club review

by Gemma Harrison 29 July 2015

Gaining a Michelin Star in its first year, The Clove Club in Shoreditch Town Hall is going from strength to strength. Gemma Harrison makes a long overdue visit to find out what’s on the plates in one of East London’s best restaurants.

Gemma can usually be found in a restaurant, at a food festival or cooking at home.

Gemma studied Music at the University of Surrey, but her passion for food and wine led her to work firstly for an online wine, beers and spirits retailer and then Catering Services in the House of Commons. Outside of work she can usually be found in a restaurant, at a food festival or cooking at home.

I’d been meaning to visit The Clove Club ever since it opened but, somehow or other, it had joined the mountain of restaurants on my ‘to-do’ list and lay slightly forgotten. However, by chance a friend who works in the wine industry recently insisted I come along to a winemaker evening in their bar, and that evening reminded me that I really should come back and eat. So, when I wasn’t able to make my sister’s university graduation, I had the perfect excuse and offered to take her to lunch. For someone who spent their childhood mostly living off a combination of ‘something and chips’ my sister has started to broaden her culinary horizons over the last few years. This was her first experience of a Michelin-starred restaurant, and she loved every minute of it – from the relaxed atmosphere to the brilliant food and the wonderful staff.

The thing that strikes you most on entering The Clove Club is not only the amount of light that floods into both the bar and restaurant, but the geniality of the staff – we must have been personally greeted by almost all of the front of house and the chefs as we entered the dining room. Considering that in most restaurants there’s usually nothing more than a cursory glance from those who are not serving you, their friendliness lends the very minimalist room a great deal of warmth.

selection of snacks
The snack selection: Buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt, Pea tart and Anchovy and pickled onion cracker
Clams and tomato
Dorset Clams, datterini tomatoes and wild seaweed

The beating heart of the room, though, comes from the blue-tiled open kitchen where Chef Isaac McHale and his brigade produce wonderfully original food. There are two choices of menu (which change regularly) – either a 3 course set menu with two options for each course - a bargain at £35 - or the 5 course tasting menu at £65 (with optional wine pairing). We opted for the tasting menu and, soon after, received our ‘Selection of Snacks’ – Buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt, Pea tart and Anchovy and pickled onion cracker. The fried chicken came nestled in a basket of pine twigs, the meat silky smooth from its time in the buttermilk, with a crisp outer layer. I’m no fan of fried chicken, but I would happily order a bucket of McHale’s version. The anchovy and delicate pieces of pickled onion worked together beautifully, whilst the pea tart (decorated with pea flowers), was a spoonful of summer.

Moving on to the menu proper, our first course paired clams and heritage tomatoes with a seaweed broth and samphire powder. The broth was utterly delicious, and I loved the combination of the salty clams with the fresh tomatoes. The next dish was an extra course of Raw Orkney scallop, cobnuts, Manjimup truffle and brown butter, which we chose to share. I had no idea truffles were grown in Australia, and was surprised at how well they complimented the rest of the dish.

The final fish course was a real winner – Line caught Cornish pollock, smoked roe butter, samphire and girolles. As a rule, I seriously dislike fish and mushrooms being on the same plate, and so I was quite sceptical about this combination but the overriding ‘meatiness’ of all the ingredients brought everything together, and the addition of house-cured ham (you'll see them hanging behind from the bar as you walk in) was a nice touch.

Orkney scallop
Raw Orkney scallop, cobnuts, Manjimup truffle and brown butter
Line caught Cornish pollock, smoked roe butter, samphire and girolles

Before I move onto the next course, I have to sing the praises of the bread here. A gorgeous sourdough encased in a serious crust (which has a popcorn-like flavour), comes with a generous serving of intensely rich salted butter. Bread and butter is such as basic thing, but when done right, it can dramatically improve your eating experience. If McHale decided to set up a side-line in selling bread and butter, he’d have queues running back to the Old Street roundabout.

The meat course was a beautiful piece of Berkshire roe deer with grilled onions, beetroot, blackcurrant and bone marrow. The beetroot and blackcurrants were the perfect foil to the gamey meat and soft onions, with the smoked bone marrow adding a creamy richness to the dish.

Berkshire roe deer
Berkshire roe deer with grilled onions, beetroot, blackcurrant and bone marrow
Lemonade dessert
Malfi lemonade and Sarawak pepper ice cream

With the savoury courses finished, it was time for dessert. Our first was Amalfi lemonade and Sarawak pepper ice cream – an utterly surprising and refreshing dish. The ‘lemonade’, was a flavoured cream put through an espuma gun, and it didn’t just taste of lemonade, but had the ‘fizziness’ too – how they achieved this, I don’t know, but it made for fun eating alongside the mellow, Sarawak pepper ice cream.

Our second dessert was a beautifully poached Sicilian peach accompanied by ice cream and a verbena ice tea sauce. It typified McHale’s style of food: it appeared simple, but carried extraordinary flavour, and of course, was perfectly executed.

Finally, to finish off the meal, we were served two petits fours – a comforting, warm barley cake and an indulgent, dark chocolate filled with salted caramel.

poached peach
Sicilian peach and verbena ice tea
petits fours
Petits fours

If you fancy a taste of The Clove Club, but can’t get a table in the restaurant I’d highly recommend trying the bar. As I’d been before, I was keen to sample a few more of the cocktails after lunch. Rob, without a doubt the most knowledgeable barman I’ve ever encountered, is in charge of the bar, and he not only makes fantastic cocktails but is also happy to create something just for you. I’ve tried a few of his cocktails over my two visits, and each one has been brilliant. It’s fast becoming my favourite bar in London…

The Clove Club now has a ticketing system in place for tables – there is no fee for a lunchtime booking, but you will need to pay in advance for dinner. Book tickets and find out more about the restaurant here.