Last Updated on February 6, 2020
Shoreditch Spectacular at The Clove Club
The Clove Club in Shoreditch is the love child of chef Isaac McHale, a chef who first came to prominence as one of the duo of ‘Young Turks’ who first hit the gastro headlines with their popup above The Ten Bells pub in 2011 in neighbouring Spitalfields.
McHale had been a development chef at The Ledbury and after the success of the Ten Bells he and his ‘Young Turks’ partner, James Lowe, went their own separate ways setting up two of the most critically successful and era defining modern British restaurants of recent years, Lowe also in Shoreditch at Lyle’s and McHale at The Clove Club in the former Shoreditch Town Hall building with the latter presently 27th in the San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant List. The restaurant’s name comes from the supper club that The Clove Club‘s founders Daniel Willis, Isaac Mchale and Johnny Smith had originally launched in 2010.
McHale’s latest venture is the American influenced Two Lights which is also in Shoreditch (see our review of two-lights here), but we have been invited to his home base at The Clove Club. The room is handsome as you might expect given its civic heritage; there are high ceilings, white walls and wooden floors and tables all with a view of the open kitchen that provides a very tangible connection for diners to the food. It is however still an intimate space with an air of conviviality and confidence coming from the chefs and front of house team. I was a little late for the reservation and on arrival found Fiona happily sipping on a glass of Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte Anne, a 60/40 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend with a fresh acidity and brioche notes.
After recovering from the excitements of the Jubilee Line and sinking my own glass of the fizz we started our Clove Club journey with a winter herb broth, six herbs (parsley, chives, lovage, tarragon, coriander and chervil) combining to give a gentle palate-cleansingly umami and vegetal hit.
Next up in the ‘snacks’ section of the meal were a trio of tasty tarts each encased in fine, crispy shells. A beef tartare tartlet with a charcoal cream, elderberry and capers was a dainty and tender mouthful. Its bean counterpart brought together the soft alkalinity of yoghurt with the vegetal crunch of very lightly blanched beans.
However, for me the ‘Queen of Tarts’ was the devilled spider crab tartlet with the gentle spicing enhancing the intensity of the crustacean’s flavour.
A Provencal chickpea Panisse was disarmingly light and delicate and a classic buttermilk chicken was full of Southern flavours and enlivened by a hint of pine. Moving onto wine we started with a Taganan, Envinate, 2018 from North Tenerife with grapes (a blend of Listán Blanco, Malvoisie, Marmajuelo, Albillo, Gual and Forastera), grown on volcanic land giving the wine a complex minerality, salinity and smokiness.
There is a point in a meal when you crave some luxury. Hot smoked Wiltshire trout, came in a pool of almond milk, topped with watercress, caviar and toasted almonds; the almond flavour enveloped the almost translucent fish with the salty caviar adding a delicious bite. I loved this dish!
Our next wine came served in 70s retro Gravner fish bowl wine glasses. The Gravner Bianco Breg, 2010, is made in Fruili in the north-eastern corner of Italy bordering Austria and Slovenia. It’s an Italian orange wine, stunningly intense and herbal, but made in an ancient Georgian style being fermented underground in Georgian amphorae with no interventions.
To acknowledge Isaac McHale’s Orkney childhood our next dish was a collation of raw Orkney scallop, hazelnut, clementine and Perigord truffle on a squid ink base. This immaculate and delicate dish displayed a beautifully balanced complexity of flavours.
We moved onto sake for our next dish. Junmai Daiginjo Ikekame Turtle Red had a strawberry nose and was a great match with our next dish. We were allowed to choose our own sake cups!
An extraordinary sardine sashimi arrived sitting on a potato crisp, with an English mustard, ginger and chrysanthemum glaze. I’ve never had raw sardine before and it was a revelation.
Bread and butter came freshly made. The malty loaf had a fruity, savoury, crisp crust.
Our next wine was a Wild Boy Santa Barbara Chardonnay, 2018. Fermented with wild yeasts it was buttery with vanilla and oak notes, and matched with lightly cooked Scottish langoustine tails served with toasted butter, cinnamon and bay, squid ink and hung yoghurt, created a sequence of amazing flavours.
Our biodynamic Spanish red, Finca L’Argata, with the grapes trodden by foot and fermented with wild yeasts was a mouthful of cherry, raspberry and liquorice flavours and added red fruit notes to the smokey, bitter, savoury creaminess of our plate of grilled radicchio and smoked beetroot with a walnut dressing and a dollop of charcoal-infused cream on the side.
Perfectly moist, carefully cooked and rested Yorkshire Partridge sat on a bed of lentils, trompette mushrooms and foraged alexanders (a celery-like herb) with a savoury lentil sauce for added moisture and texture.
The next dish featured Cornish Thomback Ray with fennel and Romanesco broccoli, pickled onions and fish stock. The fish seemed to have multiple levels of flavour with the accompanying oak, blackcurrant and blackberry notes of the 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 1% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot bottle of Cullen 2016, Diana Madeline, Wilyabrup from the Margaret River in Western Australia were a perfect match for the fish.
In a seasonal twist in celebration of Robbie Burns, tender, pink Cornish lamb from the saddle was served with haggis and neeps and Romanesco broccoli with the rich sticky jus of a crystal malt lamb gravy adding a sensuous savoury addition.
When our British cheese plate arrived I got so carried away that I completely forgot to take notes. Accompanied by a Port wine jelly and crumbly oat biscuits there was an intense, acidic blue, a creamy goats cheese and…anyway they were great and my glass of late harvest 2015 dry Moscatel from Bodegas Bentomiz, Ariyanas with its luscious apricot notes had nothing to do with my lack of efficiency at this point…
Back on track for desserts, our Amalﬁ lemonade and Kampot white pepper ice cream was an excitingly citric and pepper combo with the fluffiest Madeleine’s on the side I have ever eaten. From the Loire the honeyed sweetness and rich stone fruit tones of Le Peu de la Moriette, 2009, Domaine Pichot sat well with the ice-cream.
Pear “Belle Helene” (poached then caramelised pear) is such a pleasurable classic dessert. Here, plated with a coffee crumb. vanilla ice cream and creme fraiche and washed down with the dried fruit flavours of Quinta de la Rosa. 20 year Tawny Port, it was a gently sweet finale to a fantastic meal.
…apart from a final glass of iced sloe sherry infused with cream sherry, a combination that simultaneously finished me off whilst giving a pleasurable little jolt of energy. I’d like to have shown you photos of the peated barley cake with Dundee marmalade cream, the homemade salted caramel chocolates and the speculoos and hazelnut ganache but I don’t think Fiona could lift her camera up by that point!
Dinner at The Clove Club is a truly wonderful experience. Service is seamless with a totally integrated team working together in a Johann Cruyff ‘Total Football’ manner. There is total respect for the ingredients with complex and precise cooking delivering layers of flavour, but it all feels totally unforced and without artifice as they take you on a focused gastronomic pleasure ride. I can’t wait to go back!
Tasting Menu £145 per person Wine Pairing £145 6-Course Menu £95 per person Wine Pairing £95 4-course lunch menu £65 (not available for Saturday lunch) Accompanying selection of three glasses of wine £35
Shoreditch Town Hall,
380 Old St,
London EC1V 9LT
020 7729 6496
The Michelin Starred Clove Club is also 27th on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants – making it the top restaurant in London. Other Michelin Starred restaurants in London that you might like to try include Pied a Terre in Fitzrovia, Adam Simmons at the Capital Hotel and La Dame de Pic at the Four Seasons Hotel, Trinity Square.