The Clove Club

The Clove Club started as a pop-up restaurant a few years ago in London. It soon gathered a following, which allowed it to use crowdfunding to open as a regular restaurant in 2013. It was awarded one Michelin star since my visit in August.

The restaurant is located inside the former town hall building in Shoreditch. Immediately after the entrance, a converted closet full of charcuterie made on the premises is an auspicious sign.

You go through a first room where a central bar area is located, and make your way to the slightly more formal dining area which has a completely open kitchen. Unlike the opulent building, the decor is simple and, should we say, a little sparse – white walls, wooden tables and floors, no tablecloths.

The Clove Club

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St. John

Last year when I got a chance to spend time in London, I immediately knew that I wanted to eat at St. John, Fergus Henderson‘s restaurant in Smithfield. It was not because of the huge hype generated by Anthony Bourdain who visited the restaurant in 2001 for his show A Cook’s Tour (this actually was a bit of a concern), it was about the Nose to Tail concept, which is so engrained in my own French culture. There is truly an art in using all the parts of the animal, and making remarkable things out of them. In the US, Chris Consentino did something similar at Incanto (now Porcellino). For me, this is the ultimate type of comfort food, prepared with an expert hand and a lot of attention to detail but done in a rustic, earthy way.

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All fired up

Chiltern Firehouse might be one of the most sought-after reservations in London these days. Since it opened a few months ago, it’s been impossible to get in unless you are rich or famous. Try googling the restaurant and you will see the daily log of celebrity visitors (from the past few days: “Rita Ora almost suffers wardrobe malfunction at Chiltern Firehouse” and the very intriguing “Clive Owen is seen arriving at Chiltern Firehouse with two mystery ladies”).

I was interested in trying the restaurant, not for his celebrity clientele but because, believe or not, I really like the food of chef Nuno Mendes, who used to helm the kitchen at Viajante and the Corner Room in Bethnal Green. After corresponding with the restaurant for a few weeks, I finally manage to score a reservation for a week lunch in early August.

Finding the restaurant is not difficult, however its entrance behind a large wooden gate is not so obvious (the security guards in black suits in front of the gates should have been a clue). Past the gate is a very nice outdoor patio. The vibe is very much like celebrity hot spot the Ivy in LA. A little bit of LA in London – not surprising, considering that the owner of Chiltern Firehouse is no other than André Balazs of Chateau Marmont in Hollywood.  

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London adventures: Dinner at the Corner Room

The Corner Room is a restaurant at the Town Hall, a boutique hotel in Bethnal Green in East London. At the time of my visit, the restaurant was in transition, with its star chef Nuno Mendes having recently moved on to Chiltern Firehouse, and his Michelin-starred restaurant Viajante, also at Town Hall, closed for an update (it has since been reopened as The Typing Room with chef Lee Westcott at the helm).

The Corner Room has a calm and casual vibe, with attentive service and extreme attention to detail. There is a lot of emphasis on the ingredients, with preparations that highlight them in unique ways with the use of other elements for little pops of flavors or texture. The dishes are delicate and refined. The small plate format gives an occasion to try a larger variety of dishes. The restaurant reminded me a bit of Relae in Coppenhaggen (this is very high praise, as Relae was one of my most memorable meals in recent years).

Beavertown 8 Ball rye IPA

Beavertown 8 Ball rye IPA

I started off the meal with some bread and a bottle of Beavertown 8 Ball rye IPA, an American-style IPA brewed in London. It was caramel-colored and had a nice mix of spicy rye and resinous hops. Very impressed, I will make sure to look for more of Beavertown’s offerings during future London trips.

The Corner Room

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London adventures: Borough Market, Wright Brothers, and the Whisky Exchange

Borough market, London’s oldest market, is located near the London Bridge (that tourists like me often confuse with Tower Bridge, but that’s a different story). It is a covered market packed full of seasonal fruit and vegetables, cheese, meats (including game), fish, and hordes of hungry tourists on a Saturday afternoon. I walked around the stalls for a little while; people where lined up for prepared foods and it was easy to get overwhelmed with all the different options. It might be best to come back early in the morning for a more relaxing experience. In the end, I opted to flee the crowds and walked a few steps to Wright Brothers for a late lunch.

Wright Brothers is a seafood restaurant located near the market. I took a seat at the counter and decided to pass on the oysters this time, and instead started the meal with a plate of devilled whitebait with tartare sauce. Whitebait is one of these Proust madeleines for me; I used to have it all the time when I grew up in France, but it’s not something I see very often in the US, and I had not had it in ages. The plate was generous, and it was a delicious treat to eat these crisp little fish with a wedge of lemon, accompanied by a glass of Yakima red ale on draft. Yakima is brewed by Meantime, a local brewing company located in Greenwich, using five hop varieties from the Yakima valley in Washington state.  The beer was moderately hoppy with a good malt to bitterness balance. It was light and perfect to start my lunch.

London day 2

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Unfinished business in London

The evening started with an early dinner at J. Sheekey Oyster Bar. Located steps away from the Leicester Square station on St. Martin’s court, the oyster bar is near its big brother J. Sheekey, a seafood institution which has been in business for more than 100 years. The oyster bar itself is a fairly small art deco room with an imposing marble horseshoe-shaped counter, and a décor of black and white photographs on wood paneled walls. Even though it opened just a few years ago, the restaurant as a certain timeless charm and a calm atmosphere.

The selection is extensive, from small plates of seafood to shellfish platters. I started with Gillardeau Speciales from France which were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had. They were crisp and full of delicious broth, similar to Fines de Claires but perhaps slightly more on the rich and savory side. Then came a bass ceviche with avocado and a plantain crisp, and razor clams with chorizo and hedgerow garlic, a type of wild garlic. Finally, the piece de resistance was a Devon Cock Crab. It takes a little bit of work to release all the sweet and succulent meat, but this gave me a chance to slow down and enjoy a glass of Sauvignon blanc from Touraine. As for dessert, the brown meat from the shell that I spread on a slice of baguette was rich like a delicious little seafood foie gras treat.

La Bodega Negra
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