Steak, sushi, or, lobster – Clerkenwell caters well to the tastes of trendy office workers nearby, with a variety of classic and contemporary eateries. Pop down to friendly Bird of Smithfield, or try and beat the crowd for a table at Sushi Tetsu – just two of the brilliant restaurants Clerkenwell has to offer.
Please note, Club Gascon is closed for refurbishment until Autumn 2017. Time Out Eating editors, Aug 2017. The presence of the three-strong Gascon group (as well as Comptoir Gascon, there’s wine at Le Bar) ensures that a small area of east-central London has a flavour of south-west France. This is the most expensive of the trio, a Michelin-starred sanctuary of haute cuisine. Heavy wooden screens shut out the world; inside is a serene and urbane room of greys and golds with marble panels. Head chef Pascal Aussignac is from Toulouse, and the hallmarks of the area’s cuisine shine through in his food, although it’s given the fancifications this level of restaurant requires. A playful approach means many dishes come with descriptions in inverted commas or feature unusually prepared ingredients. Flavour combinations are bold, which adds to the sense of occasion, and the technique is flawless; perhaps less so the tendency to unorthodox plating. However, everything else was note-perfect.
The downside of this diminutive tapas bar, little sister of Moro next door, is its unceasing popularity. You can’t book for dinner (though you can for lunch), which, unless you have the timing of Eric Morecambe, almost always means a wait – though staff are happy for you to decamp elsewhere and will phone as soon as space becomes free. The upside is that the food is fantastic, the staff delightful and the atmosphere properly buzzing, as everyone is so pleased to be there. The high stools next to the bright orange bar offer the best view of the action, and are marginally more comfortable than the oddly low tables – but in general it’s a cramped experience. Do sample as many dishes as you can from the 40-strong list. Everything we tried was superb, from the very simple (tomato toast, lip-tingling pádron peppers) to old faves (patatas bravas topped with a thick, spicy tomato sauce and dollop of mayo) and regional specialities (grilled Galician tetilla cheese, with membrillo and walnut halves, and sizzling Palamós prawns with allioli). Desserts include a first-rate crema catalana (large enough for two), but the rich, boozy baklava ice-cream floating in a pool of Pedro Ximénez – the result of a happy kitchen accident, apparently – takes some beating. To drink, there are cocktails, sherries and an all-Spanish wine list, available by the glass, 375ml carafe or bottle.
You know how Kris Jenner names daughters? As in, Kourtney, Khloe, Kim, Kylie and Kendall (where have you been, living under a rock?). Well, that’s how acclaimed chef Jason Atherton names his restaurants. He likes to keep things ‘Social’, from Pollen Street Social to Social Wine and Tapas, or my personal favourite, Social Eating House. Luckily for Atherton, that’s where the comparison with the Kardashians ends, because unlike the internet-breaking attentionistas, the Social family are restrained and intelligent, and this latest baby is no different. What is different is the cuisine: Sosharu serves modern Japanese. But then, you’d already guessed that. They’ve done the smart thing and carved up the room’s industrial proportions using suspended wooden beams (kind of like eating in a giant four-poster bed) and Oriental lattice screens for intimacy. Do check out the counter bar (outstay your allotted two hours and you’ll be moved here anyway), so you can watch metal-chopstick-wielding chefs arrange the fiddliest of ingredients with astonishingly steady hands. It’ll make you want to jump up and challenge them to a game of Operation (don’t: you’ll only lose). Every plate is a thing of beauty, its flavours as intriguing. Take the must-order ‘open’ tuna temaki, (pictured above): a twist on a traditional handroll, the seaweed wrapper comes tempura-battered (it really works) and set into a ‘U’ shape, much like a hard taco. It’s then filled with perfect sushi rice, raw tuna, shredded s
The Quality Chop House carries deliberate echoes of its 19th-century origins by offering ‘a chop and a glass’ or a two-course and coffee ‘daily lunch’ for £15. Not quite the generosity of the original ‘plate of meat, bread and half a pint of ale for six pence’, but well-priced quality nonetheless. Wine rather than ale is the main draw now (though Kernel beer is offered). There’s a wine shop alongside the bar and dining room, with plenty to interest both casual sippers and serious imbibers. Mainly Old World with good regional representation, the list takes in interesting New World wines, not least on the ‘collector’s list’. Failing a Hatton Gardens’ salary, explore the by-the-glass selection; our £6 choices from Portugal and the southern Rhône were fresh and characterful. Knowledgeable buying is evident in the food too: well-sourced British fish, meat and artisan cheeses, heritage tomatoes and carrots, and Tuscan lardo di colonnata, which, on our last visit, was draped over a fillet of gurnard to good effect, served with creamed brown butter. Flavours are punchy: own-cured wild salmon was doused in unsweet mustard; tiny carrots came dressed with truffled tunworth cheese. Desserts also seemed geared to masculine palates; a chocolate mousse proved a deep glassful of dense ganache. Of a piece, perhaps, with the traditional decor of black and white chequerboard floor and dark wooden furniture – though the wine bar can be a light, bright option on a sunny day.