The best restaurants in Clerkenwell
High-end cuisine, new bistronomy… call it what you will, the food at this pared-back City restaurant pushes plenty of envelopes in its pursuit of gustatory satisfaction. Seasonal British ingredients take centre-stage as the kitchen presents a cavalcade of masterful compositions that will put your Instagram account into overdrive. How about dark chocolate délice with beer and ceps for pud? Ooh-aah!
Named after an obscure Beastie Boys track, this super-friendly, all-day bar/café is a Brooklyn-esque mishmash of vintage classroom chairs and tacked-on polaroids. With more than 40 gins, countless cocktails and good coffee on offer, it’s a favoured lair for the laptop-tapping crowd, although the voguish sharing-plates menu is a big pull too: we liked the plump carrot fritters.
A pocket-sized offshoot of Haggerston’s feted Middle Eastern grill, Berber & Q’s Exmouth Market outpost is great for a boozy catch-up over some dirty cocktails and spit-roasted meat (with a rice bowl or pita). Veggies fear not – the menu is also stuffed with flesh-free mezze and dishes such as blackened aubergine or a shawarma riff involving cauliflower and juicy sultanas. Lush ice-cream desserts too.
Former pop-up Breddos is now in the big time – and making the most of its dinky Clerkenwell hideaway. Ogle the wall of disco records while you sit elbow-to-elbow at a communal table – no worries, the food will get you talking. Creative global tacos are the headline acts, and they’re mould-breakers: honey-glazed smoked aubergine with chocolate nut mole and feta, anyone?
Chef Henry Harris made his name at Racine (a much-missed bastion of bourgeois French cooking), but he’s now in pubby mode as boss of the kitchen in this gussied-up Clerkenwell boozer. Thankfully, he’s lost none of his Gallic brio, and you can taste the joie de vivre in every dish – fans of Racine will dote over his calves’ brains with capers and black butter.
From the folks behind The Culpeper in Aldgate, this attractively airy gastropub deals in the kind of hearty, fad-free seasonal cooking that turns heads and dominates conversations. Expect big flavours, from pickled sardines with curried potato salad to goat burgers or braised venison with creamed Jerusalem artichoke and glazed carrots. Meanwhile, cask ales and low-intervention wines get tongues wagging in the bar.
Venue says First-floor dining room available for private hire!
Three separate eateries crammed into a former warehouse off Charterhouse Square, Le Café du Marché is a local stalwart serving up broad-shouldered French provincial dishes to the accompaniment of live jazz (in the evenings, anyway). Soupe de poissons, tartiflette, cassoulet maison, wild mushroom ragoût, hazelnut and chocolate pudding… you get the picture. Expect to be well-fed and well looked after.
From the creators of Shoreditch’s Clove Club, this upscale venture channels the Riviera-style glamour and primi/secondi decadence of Italian restaurants that are a world away from ‘Lady and the Tramp’ trattoria setpieces. Luca is billed as a ‘Britalian’ eatery, so expect Italian dishes using British ingredients – as in Cornish halibut with romanesco, gherkin and seaweed butter. Pricey but worth it.
Situated in a magnificent Grade II-listed Georgian building, fusion queen Anna Hansen’s Clerkenwell flagship is still a delight – whether you’re eating alfresco, socialising in the café-bar or chilling in the serene upstairs dining room. Everything zings, and the combination of strange ingredients, riotous flavours and bubbly service is instantly addictive. Our tip: go for weekend brunch and order the famous sugar-cured prawn omelette.
Bang next to its acclaimed big brother Moro, teensy-weensy orange-toned Morito is a slice of Spanish street life teleported to Clerkenwell. It’s always frantically busy, but perseverance pays dividends – especially if you bag a spot overlooking the kitchen counter. Inventive tapas plates and stonking Spanish regional wines are the stars, but staff are delightful and the whole place is properly buzzy.
You won’t find the word ‘pizza’ anywhere on the menu, but Panzo is a pizzeria – and one with its own USP. The big selling point is the light, crispy dough, made with rice and soy flours as well as wheat – for less gluten and fewer calories. There are some interesting toppings too, from a vegan version involving courgette cream to a ‘chicken curry’ combo. Yes, cute, affordable Panzo brings something a bit different to Exmouth Market’s crowded pizza scene.
The original ‘nose-to-tail’ pioneer and a Michelin-starred restaurant for those who run from the very idea, St John is a defiantly casual, bare-bones kind of place with come-as-you-please decor and famously full-on cooking. Born-again British dishes are given a surprisingly sophisticated spin that often belies their humble origins. We’re talking snails with barley and bacon, devilled kidneys and, of course, the emblematic bone marrow and parsley salad. Powerful stuff.
You can only book a perch at this seven-seater sushi joint online (and it’s a real palaver), but there’s no doubting that Sushi Tetsu is up there with the best in Tokyo, let alone London. Toro Takahashi is a master of his craft and every detail is correct, right down to the last dab of soy or blast from the blowtorch. Sushi heaven – at a price.
Originally a Dickensian ‘workers canteen’, this Grade II-listed Chophouse now feeds Clerkenwell creatives and others who come here for rebooted British victuals with punchy flavours and a modern accent (Cornish pollack with Tokyo turnip, green sauce and orange, for example). The wine list also promises cut-above drinking and there’s a ‘Bar Room’ attached, plus a butcher’s shop/food store next door.
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