Restaurants, British Clerkenwell
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Hayley Harrison

Please note, Medcalf is now closed. Time Out Eating & Drinking editors, Dec 2016.

With its twinkling overhead lighting in the evening and pavement seating on warm days, Exmouth Market is a fine place to stroll along and choose a place to eat or drink. You could do a lot worse than Medcalf, one of the original catalysts in the rejuvenation of this Clerkenwell street. There’s a bar room to one side where drinkers can enjoy London beers and spirits, or good-value wines by the glass and carafe; the cute little garden at the back is a boon.

The dining room is wood-lined and treads a pleasing path between boho and smart, although the brown-paper menus and dressed-down waiters swing things right back to casual. Too casual sometimes – staff can be distracted and a bit ineffective, and on our last visit we witnessed several frustrated punters waving for service. Food is uncomplicated and resolutely British, with a roster of classics – Mersea oysters, chicken and mushroom pie, steak and chips, pork chop with turnips and cider sauce, sticky toffee pudding. Ingredients are seasonal, quality is high, and the cooking is competent enough to make Medcalf a very agreeable spot for lunch or dinner.



Venue name: Medcalf
Address: 40 Exmouth Market
Opening hours: Lunch served noon-3pm Mon-Sat; noon-3.30pm Sun. Dinner served 6-10pm Mon-Thur, Sat; 6-10.30pm Fri
Transport: Tube: Farringdon tube/rail or bus 19, 38, 341
Price: Main courses £12.50-£22
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Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:1
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Been there a few times, I think it's excellent value and just love their steak and fries.

Service can be a bit slow but I never experienced the disasters mentioned below

I had dinner at medcalf a few days ago, the food was delicious, the best welsh rarebit I've ever had for sure. Mains and desert were really good too, goat cheese and pea risotto and bavette steak and we shared a eton mess. Service was attentive. I will for sure go again and I highly recomend it!

I dine at this restaurant regularly and I am suprised to read the reviews below. Medcalf is always buzzing. The staff are warm and friendly without being too formal. The food is consistently great. It's quirky and laidback.

Amazing meal! hands down the best restaurant in exmouth market. Service was attentive and food was supper tasty! 10 out of 10

I can only agree with the reviewers below. Very poor service. No bread, no water. No menus handed. No attention at all. Mains were nice but waited about 20 min until plates were taken away after we had finished. Had to wait about half an hour on top of it to get the waitress' attention to get a desert menu. No questions how our food was or of we would like more drinks/food. It was Friday night, only two more tables apart from ours - empty basically. 5 waiters and waitresses were chatting at the bar, walking up an down the restaurant. Waitress was moody, bored and lacked any spark of life. VERY DISAPPOINTING. Wouldn't return based on service. Disrespectful and arrogant. Not a surprise actually that it was empty on a Friday night - all the other restaurants were buzzing....

Some significant service issues Medcalf need to sort out. Based on the service, I would definitely not return to this restaurant. We wasted a combined 90 minutes sitting in the restaurant waiting for the menus to arrive and for the check to arrive. In both cases we eventually went up to the bar and had to ask for it. We had good company and were happy to talk, but the waits were ridiculously long and our waitress went completely MIA for extended periods of time. She was new on the job, and that could excuse the fact that she didn't know if one of the items on the menu was lamb or pork (she went back and forth on the issue and got it right in the end). But it doesn't excuse abandoning her table. The food was pretty good. For apps we had welsh rarebit and tomato soup, and for mains: steak and lamb. The steak was a little tough, but still good. We are easy-going diners, who go out to eat once or twice a week, but the service stinks here.

0 of 1 found helpful

We visited Medcalf in a reasonably large group - 12 - but had a reservation and they were expecting us. Once we arrived, the restaurant was full. We waited at the table for 15 minutes without menus, water, bread, anything. Having failed to get attention by waiving my hands like a windmill, I went up to the bar and asked for menus and was told brusquely that I couldn't take them, they would be brought to the table. 5 minutes later they came. You can practically guess the rest - a full half an hour after arriving before we got our drinks, and hour and ten minutes for the food - one of our party couldn't wait any longer and left without anything other than a glass of water. We had to ask to order every time - not once did a waitress come to our table without us calling her over. No apologies for the late service, no offer of any recompense. And the food was really mixed. The tart and the fish were very poor - the fish almost totally lacking in flavour, but the duck and veal were very good. The chips with mayo, however, were stellar - easily the best chips I've ever eaten. If only they had come 45 minutes earlier. It's only a small place with a small menu, it shouldn't be difficult to get the service right. I spoke to the surly duty manager when we left to explain why we had opted not to the leave the full amount of the 'optional' service charge which was automatically added to the bill (12.5%!!!!). That is, I spoke to him when he was ready to acknowledge my presence as he was preparing a drink and didn't even make eye contact with me although he knew I was waiting to speak to him. He also offered no apology and merely said, it was very busy and it's difficult to deal with a big group, to which I responded, but you're a restaurant, aren't you? Isn't a full house what you want? A sheepish grin was his response. I'll never, ever, go here again, not even for the brilliant chips.