The Clove Club is a bit more than just a restaurant — it’s a dining experience.
Housed in Shoreditch Town Hall which was established as an independent arts and events venue in 2004, the Clove Club doesn’t feel like your typical London restaurant. Besides the fact that it exists inside an ex-local government home, the Clove Club is spacious, exclusive feeling and yet inviting all at the same time. It consists of two rooms – the restaurant and the bar, both having the appearance of a grand country home with spartan decorations, wooden panelling, high ceilings and simple furniture. It is truly like stepping into another world from the streets of Hoxton.
Offering up a ‘controversial’ set menu (I say controversial as people don’t always like to be told they can’t choose in this day and age), the Clove Club describes its mission and its menu as featuring interesting and often overlooked British ingredients and produce. Mission accomplished, I’d say.
For £55 for a 5 course set menu, you get a whole bunch of curious treats, none of them served in a way you’d expect. There’s a selection of snacks to start (not part of the 5 courses but included in the price. Amazeballs.) which are so tiny you will feel like a giant clutching them in your giant bear paw. There is wood pigeon sausage with Ten Bells ketchup and minuscule tartlets packed with scallions and topped with flowers. A basket packed with pine – and within, a chunk of buttermilk-fried chicken with pine salt. Sort of resembles a Christmas tree in a basket. Excellent chicken.
The 5 courses included flame grilled mackerel with English mustard and cucumber. It would be almost absurd for a restaurant trying to showcase overlooked British foods to not include mackerel on the menu.
Cornish red mullet with roast garlic aioli was cooked perfectly as was the Welsh mutton with fresh curds, anchovy spinach and mint. Red mullet is not something I would typically order at a restaurant, or mutton for that matter, but as one food critic has said, sometimes it’s nice to be led by the nose. The set menu forces you to partake in an eating experience you may not necessarily have chosen but the end result is a pleasant one.
At some point in the midst of these courses a waiter came over with a crystal decanter filled with hot broth and poured this into wine glasses as an intermediary offering. The broth was hot, salty and delicious. One would never really think to serve hot broth in a wine glass but it worked quite nicely and is quite fitting with the quirkiness of the establishment.
Having a savoury tooth more than a sweet one, the beast was a bit overwhelmed by the tanginess of the Amalfi lemonade and sarawak pepper pudding. The lemon was overpowering, and not in a good way. After I started to erode the poor skin on the roof of my mouth, I had to stop. The waitress seemed to take note of this and after a brief discussion, she agreed the dessert may be better as a small palette cleanser rather than served in big scoops as a dessert. The blackcurrant leaf ice cream & beremeal biscuit was far more pleasant.
The cheese plate for an extra £6 per person was also a welcome addition. And at this point, you’re already spending £55 plus alcohol so what’s another £6 eh? Served with plump juicy black grapes and homemade crackers, the cheese board provided two distinct British cheeses of different strength.
You can also choose to have a wine pairing with the set menu for an additional £40, or if you’re feeling particularly beastly, a 10 course set menu for £95.
Inside the bill at the end was a little piece of paper, a recipe for 2 parts Fernet Branca and 1 part Creme de Menthe, as a cure for ‘any over indulgence’. The paper also provides some valuable advice – ‘do not let the cure become the cause’. I’ll let you interpret that as you will.
All in all, I would return to the Clove Club as the menu is ever-changing and the food is, simply put, lovely. I would only dine at this restaurant with people who appreciate fine nuances and flavours in their dishes as this place is all about, as we said, being led by the nose, and challenging preconceptions about certain ingredients and flavours. Will not be appreciated by all.
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, London EC1V 9LT
Tel: 020 7729 6496
Website (they take reservations!): http://thecloveclub.com/