My unforgettable lunch at The Clove Club
I will always remember my lunch at The Clove Club. Not only because of the outstanding quality of the food - I will get back to that - but because while we were walking around Hyde Park, enjoying a bit of sun upon our arrival in London for the week-end, my boyfriend proposed to me. It was absolutely perfect, very intimate and personal. No kneeling, no fireworks, no awkwardness of too many people watching us, just him and me on a lovely bench, and the most beautiful ring I could ever dream of.
Saying that we were a bit shaken, when we entered The Clove Club, around 1.45pm on this Saturday afternoon, would be putting it mildly. We had just had a drink in Shoreditch to celebrate, and we were welcomed by a lovely glass of Champagne at the restaurant to celebrate our engagement - I was so flustered, I just answered "We just got engaged!" to the nice and welcoming "How are you?" from our waitress when we walked in.
We went for the "small" tasting menu. For £65, it's a five course adventure throughout the fascinating mysteries of taste and flavour - did engagement make me poetic? There is also a £95 menu, which we would have definitely gone for should we not have booked another Michelin-starred restaurant for the evening, same day - not the best idea to make the most of the experience to be honest, but that just made this day extra special.
The meal started with a "selection of snacks"; a frozen gaspacho with hazelnut mousse, a haggis ball, a piece of fried chicken a mini crab tart and a baby corn. The frozen gaspacho was probably my favourite, so strong in flavour yet so light, and the lovely crab tart.
I was mesmerized by the roundness of the haggis ball, a dish I would usually stay away from but that I enjoyed as a micro portion. The chef Isaac McHale being born in Scotland, and it's easy to understand how he would want to restore the glory of this traditional Scottish dish which is often looked down upon for its lack of refinement.
The last appetizer was an herb broth with mussels and mangetout, the kind of dish you would never really order if you saw it on a menu, but which was everything but boring and tasteless. At that point, the meal per se hadn't even started and we were already sold. Our table was right in front of the kitchen and not only did we enjoy the food, witnessing the waiting staff and the cooks working was great entertainment. They all seemed quite young, committed and loving what they do.
The first dish was mackerel with cucumber and English mustard. Mackerel is a tricky fish and can be a bit heavy on the stomach so I am usually not the biggest fan of it. I really loved the crunchiness of the cucumber which worked perfectly with the saltiness of the mackerel. Absolutely superb.
After a bread and homemade butter intermission - and what bread my God, I was so close from sneaking a loaf in my bag to bring back home it was so good - we had some monkfish, aubergine and green tomato. Probably the most beautiful plate visually, nothing short of flavour, and needless to say, cooked to perfection.
The meat course came under the form of a duck breast, served with fermented cabbage. Duck is my favourite meat and it was cooked was very red, which is how I like it. With a nice glass of Medoc, that was close to perfection.
At that point of the meal, we were not exactly hungry, but after having a massive piece of blue cheese staring at me from the counter for the past couple of hours, I was too weak to say no to the lovely Sicilian waitress offering me a plate of cheese; a British stilton and a soft cheese with tomato chutney. Tasty yet not smelly cheese and delicious homemade crackers: this is how you win the heart of a French girl without leaving her Irish boyfriend with a face of pure disgust - unfortunately, I haven't yet managed to convert him to my personal cheese cult.
The first dessert was apricot sorbet hidden under some almond foam, a beautifully light and fruity combination of flavours.
The second serving consisted in a vanilla custard tartlet, Champagne jelly and summer berries - something I really want to try and make at home. Such an interesting texture, light and delicious!
A chocolate bite, a chou à la crème, a minty sweet and a lovely note, our post desserts didn't disappoint; there is no doubt that this table deserves its place in the World's 50 best restaurants. The service was so kind and discreet yet full of life and enthusiasm. When we left The Clove Club (at about 5pm), we could only understand the success of the chef and his well-deserved fame. If it was ever needed, this is one more reason to visit London on a regular basis.