Giant Robot, 45 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1

Its name makes no sense and neither does its concept – so why are the beautiful people flocking to Giant Robot?

Sharing plates are all the rage, which will probably suit the glossy posse of fashion editors and department-store buyers currently bestriding London on Louboutins watching catwalk shows. These are the kind of folk who make a science of only frequenting the most au courant of restaurants, and an art of not actually eating very much.

The little plates of food currently in vogue are cicchetti but the practice dates back to dim sum. Food trends, like fashion, tend to rotate and we won't have to wait long for char siu buns to kick chicken-liver crostini off the culinary catwalk.

They serve cicchetti at Giant Robot. It would be cool if a giant robot went around handing out miniature risotto balls and the like, but no such luck. Giant Robot turns out to be a medium-sized bar/diner with human waiting staff, also regular-sized. I've picked it because it ticks all the fashion boxes – trendy location/name/cuisine. Clerkenwell had its moment in the late 1990s, when Moro, Café Kick, Quality Chop House and The Eagle were all trendy. Then Hoxton and Shoreditch went and stole its thunder.

Now Clerkenwell's back. Bistro Bruno Loubet, Redhook and The Hat and Tun are all packing in discerning diners. GR wants a slice of the action, which is no surprise as it turns out to be owned by the operation that also owns Redhook – and was behind the Match chain of bars. (In fact, GR is in an old Match location. Our waiter helpfully points out that it's just been trendied up.)

So exposed brick walls have been teamed with copper lightshades, kitsch kitchen cabinets and some mid-century dining chairs. It's eclectic and a tad messy, but not unpleasant. On the night I visit, the clientele are men who look like Nathan Barley (grown up with a proper job) and women with on-trend (bleugh) nautical stripes and peep-toe boots.

I'm with two hungry fellas, so this won't be so much plate-sharing, as a knives-drawn fight to see who can get the last meatball. Yes, you read that right. Meatballs – or "balls", as they call them – are on the sharing menu; they're £1.35 each. This is going to get messy – and not just because of the spicy tomato sauce.

We add some vine plum tomato and basil, and wild mushroom and truffle crostini (82p and 99p each, respectively) and a portion of arancini (risotto balls with spinach and parmesan, £3.50 for three). So far, so Italian. The crostini are a bit flabby but the tomatoes are obviously not freighted unripe muck, and the mushrooms are meaty with a hit of garlic. The risotto balls are piping hot and accompanied by a herb aioli, there to counteract the rather chalky texture of the rice. Any self-respecting Milanese pavement café would produce something with more flavour, sadly. This is good grub for soaking up alcohol, rather than stand-alone gastronomy. Wines, including an adequate A Mano Chianti at £24, are probably not the focus – the bar pushes the cocktail list pretty hard.

Getting away from the novelty miniature dishes with novelty prices, we are encouraged to try the giant prawns with garlic, chilli, oregano and an aioli dip. Three seems a bit mimsy, so we order five and only afterwards realise that they're costing us £23.60. And for that price I'd expect to be given more than one tiny finger bowl to share. Luckily, I'm with close friends, otherwise I'd feel rather uncomfortable sticking my digits in their dirty water. The prawns are certainly giant, and the oily, pungent flavours are good, but as so often with supersized crustacea, the texture is a bit woolly.

A wooden board of salumi finds favour with the lads, but if the cured meats are good quality, which they should be for £14.50, why blob sticky balsamic all over it? I prefer the ladylike "No. 1 Salad", chicory, gorgonzola and walnut – a perfectly acceptable dish of crisp leaves, creamy cheese and good nuts.

We forgo the "Famous Baked Alaska"– £7 per person – and thus miss the opportunity to see it "flamed at the table". Perhaps another time, accompanied by flaming sambucas at an office party...

Who am I kidding? There isn't going to be a next time. The food wasn't good enough to merit it, but then it's not aimed at me. While sharing plates are fashionable, it doesn't matter that they're more fodder than fine dining. And when the cognoscenti move on to the next cuisine, the Friday-night crowd will still be there to play a new drinking game: how to split a meatball five ways.

5/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Giant Robot 45 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1, tel: 020 7065 6810 Mon-Wed 10am-midnight, Thur-Sat 10am-2am, Sun 10am-10pm. About £50 for two with drinks

More places to be seen

Cecconi's

5a Burlington Gardens, London W1, tel: 020 7434 1500

This slick and genial Italian brasserie in Mayfair has a buzz about it that starts at breakfast; the rest of the day's luxe light menu is competent rather than exciting.

Cipriani

23 Davies Street, London W1, tel: 020 7399 0500

A Mayfair Eurotrash magnet where the prices are a joke, but the people-watching is fun – if you're not on the A-list, expect to be ignored, and charged for the privilege.

Momo

25 Heddon Street, London W1, tel: 020 7434 4040

Mourad Mazouz's seductive Moroccan hang-out is beautiful but the food is unexciting and somewhat overpriced.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests