It's French, it's Antipodean, it's exotic – but Anna Hansen's Modern Pantry is anything but a fusion mishmash

The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square, London EC1, tel: 020 7250 0833

"Confit duck leg, roast sweet potato, beetroot, black bean, licorice and ginger salsa, £12.50." Says it all, really. At The Modern Pantry, you get bits and pieces of French bistro cooking with a touch of the Antipodean and some far-flung exotica at a modest price. Some will see this as a breath of fresh air. Others will curl their lips at what they see as a mishmash of magpie pickings from the global floor.

Me, I'm caught somewhere between east and west, sweet and sour. I couldn't bear the chuck-it-all-in-and-hope-for-the best mentality of fusion food, and am thrilled its time has come and gone. Yet we still need people to look at food in a modern way; a post-fusion way.

Enter chef Anna Hansen. Born in Canada, grown in New Zealand, trained in London, and last seen at the fusion-istic Providores with Peter Gordon. Now she is back with a project that's been simmering for four years. Set in a fabulous listed Georgian building, and backed by D&D London, the Modern Pantry is just the sort of modest gastrodome called for by the zeitgeist: buzzy ground-floor café, bookable first-floor dining-room, and cute little next-door deli.

The café is the star, lined with windows, backed by an open kitchen, striped with long rows of white tables and chairs. It's a chatty, sunny, whitewashed room that mingles copper lightshades with vintage/second-hand shop finds.

These days, Hansen's cooking seems more focused, less scatter-gun – or maybe she's just writing shorter menu listings. Lunch dishes from the all-day menu are almost single-minded, including a "small plate" of yielding, deeply flavoured, slow-cooked octopus served with salad leaves and chicory (£5) and a crisp-skinned fillet of softly juicy sea trout with "cauliflower cous cous" (a fine rubble of lightly cooked cauliflower), toasted pumpkin seeds and harissa. A puffy omelette of translucent sugar-cured prawns, green chilli and smoked chilli sambal (£7.50) has a sweet disposition and a good belt of flavour.

I return for dinner as soon as the upstairs dining-room opens and, as always, end up wishing I were down with the hoi polloi. It's too new, raw and bare, as if someone has been kicked out of their bedroom to make way for tables and chairs. The menu is slightly more evolved, with modestly elevated prices, and food can come fast, slow, or both. Roast-tomato soup with garlic and preserved lemon (£5.50) is a bit of a muddle with no clear direction, but a large sea scallop with sugar-cured prawns, slivered mango, a bossy tamarind sauce and Asian basil leaves (£8.50) makes a sprightly salad.

An unlikely starter of slow-cooked ox cheek with beetroot gratin (£6.80) is another goody; the vegetable's sweetness a natural foil to the deeply meaty lobes of fork-tender cheek. Best is a straight-up, un-twisty, anti-fusion, pot-roasted leg of rabbit, teamed with a sludge of fennel and red onion, charred baby leeks and young carrots (£16.50). The notoriously difficult meat has been seduced into a soft, giving texture and remarkably guinea fowl-like flavour by patient, vegetable-infused cooking. The wine list, helpfully divided into Aromatic/Fresh/Crisp, Richer/More Robust/ Tannic etc, yields a serviceable Sauvignon Blanc (£6.50/£26) and Pinot Noir (£29) from Marlborough's Delta Vineyard.

Fried rice balls make a fun finish, like Japanese mochi with gooey umeboshi plum jam inside, alongside a tamarind caramel and snowy white coconut ice-cream (£6.50).

The lack of faff means some dishes can look thrown on the plate, and it is hilarious how wildly exotic can so easily mean brown sauce, yet with its freshness, lightness and casual, drop-in attitude, the Modern Pantry is just that – modern. Like the duck confit with sweet potato, beetroot, black bean etc, somehow it all seems to come together. n

14/20

SCORES 1-9 STAY HOME AND COOK, 10-11 NEEDS HELP, 12 OK, 13 PLEASANT ENOUGH, 14 GOOD, 15 VERY GOOD, 16 CAPABLE OF GREATNESS, 17 SPECIAL, CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK, 18 HIGHLY HONOURABLE, 19 UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE, 20 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square, London EC1, tel: 020 7553 9210.

Open Mon-Fri, 8am-11pm ; Sat, 9am-11pm; Sun, 10am-10pm. Café: around £75 for two including wine and service. Dining-room: around £95 for two

The crunch bunch: More cafés with delis

La Fromagerie

2-6 Moxon Street, London W1, tel: 020 7935 0341

Try before you buy: the tiny tasting café of this fabulous store is London foodies' favourite place to sit with a glass of wine and a cheese or meat platter

Bill's Produce Store

The Depot, 100 North Road, Brighton, tel: 01273 692 894

Bill Collison's greengrocer/café/deli/wine store serves up everything from brilliant fruit and veg to beautifully decorated cakes to inspire your next meal at home

Café Royal

8 Nelson Street, Newcastle, tel: 0191 231 3000

Drop in to this city-centre café for seared salmon, steak sandwiches and Toulouse sausages and mash, then pick up artisanal breads, cakes, cheeses and olives for home

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?