Review: The Clove Club, Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1

You don't have to be a hipster to dine at The Clove Club – just open the door (if you can)

So much has been written about the "hipster" provenance of both the staff and clientele of The Clove Club that it's no surprise to me, on arrival at the time of my reservation, to find the door firmly closed. I am left on the pavement at Shoreditch Town Hall looking a bedraggled country mouse, while girls with lilac hair and boys with elbow patches pass by.

After rattling the handle, I try to flag the attention of my date through the window – being a local, and a fabulous hairdresser to the stars, too, he's safely inside, nursing a Martini at the bar. No dice, so I give the door one last tug and it opens. I'm in! I'm so in! They didn't operate a remote lock to keep out fuddy-duddies. The crowd inside is delightfully diverse: the hipster myth is busted.

The Clove Club, inside the repurposed Shoreditch Town Hall, is spartan – dark wood and pale walls, high ceilings and an open kitchen of severe beauty, with tiles in my very favourite colour: cerulean. Controlling the quiet industry is Isaac McHale, head chef (in the middle of the photograph, right), and one of the three chaps behind the restaurant. He, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith have been players in the London cuisine scene for a few years now, with a track record in pop-ups that everyone wished would stay up. Now they have the opportunity, and the responsibility, of a permanent venue.

George, my date, has fitted in dinner with me between styling Gwyneth Paltrow for a shoot and making Mila Kunis red-carpet-ready. I feel both honoured and in need of a hairbrush. He, in turn, is rather pleased to be playing at restaurant reviewing. We settle in for the only option, a £47 tasting menu, which affords us time to catch up on gossip… Oh, who am I kidding? George is discretion itself, and I don't know any superstars.

Instead we talk about the food, which is easy because a) there's lots of it and b) it is endlessly debatable. A stellar start is a trio of little sharing plates: radishes with sesame and a mayo spiked with gochuchang (a Korean spicy soybean thing – the menu could use some footnotes); crisp little cheesy pastry squares topped with more curd; and a basket packed with pine fronds and a pine cone – and within, two chunks of buttermilk-fried chicken with pine salt. Super-soft inside, crisp exterior and that faintly cleansing hint of pine. This last element is the best – it's no surprise to hear that it's a hit on the bar menu.

A highly promising dish of warm fennel with walnut and seaweed follows – but the seaweed is dulce and the fennel is dull. It's tender but underseasoned; I can see the idea was to borrow its saltiness from the seaweed, but the ratio isn't right and I end up with a chunk of one of my favourite veggies uneaten. Walnuts made into an oil stirred through crème fraîche, crumb sprinkled on top, add much-needed texture and flavour.

Another pretty plate, this with a full leek, softly braised and buttery, topped with smoked mussels and torn lemon-balm leaves. Not sure I'd serve two veg so similar on a five-course tasting menu; I'm all for making veggies the star, but it's the expertly cooked mussels, with a faint hint of smoke, and a verdant spinach puddle that are the delightful bits.

Rib of beef with dots of ransom purée and neat potato "cigars" is a stand-out. The meat is fab, the chew of an outside-y bit of the roast on one side of each slice, the deepest pink tenderness on the other. The spuds are crisp and scrumptious.

As puddings turn up, I am reminded, again, why I will never have Gwyneth's sylph-like figure. A modest ceramic bowl contains a clever thing: a warm cider mousse with softened apple below and shreds of sweet ginger on top. Just right for a brutal, still-wintery night.

The second sweet is a pretty ensemble carefully, if curiously, placed on one edge of the plate. "Are they still trying to be edgy?" George quips. It's a heavenly, billowy cloud of ewes' milk mousse, with blood orange semi-dried and in a jelly, with a dollop of fennel sorbet. George, snake-hipped and gorgeous, has no qualms about eating all this plus the witty chicory teacake served with coffee.

A fortnight in, the staff tell me the plan is to change the menu every couple of weeks. A few tweaks – McHale might be the only chef I've ever met who could do with adding more salt – and this will be a serious destination restaurant.

8/10

SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HELP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PROMISE, 7 GOOD, 8 CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

The Clove Club Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7729 6496 Lunch and dinner daily. £130 for two, including drinks

Pop-ups turned permanent

Flat Iron

17 Beak Street, London W1

Just off Carnaby Street, this amiable bistro offers top-value steak/frites in a tightly packed communal setting evocative of Old Soho

Viajante

Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, London E2, tel: 020 7871 0461

Blows the Fat Duck away, say fans of Nuno Mendes' Bethnal Green venture and its modern-molecular dishes; some dishes, however, do work better than others

MEATliquor

74 Welbeck Street, London W1, tel: 020 7224 4239

Why would anyone queue for an hour outside a multi-storey car park behind Debenhams? The distinctly guilty pleasure of the juiciest burger ever

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
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
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

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

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

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition