The Doc and I marked three years since our first date last Wednesday. Being self-professed foodies, we spent our first date at a Street Feast food festival, and haven’t stopped eating since! If I recall correctly, it went something like this:
- I was late by half an hour
- He was 15 minutes early
- He thought I’d stood him up
- We didn’t stop talking for about 7 hours – marking it the longest first date ever
- It was the same day as Eurovision and therefore you can’t forget it 😉
The last three years have flown by in a whirl of fun, food and frolicking. Honestly, we’ve come a long way since then and there was only one way to mark the occasion. We resorted to our favourite list, “The Worlds 50 Best” and decided it was time to tick one more restaurant off it! Specifically, the Clove Club, somewhere I had wanted to try for ages!
We’ve had the pleasure of dining at some of the best restaurants, including Noma in Copenhagen, Pujol in Mexico City (currently number 20 of the world’s best restaurants), Relae, which has held number 39 twice (post coming soon!) and we have loved the modern takes on the respective cuisines. It’s been amazing to share these experiences together, as two serious foodies, and we often reminisce about those meals even years later.
Last week, our anniversary started in a pretty normal way. I woke up early, went to work, went to the gym and then headed to Shoreditch. It was time to get our feast on!
The Clove Club was one of the first restaurants in the UK to introduce a pre-payment ticketing system, so over two months ahead, we booked in for the extended tasting menu of 9 courses, plus a selection of “snacks”. When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect but an exciting evening was certainly ahead of us.
Ecstatic that the sun was out, we met outside the restaurant, hungry for the feast ahead. We were taken to our seats and promptly started with a glass of Blanc de Blanc champagne before diving into the starters.
The first course was a refreshing beetroot and apple frozen gazpacho with a quenelle of almond cream. The gazpacho was like a savoury sorbet and very moreish. Despite the apple being very subtle (so much so that we couldn’t taste it), each bite left us wanting more. The intense flavour of the nutty and creamy almond cream was bold compared to the other elements and as such, it was the star of the dish. I’d have loved a bit more apple flavour but absolutely adored this as a start to an exciting and experimental meal!
Next, I was presented with a Cornish spider crab tart, with hollandaise made with brown crab, topped with devilled spices and a pretty little chive flower from the Clove Club garden. I loved the theatre of it, served on a ginormous, somewhat scary looking, hollowed crab shell. GENIUS! The filling was piquant and creamy, slightly salty but light. The tart was crisp and really thin. It was incredible. I’d have loved a bigger one as a main actually! The Doc is allergic to shellfish and so was given the tiny tart with some green beans in. Needless to say, it was underwhelming next to my beautiful shellfish delight, and I felt bad. But we ploughed on, and the good egg that my man is, he didn’t complain much, mainly because the next snack arrived of buttermilk fried chicken with a pine salt and a big smile returned to his face.
One thing that has become apparent over the last three years is that whilst we both love a delicious fancy meal out, we also love simple comfort food. For me, comfort food is a perfect homely lasagne, rich with flavour and lots of cheese on top (I defy you to find one that beats my mum’s veggie lasagne!). For the Doc though, he’d happily eat a plate full of macaroni cheese or fried chicken. He tried Clove Club’s Buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt before I did and made THAT face. He was beaming from ear to ear. He said he could eat a bucketful! For me, it was a little bit greasy but in all fairness, I’m no fried chicken connoisseur (I don’t eat KFC and find a lot of fried foods unpleasant!) But, for the guy with a taste for it, it was brilliant. But credit where credit’s are due; it was perfectly cooked, really succulent and the batter was audibly crunchy! Nothing like your average greasy chicken and clearly if you’re a fried chicken fan this stuff would be like crack to you. The Doc LOVED it!
The next snack was a happy surprise. If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ll know that recently, I’d travelled to Edinburgh for a family wedding, yet I had managed to resist the temptation of experimenting with haggis (if you don’t follow me yet, then why not do so now!). The next snack consisted of savoury doughnuts filled with haggis and topped with cider vinegar powder; seemingly as Chef Isaac is Scottish, this dish is a nod to his heritage. For those wondering whether to take that bite of haggis or not next time they’re offered, it was tasty and meaty (as expected). In this case, however, I’d have liked more filling in the doughnut. After one bite, the meat was gone and you were left with an empty donut case.
The Clove Club’s excellent sommelier offered us a mini wine pairing where you could get a trio of wines perfectly matched with the meal – I loved the idea. Considering it was a weeknight a full wine pairing would be way too much for us! The first wine, paired with the snacks, was a light Pinot Bianco. A beautifully aromatic young wine which went down sooooo easily. Honestly, I had slurped it down quicker than I care to admit. From the region of Italy, the grapes for this wine are grown by 140 different farmers who, according to the sommelier, do not agree on which grape tastes the best. As such, no two wines taste the same and we happened to be lucky to get a great one. It’s one of the most delicious wines I’ve tried in ages!
The next dish was one of my favourites. A trout tartare with sencha powder (a relative to Schezuan pepper) with the most glorious potato velouté and crunchy mini Jersey Royal potato crisps with Sansho. The velouté was seriously velvetty and incredibly comforting. Reminiscent of a delicious potato soup, I could have eaten a big bowl of just that! In fact, I definitely just googled Clove Club potato soup recipe… no such luck unfortunately. You’ll just have to go there and try this!
My next course was langoustine two ways. First, the delicate tail of the langoustine was lightly grilled a la plancha. It was served with a charcoal cream, so smooth and so smokey. The cream is actually poured onto hot charcoal then quickly strained. Next, a glass appears containing langoustine claw topped with more charcoal cream and a jelly made of langoustine stock and dashi. It was so gorgeous but once again I felt bad enjoying this when the Doc’s shellfish-allergy-friendly dish came out. It was a very simple asparagus with mint served with fresh curds and lemon verbena. I wasn’t convinced by it at all.
Having given almost three months notice to the restaurant about our dietary requirements, and given that this is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the world, we couldn’t help but feel cheated by how underwhelming the alternative dishes were. The meal was meant to be a big celebration for us, but it felt pretty unequal that my dish had clearly had so much care and effort (and truly I did appreciate that my dish was pretty sensational) but his dish felt like a mere afterthought. For a restaurant which produces some seriously experimental, creative and tasty dishes, two pieces of asparagus with mint and a curd dip, which wasn’t too exciting (albeit pretty), was a bit of a shame. It was a beautifully presented dip but I thought back to our meals at other high end restaurants like Noma and how much effort they made to ensure no dietary requirement limited the dining experience.
Next up was a beautiful herring dish. The texture of the fish was really unusual and the taste was fantastic. It was meaty and almost doughy (in a good way!) as if a fried doughnut or dumpling. I’ve no idea what they did but it was GOOOD. The vivid green broth had great depth of flavour, lots of savoury notes and just the right amount of saltiness. We quickly forgot the last dish and fell in love with this one. Any fish lovers would adore this!
The sommelier at the Clove Club is truly fantastic – she explained the wines so well and was patient whilst I took snaps! This next white wine, Engelgarten “Garden of the Angels” from 2014 was full bodied with a touch of residual sugar to balance the spices for the next few courses. It was actually so delicious on its own even without a bite of the meal, but paired amazingly.
Another highlight at the Clove Club has to be the bread. Oh, the bread! I don’t think I have ever had such incredible bread in London. It was on par with my favourite sourdough which we ate in Copenhagen and I ate way more than my fair share with lashings of the handmade butter.
A little cheats course of its own would be the bread with that butter and a liberal sprinkling of this cinnamon salt with fennel seeds. Seriously, Clove Club, if you had a bakery, I’d be your biggest customer (both figuratively and literally because frankly my willpower just couldn’t resist that bread?)
Our final wine pairing was a 2012 Pinot Noir from New Zealand – it’s from the central Otago region. This is actually somewhere on my bucket list, where I’d love to go to try the wines and see the vineyards, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. This wine was another incredible one from the Rippon vineyards.
I wouldn’t have thought a red wine would go so well with fish but surprisingly it married perfectly with the next course of Pollock, served with sea aster and onion. It had a subtle flavour of green curry and Karolina encouraged us to sprinkle the cinnamon and fennel salt over the perfectly cooked fish. It was amazing, aromatic and delicious and one of my favourite courses!
The courses continued to keep coming! Next up, was the Hebridaen smoked lamb with mint jelly and lamb sauce – I loved the flavour but the lamb wasn’t quite there for me, a bit too fatty for my liking. The Doc seemed to love his so I think I just happened to have a fattier piece. The slight smokiness was a really nice touch though and I polished off the lamb sauce with a bit of bread!
I feel incredibly lucky to have tried the next course. A bottle of Madeira from 1909 was brought to our table. It literally is older than my grandad (who’s turning 9o this year!) We were given a generous swig to try. It’s sensational. Literally, my goal is to buy a bottle of this stuff to put in the cellar and to open it many years into the future! We were then advised to leave a tiny bit of the Madeira in our wine glasses, therefore, we did as we were told (it wasn’t easy – that stuff is so moreish!)
The waiter arrived with a decanter of hot duck, morel and ginger consommé which was swirled and then poured into the wine glass containing the leftover Madeira! This was really clever cooking. They were definitely onto something incredible with this. It had so much flavour and honestly was pretty sensational. I would have loved if it was poured over something, perhaps some duck breast, to have a variety of textures as on its own it’s just a lot of liquid. Especially with wine and water!
In keeping with the last course, we were served a 21 day aged Aylesbury duck breast with a piece of duck sausage, purée of verbena, turnip, toasted almonds and some plum puree. The duck was cooked to perfection and probably the best duck I’ve ever had! See how gloriously pink it is! I loved this very much, and the purees were so tasty I’d have loved a little more! The sausage was bold and packed with flavour so only needed a tiny smidgen with each bite.
*Drum roll please!* It’s pudding time. If you’ve made it through my foodie rambling then well done, you!
By this time, we were pretty full, but we can always find a tiny bit of space for pudding, can’t we?
Wild fennel granita came with a blood orange sauce, Ewe’s milk yoghurt, and the most incredible melt-in-the-mouth wafer, made of Ewe’s milk. There was also dehydrated blood orange and raspberry. I don’t even normally like fennel but this was just incredible refreshing. Sophisticated and balanced and a revelation! It was a really fresh pudding and I highly recommend it!
Our final pudding was a Loquat Sorbet with Loquat Kernel Cream and puffed amaranth. I’d never actually heard of a Loquat. It was served with creme anglaise, and a foam infused with the stone. It was topped with a crisp sugar disc with puffed amaranth and popcorn crumb. A winner for any popcorn lover!
We ended the meal with petit fours of chocolates with a liquid salted caramel centre, and the most delicious barley cakes with an orange marmalade cream. Surprisingly light, just the right side of sweet and moist (yes, I said it!)
Finally, we had the most minty bon bon made of mint liquor and Fernet Branca, a taste of fruity sloe sherry, took a photo with the chefs and left full-bellied and grinning. All-in-all it was a brilliant meal at the Clove Club, and a great way to reminisce on our first date, three years ago. Oh and this time, I was right on time (!)
Happy Anniversary Doc, here’s to many more delicious dinners together! xx
Check out the Clove Club over on their website here.
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