Follow our gastronomic guide around London’s fashionable Clerkenwell
Words Helen Brown
Clerkenwell is well known as an area of culinary innovation. From cutting-edge restaurants, refurbished warehouses, markets, bars and tattoo parlours it embodies the gentrification of any East London district. But with its cobbled streets and ivy-clad Georgian townhouses it strikes a more sophisticated note. It’s like the grown up version of Shoreditch.
Begin your journey on the bustling drag of Exmouth Market. It’s a weekly street market on Fridays and Saturdays that focuses on superior local community shopping. Primarily on offer is a wide variety of mouth watering produce – from local and specialist farmers and producers, to small region continental delicacies. In addition to this, there are a small number of art and craft stalls, perfect for picking up one off trinkets and gifts.
Morito is a tiny little spot in Exmouth Market that serves rustic Spanish fare. The menu features tapas favourites like Padrón peppers, jamón Ibérico and patatas bravas. The specials board changes on the regular and sampling is a must. Think pork belly with mojo verde or deep-fried rabbit shoulder flavoured with rose harissa. The all-Iberian wine list is a crowd pleaser and offers some superb sherries.
For fuss-free Italian dining with a great wine list to match, head to Paesan, Exmouth Market. The food embodies authentic Italian flavours and dishes are fresh and simple. Its rustic interior and constantly buzzing atmosphere keep the punters flooding in. Don’t forget to check out the underground bar below the restaurant, a favourite spot for the after-work crowd.
Other hot-spots at Exmouth Market are Caravan, Moro and Berber & Q.
For additional pizza, pasta and Italian fare there is Palatino. Chef Stevie Parle helms this all-day dining venue. It’s a buzzy space brightened with industrial-style lighting and light-yellow booths. The open kitchen boasts a pasta machine and stone oven, which both inform the menu. Try freshly-made gnocchi alla Romana, ravioli parcels with spinach and squash and native lobster with chilli and fennel.
Desserts too are worth an indulgent splurge. On offer, chocolate cake peppered with the crunch of pistachio and honeycomb and, of course, tiramisu.
Following on, Luca is the second restaurant from the team behind The Clove Club and offers exquisite Britalian food to Clerkenwell by-goers. Head chef Robert Chambers joins from a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants, including The Ledbury. Luca’s menu has been developed to include dishes like spaghettini with Morecambe Bay shrimps and mace butter, and tortelloni served in a pheasant broth. The wine list ranges from big names to the best wines you’ve never tried.
Decor takes inspiration from 1950s Italy – sage, marble and brass feature in abundance. The main dining area seats an intimate 60, overlooking a semi-open kitchen and a private courtyard and a pasta-making room. The Garden Room is a second dining room which becomes roofless in the summer. Finally, the bar is a separate space that’s open all day long. It offers sharing plates, from breakfast to dinner, as well as an impressive cocktails. Accompanying digestifs like Amaro and home-made Limoncello and Nocino liqueurs are additionally available and just as divine.
Clerkenwell Grind sees the coffee empire return to the area where it all started. This is the brand’s flagship restaurant and ‘club bar’ and is not too far from the original Shoreditch Grind café and bar. Clerkenwell serves a mean weekend brunch menu, including truffle hash topped with a poached duck egg or French toast-style banana bread. The weekday breakfast menu serves the likes of beetroot-cured salmon and kimchee. For lunch and dinner a charcoal oven cooks the likes of miso-glazed lamb ribs with red snapper.
This branch is spread over two floors, with a dining room and separate cocktail bar. The basement is where you need to head for Grind’s renowned Espresso Martinis.
Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings
This all-day bar and brasserie has a delightfully calming atmosphere. Immerse yourself in the tranquility of the greenhouses’ botanical gardens of the backbuilding whilst enjoying a menu that is quintessentially British. Dishes range from a simple pan-fried seabass to a braised ox cheek served with seared bavette.
The Modern Pantry
The Modern Pantry has a reputation for exquisite fusion food and amazing service. Whether you are after a quick brunch or a full on three-course meal there is a place for everyone. Chef Anna Hansen expertly brings flavours from the Middle East, Japan, the Mediterranean, Britain and Australia together in unison. On offer is a wide variety; try roasted stone-bass with samphire and yuzu salsa verde, or chaat-masala cauliflower with spiced goat’s butter.
For all of its fine food and attractive interiors, The Modern Pantry still manages to be a place for many an appetite. Pop in for a quick brunch and glass of the good stuff, or spend an entire and indulgent afternoon feasting on a lavish afternoon tea.