The best Clerkenwell restaurants

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  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    LINO

    A low-waste, low-key restaurant is the first outing for The Dairy’s former head chef

    Chef Richard Falk’s CV lists stints at some of London’s best-loved restaurants, including Clapham’s The Dairy, where he was head chef, and Michelin-starred The Ledbury in Notting Hill. Now he’s opened his first solo joint, around the corner from St Paul’s Cathedral. The location is a bit off the beaten track (we got lost trying to find it), on a quiet street away from the Square Mile suits and tourists. When it comes to the space, the clue is in the name: the restaurant has revamped what was once a linoleum and carpet factory. Plenty of exposed brick and super-high ceilings give it a stripped-back, industrial feel. You’re drawn to the bar (never a bad thing), a huge island sitting plumb in the middle of the restaurant. Low-slung velvet sofas are arranged around marble tables, and smaller tables for two and four set near the sweeping staircase. The kitchen is open, but not at the centre: if you wanted to watch your chef cook your meal, you could, but it’s not prescribed.

    FOOD

    The menu is split into snacks, small and large plates, but unlike many of London’s recent openings, they follow the traditional structure: snacks first, then small plates, and so forth – no everything-arriving-at-once here. Everything is made in house and from scratch. Bread and butter is super-fresh, the chewy sourdough served with a slightly salty butter that softens at the edges. For starters, burrata comes with a crispy hazelnut dukkah that offsets the creaminess of the cheese and pears that give a tangy kick, and the flaky mackerel is grilled and accompanied by oyster mayonnaise and pickled cucumber. Order a few large plates between you when you get to the mains – silky lasagne is filled with pumpkin and crispy artichoke, while the winter mushroom risotto is brilliantly nutty. If you’re carnivorous, go for tender lamb loin with heritage carrots or juicy pork belly with cavolo nero. For us, the highlight was dessert, a must-order croissant bread-and-butter pudding. Put any bad memories of school-dinner slop behind you: it’s crisp and caramelised on the outside and flaky-soft on the inside, with a marmalade glaze that stops it from becoming sickly and a scoop of ice cream on top that quickly melts into the warm bread. Plus, it’s made with the leftover pastries from the breakfast menu, making it low-waste.

    DRINK

    The retro cocktail menu is self-described as kitsch – there’s even a Snowball (a mix of Advocaat and lemonade), if you’re feeling particularly Eighties. But they’ve given the drinks a grown-up twist: the Singapore Sling comes in a smart bottle to pour over ice yourself, with a hint of jalapeño for a welcome kick, and the Negroni is barrel-aged.

    VERDICT

    A cool spot with lots of atmosphere, where you really want to eat everything on the menu. Definitely go for the pudding – one of the best in London right now.


    Address: : LINO, 90 Bartholomew Close, London, EC1A 7EB


    Book online

    By Sarah James

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    The Coach

    Brilliant pub grub with French flair

    Here’s a sobering fact: there are 25 per cent fewer pubs in London in 2018 than there were in 2001. But tucked away in Clerkenwell is one that’s resisting that trend – recently reopened The Coach. This Victorian boozer has been given arguably the smartest facelift in town and the result is a fresh take on a traditional drinking den, with indigo trimming outside leading to clean-lined wood panelling in the front room. But the real find is hidden in the airy Back Room, where Anglo-French food is overseen by head chef Henry Harris (formerly of Racine) and snugly placed tables are flooded with light through the floor-to-ceiling window which looks onto the courtyard garden.


    FOOD

    The menu has gone a bit retro – in a good way. Among the starters is prawn cocktail, with the freshest prawns and homemade sauce. There are a lot of them, and they’re fiddly to get through, so order for the table perhaps and dip in en masse. Alternatively, encourage your dinner date to go for them while you tackle the charcuterie: wafer-thin slices of rosette and saucisson de Lyon, served with tiny cornichons. The old-school theme continues with the mains, which include incredibly delicate skate wing with chorizo, prawns and a thick, rich squid-ink sauce, and duck with sautéed potatoes and a prune jus. For pudding, the petit pot au chocolat is petit indeed, but also satisfyingly sweet, or you can plump for a classic crème caramel. This is unashamedly homely French cooking – not for irony, or coolness sake but just because it’s really good.


    DRINK

    Kir Royale is the only aperitif on the menu, signalling that the drinks are just as retro as the food. And like everything else, it’s good enough to stand on its own without being a nostalgia gimmick. The wine list includes the hits such as Picpoul de Pinet, and the staff will take you through it expertly.


    VERDICT

    A fuss-free, family-style menu in a beautiful dining room in one of Clerkenwell’s loveliest pubs. Go now, before this under-the-radar spot becomes common knowledge.

    By Sarah James

    Address: The Coach, 26-28 Ray Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 3DJ


    Book online

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    The Drunken Butler

    French food with a Persian twist

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: The Drunken Butler, 20 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4SX


    Telephone: +44 20 7101 4020


    Website: thedrunkenbutler.com

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    Luca

    The Clove Club with an Italian accent

    Read the full review in our round-up of the best restaurants in London

    Address: Luca, 88 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1


    Telephone: +44 20 3859 3000


    Website: luca.restaurant

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    Breddos Tacos

    Taco kings Breddos first bricks and mortar spot

    A few years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a proper taco in London but suddenly a smattering of serious taquerias El Pastór, Corazón, Bad Sports) is raising the capital’s Mexican game. Breddos Tacos began with two friends who spotted the shortage and swiftly threw in their jobs to supply a simple list of tacos from a truck in a Hackney car park. Now, there are two bricks-and-mortar restaurants: one just off Old Street (and around the corner from Clerkenwell Grind) and the other on Soho’s buzzy Kingly Street. Hipster couples slide into smart booths and chilli-fingered families dig in at the communal table in Clerkenwell while at the Soho joint the secret Margarita bar downstairs draws a big crowd.

    FOOD

    Flavours aren’t just Mexican; inspiration comes from all over. Ginger Pig beef is marinated, seared and then slow-cooked, while Kung Pao pork belly is flavoured with Sichuan pepper. Crisp-fried masa chicken is offset with pickled red cabbage and the Baja fish taco is so carefully cooked that whole chunks flake off onto the handcrafted ceramic plates. The menu changes frequently based on what’s in season and everything comes with a side of thrilling seasoning. There are hand-pounded bird’s eye chilli salsas, a heritage tomato habanero sauce and a shrimp chiltomate. From the Familia menu in Soho, opt for the Lamb neck barbecoa served with house salsas which falls straight off the bone. You might well have to queue but for the best chance of walking straight in, try the Clerkenwell Breddos on a Sunday when there’s also a churros French toast on the menu. This decadent stack, loaded with berries, cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of cream-cheese frosting, is made for sharing.

    DRINKS

    You can always spot a quality Mexican joint by the mezcals on the menu and there are many more of these than anything else, tacos included. Try the Montelobos for an introduction to the smoky spirit or sip on a Herradura Anejo tequila for something a little more familiar. Mezcal replaces vodka in the Bloody Maria made with Isle of Wight tomato juice, and a Brit Spritz is satisfyingly dry for an elderflower concoction thanks to a serious shot of grapefruit-bitter Kamm & Sons. For the real deal opt for the Michelada: Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi and fresh lime juice topped with beer – in this instance, Lecker by British microbrewery The Wild Beer Co. By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Breddos Tacos, 82 Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 7DB


    Telephone: +44 20 3535 8301


    Website: breddostacos.com

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    Moro, Exmouth Market

    A straight-forward, much-adored Spanish restaurant in Clerkenwell

    Sam and Sam(antha) Clarks’ Exmouth Market restaurant set London’s benchmark for British-style Spanish flavours back in 1997 – long before this strip of Clerkenwell became the foodie mecca it is today. They delivered a pared-back aesthetic (battered wooden floorboards and chalk-scribbled blackboards, disrupted only by the wonderful emerald green stripe which snakes its way around the room) years before every new opening hung a lightbulb over a polished concrete table. Moro was the restaurant that made counter dining cool (high stools still nuzzle against a long, zinc-topped bar); and they’ve always cared more about using the finest ingredients than how they appear on the plate. Moro may have since spawned two more restaurants (tapas-style Morito next door in Exmouth Market, and another on Hackney Road) but it’s the original site which is booked up every night of the week.

    FOOD

    20 years on and dark crusted loaves of sourdough are still baked on site and served with rich, peppery olive oil. Yogurt is hung inside a clean chef’s apron in the fridge overnight to produce the delicious labneh (the whey that drips off is used to make bread and various dressings, because of course the Clarks were into zero waste before it was even a thing). Plates really do look simple but a tomato salad is perfect, served with sizzling padron peppers and thin tender acorn-fed Iberico pork and golden girrolle mushrooms are piled on toast topped with Jamón. There’s also influence from north Africa and mains include a charcoal grilled lamb with ‘wrinkled’ potatoes and a spicy mojo rojo sauce. Or a wood roasted chicken with pomegranate molasses and a fattoush salad. What no one seems to talk about though, is the puddings: order both the fluffy chocolate tart for its satisfyingly sharp layer of apricot and the sensational heap of lemon curd-like sponge drizzled with yogurt, pistachio and juicy pomegranate seeds.

    DRINKS

    Start with a gooseberry and elderflower cava aperitif or a Pink Margarita which is made with Karpy Orange Liqueur and sumac syrup. The wine list features a selection of modern Spanish and Portuguese bottles but you’re best to take the Clarks’ advice: a glass of lively Tio Pepe Fino En Rama with the girolle mushrooms and with the yogurt cake the sweet-but-not-too-sweet MR Moscatel.

    VERDICT

    Moro may be an aged uncle by London restaurant standards (there’s certainly lots of grey hair on the most dedicated regulars) but they’re still setting trends and they’re not going anywhere.

    By Tabitha Joyce

    Address: Moro, 34-36 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QE


    Telephone: +44 7833 8336


    Website: moro.co.uk

  • The best Clerkenwell restaurants

    Palatino

    Hearty Italian food in a cool industrial space

    When it comes to creating winning neighbourhood restaurants, chef Stevie Parle has the formula down pat: bare-brick-Brooklyn nonchalance and killer cocktails at Dalston’s Rotorino; wood-fired flavours with South of France flair at Sardine in Old Street; experimental cooking at the canalside Dock Kitchen in Kensal Rise. And, traditional Roman dishes, in a song to the Italian capital, at Palatino in Clerkenwell (20th-century London’s Little Italy). The space is big and industrial with parquet floors, huge metal windows and splashes of sunny Tweety-bird yellow leather. But more importantly, in the open kitchen there’s a fresh pasta machine and an old-school wood-burning pizza oven.

    FOOD

    The look here might be subtly slick but the food is hearty and rich with in-your-face seasoning. Get your umami juices flowing with antipasti of deep-fried sage leaves dipped in honey vinegar and seasonal puntarelle (a type of chicory stalk) doused in a salty anchovy sauce (the switched-on staff will appear with extra focaccia so you can mop it all up). Simple but completely delicious pasta dishes are a standout: spinach and squash ravioli swim in butter and Parmesan; light-as-air gnocchi are as a comforting as a hug from an Italian nonna (if only we all had one who could cook like this). Stick to the classics for dessert too – the boozy tiramisu is one of the best we’ve had.

    DRINKS

    The long all-Italian wine list is divided into three sections: benchmark bottles, off-beat blends and rare tipples. And, brilliantly, all of the 45 wines are also served by the glass. For a refreshing foil to all those gutsy flavours, try the crisp and clean Weissburgunder from the high-altitude Alto-Adige region. The nightcap-worthy cocktail list includes a cheeky Rapscallion, with tawny port, vermouth and lemon; order a round (when in Rome…) and raise a toast.

    By Grainne McBride

    Address: Palatino, 71 Central Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1


    Telephone: +44 20 3481 5300


    Website: palatino.london

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