There’s a meal haunting me. I lie awake at night and lightly salivate as I dream of the numerous courses. I wake up anxious at the absence of duck, morel and ginger consommé, reaching for another sip of soup that isn’t there. It’s been three months, and I’m not sure how much longer I can handle these gustatory ghosts. It doesn’t help matters that 2017 has begun in a utilitarian, austerity-stricken manner – but, boy, were the excesses of 2016 worth it.
The meal in question was three months ago, my first trip to The Clove Club, a restaurant that feels so established on London’s scene that it’s almost passé to gush over its fabled dishes. Almost. But then you taste one mouthful of any of the nine courses that forms their extended tasting menu, and it’s clear that the world can indeed handle another five-star statement (alongside yet another Instagram of their irresistible basket of buttermilk chicken in pine salt).
Slipping through the pearly gates (alright, blue doors) of Shoreditch Town Hall, a magnificent structure perched on Old Street, you’re greeted by a window filled with home-cured haunches, hanging alluringly, just out of reach.
While things start to haze around the eighth or ninth course (chiming with the end of the second bottle and the arrival of the first in a series of glasses); it’s rare to recall a meal so distinctly. But that’s the power of the restaurant’s genuinely life-changing creations.
I’ve written about the food in some detail on bbrblog.com – but, while you go for the food, the wine list is the best I’ve ever seen*. It’s interesting, varied, combining classics and unusual numbers with some under-the-radar bottles, without offering too much choice. It’s not cheap, but it’s not outrageous (and when you’re spending £110 per head on the food, that £70 bottle or £15 glass seems a minor addition).
We had a bottle of Sam Harrop’s taut Cedalion Chardonnay which gradually unwound over the first five courses, revealing a little more of its flesh, fruit and ageing potential. With the partridge we graduated to a bottle of 2001 Henschke Cyril Cabernet – a rich, gluttonous wine whose liquorous, Kirsch fruit was dark and dense, drowning all but the beef rump with Jerusalem artichoke, ceps and coffee. Of the two, the Cedalion was more to my taste; but you can’t deny that the Henschke was a great wine, just a bit brash and bulldozer-y. It would have been excellent with venison stew, thinking of it.
Today The Sunday Times declared The Clove Club to be Britain’s best restaurant; prompting my bid to vanquish my hunger-mares. Perhaps the only way to rid myself of such visions is to return, seeing if it really is as good as I remember.
*Andrew Edmunds is another contender, but of a different sort, and one I’m hoping to revisit soon.