The Modern Pantry

Dinner yesterday at this newish restaurant in Clerkenwell, which got tremendous reviews when it opened from everyone except AA Gill in the Sunday Times, who didn’t like it much at all. I had a really good night, although I was already fairly happy when I got there after a pre-dinner drink at Vinoteca on nearby St John St.

The dining room was a bit drab, with very dark wooden furniture and grey walls, the one bright spot the painting you can see in the picture, a riot of colour which hung right behind my back, so all I could see was the grey. It was clean, but uninspiring – downstairs, in the cafe area, white furniture made all the difference.

The food, though, was excellent. Home-made bread was as good as any I have eaten out – butter was not offered, nor needed. I had a starter of kangaroo with butternut squash, bone marrow and salad leaves which was excellent even if I’m not sure why they needed to import a novely meat rather than using one of our own. A main of venison was cooked extremely rare (I’m not squeemish), but by this time I’m struggling to recall the finer details. My friend’s lamb was strongly flavoured with sesame, a very successful combination to my tastes.

From an interesting wine list we had a 2005 Bierzo tinto from Pittacum, made using the Murcia grape in the Castilla y Leon region just north and east of Portugal. An interesting wine, perhaps a little too tasty for food which challenges your tastebuds quite enough on its own, but what a smell! Very herbal, musty, wood, liqu0rice and leather, it was really intense, one of the best-smelling wines I’ve ever sniffed. I can’t, though, find anyone who sells it except Les Caves du Pyrene (how I wish they were based in Crouch End!) and Everywine, which charges £82 for six but is rarely the cheapest. It cost about £25 in the restaurant, but is definitely worth a tenner for the smell alone!

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