Jo and I lead a fairly modest lifestyle, so it’s not all that often we go out for a meal – and even less frequently that we eat somewhere that is a little bit more fancy. I’m not sure if most people would describe The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell as Fancy, but at £40 for a bottle of wine which is (as I understand it) red wine with “a little bit of white” (but not rosé), there’s only one word that comes to mind: fancy.
The menu on offer at The Modern Pantry last Friday was an interesting mix of “British-meets-Asian-meets-Other”, with a definite Japanese influence. I’m always a bit sceptical of how well Japanese style/influenced food in restaurants like that will be done, and on this occasion steered more toward the distinctly British things on the menu.
The chorizo scotched quail eggs with green pepper relish were far and away my favourite item of the evening. I’ve eaten plenty of scotch eggs in my time, both bad and good, and even made some of my own. A bad scotch egg is like biting into a ball of chilled clay. A good scotch egg can only be described as one of the most satisfying taste experiences of my life. And this, I must admit, came pretty close to the mark. Deliciously crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, and with the most perfect run to the yoke. Although the green pepper relish was delicious, I preferred not to spoil the taste of the scotch egg with additional flavours. I did, I might add, eat the relish straight out the bowl afterwards. Who wants to waste fancy, after all?
My main course was a grilled miso & tamarind marinated onglet steak, lemongrass braised cherry tomatoes, cassava chips, salad greens. For a steak like this to be enjoyed, it’s best served no more done than medium-rare. Lucky for me, my go-to response to being asked how I like my steak cooked is “as rare as you’re allowed” (this following a protracted debate with a well known burger restaurant who weren’t allowed to serve me anything less than a medium-rare burger for ‘health and safety reasons’). The flavours of the steak were fantastic, and for once the Japanese influence really paid off nicely. Slightly disappointing were the cassava chips, which seemed slightly underwhelming in terms of both taste and texture.
Finally to finish, I chose the Dark chocolate & caraway fondant, malt ice cream, cashew puree, candied popcorn & cashews. Unfortunately on this occasion, the excitement of the look and smell of the food (possibly along with some of the red slash white wine) led to me to completely forget to take any photos until after the event. For what it’s worth, it did look nice. The fondant itself was perfect – or at least the most perfect example I’ve ever had. Beautifully baked so that the outside held together just enough to release a thick and creamy liquid inside when challenged. For me, the other flavours didn’t come through much – the caraway was very subtle, and the cashew purée blended somewhat with the ice cream. But perhaps this was all by design. I certainly enjoyed the whole lot, and didn’t leave much trace.
And how better to follow a delicious meal (plus tea and coffee), other than with a shot of tequila. In my opinion tequila is served best with a slice of orange, something which the waiter found rather amusing. This same waiter (who also works as a sound engineer for Radiohead!), for some unknown reason also tried to convince to do the shots in a particularly unpleasant way. The example video from youtube shows both the technique, and the sheer pointlessness of doing so. Just look at their unhappy faces.
Suffice it to say, this is not how we did them.
All in all, the experience at The Modern Pantry was great. While I might not make a habit of going there regularly, if they decided to make their scotch eggs more readily available, I just may well end up becoming a regular fancy pants.