‘How’s the cod?’ I asked my daughter.
‘It … it…. it’s like a great big, warm hug,’ said Lois.
It’s not every day you hear that about a plate of food, particularly about a plate of cod lightly thatched with something called hazelnut miso (salty miso, crunchy nut) with cabbage, a charred leek the size of a spring onion and plum butter, but that’s Clipstone Street for you. It’s a place of warm hugs.
It’s been there, on the corner for, what? a couple of years now, somewhere between a canteen and a bistro, relaxed, easy-going, but with a firm sense of itself. There aren’t too many designer flourishes about the dining room, but the open kitchen provides the constant diversion of activity. There’s a bar that serves excellent beers and cheery cocktails. And the food, well, the food is tip-top tucker, in my view.
My lunch had started before Lois had arrived, with a plate of silky lardo di Colonnata with agreeably friable candied walnuts by way of settling the nerves. Properly fortified, I marched on to lamb tartare with red currants, juniper, grated pecorino and crisps. There was also an unadvertised under-blanket of ewe’s milk yoghurt. You can see what’s going on here, playful textures and a deft handling of contrasting flavours sourced front the same animal. It makes for a rather holistic plate, and all the more edible for the relationship between the ingredients as well as the contrast between them. It’s a testament to the quality of the lamb that its flavour wasn’t buried by the other bits and bobs.
The mallard with glazed chicory, burnt pear and salsify was in an altogether more classic vein. The braised chicory, always one of my favourite vegetables with game, rested limp and slightly squelchy on a thin slice of crisp, buttery puff pastry. The pear didn’t have much of the acrid bitterness you might expect from the burning treatment, but in a puréed form added a gentle fruity creaminess to the properly iron-and-flint bloody wild duck. The leg meat had been roughly chopped and added into the deep, dark sauce that swathed each mouthful. It was a brilliantly warming dish for a day when the chill had risen up through the soles of my shoes while walking to lunch.
Lois had matched my first course with BBQ mackerel with fermented mushrooms and pickles, a dish that looked dark and dashing, and turned out to be a model of elegance and balance. I like the way in which Stuart Andrew, the chef at Clipstone Street, has adopted some to the techniques and flavours of the new Nordic school, but uses them in a personal, subtle and unshowy manner.
Finally Yorkshire rhubarb (is it my imagination, but does the rhubarb season begin earlier and earlier each year?) with blood orange bits, custard and beignets, a pudding that combined creamy custard, vivid orange, sweet’n’sour rhubarb and crisp, warm sugary beignets, a hug and a kiss all in one.
Clisptone Street, seems to me to be It’s the epitome of what good modern British restaurant should be. It’s not full of itself. It doesn’t posture. It’s culinary competence, confidence and intelligence are lightly worn. It just gets on with the job of doling our food that combines sound judgement and resounding flavours.
Dinner in the evening is only A` la Carte. At lunchtime you can get 2 courses lunch for £22.00 and 3 courses for £26.00. But a glass of beer, two of a pretty meaty Bulgarian red, Ivo Varbanov Mavrud (there can’t be too many wines made by and named after, a distinguished classical pianist), and apple and sorrel juice for Lois, and the bill came to £84.00; £94.50 with a 12.5% service charge. Worth every penny and more.
Clipstone Street, 5 Clipstone Steet, London W1W 6BB.
Phone: 020 7637 0871