The food in The Clove Club is daring, using flavour combinations that in the wrong hands could be disastrous. Drawing on ingredients from around the world, but managing to keep a regional core, chef Isaac McHale demonstrates a great palette, managing to balance strong, subtle and contrasting flavours on one plate.
A serving like blood pudding with braeburn apple and whiskey needs a skilled practitioner to pull it off and it was done with aplomb - the whiskey and apple being subtle enough to compliment the deep blood pudding. Another highlight was a dish of roast suckling pig. Served with a sort of lightly curried sauce using Indian spices and a roasting jus which, surprisingly, married together perfectly to make for a really great dish along with the perfectly cooked pig. The best dish of the meal was scallops served with clementine, brown butter and Perigord truffle. It was light and the sweetness from the clementine and the scallops was offset perfectly by the earthiness of the truffle. Other highlights were a wild duck broth served with 100 year old Madeira and a great and simple cheese course served with crackers and balsamic vinegar.
The desserts were also high quality. An Amalfi lemonade and pepper ice cream was very nice, but the lightness of the ice cream and the sharpness of the lemon meant it acted as more of a palette cleanser than a dessert in its own right. Ewe's milk yoghurt mousse with blood orange and wild fennel was excellent, having contrasting temperatures and textures with a light but indulgent taste.
The food being served is from an ambitious, confident and skilled kitchen. Isaac Mchale's skill is not just in combining flavours harmoniously to create an excellent dish, it is that each individual flavour also stands by itself and is still easily recognisable on the palette. This is what is most impressive about the food in The Clove Club.
The ten course tasting was preluded with some great bar-style snacks: amazing deep buttermilk and pine fried chicken and highly addictive crispy chicken feet which tasted like a combination of pork scratchings and crispy chicken skin. The rusticity of these snacks stays throughout the whole meal and that is one of the things that is very likeable about The Clove Club; the food has it's own style. It is high end cuisine with a sort of rustic and natural heart and that makes it interesting and exciting. You can see influences from other restaurants and regions, but they have gone their own way and are doing their own thing. They are using a core of local and seasonal produce, but utilising ingredients from around the world to compliment them. The presentation may not be the prettiest or appear as the most polished, but it suits the food and the restaurant.
The service has the air of trying hard to appear not to be trying hard, but the waiting staff were, on the whole, friendly and had a good knowledge and understanding of the food. They also appeared genuinely interested in the experience and enjoyment of the guests.
The Clove Club may seem to be on the expensive side, but for the standard of the food it is worth the money. This restaurant is up there with the very best in London, if not the whole of the UK, and that, in itself, is no small feat and makes it worth a repeat visit.