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Jon Tseng

Clerkenwell Dining Room

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Dropped in there for supper last nite - only one start and main though, so shall leave it to simon for the full blag.

Nice smart generic clerkenwell-posh. But attentive, welcoming staff nonetheless - felt like posh resto attentiveness but in a local restaurant setting, which was nice.

Bar and restaurant area. Both fairly quiet - resto only four or five tables taken max. Next door was a couple back for the second meal - probably a good sign at this stage in a restaurant's lifecycle.

When you sit down posh restaurantly rather than neighbourhood cal-tal ambience - nice linen, heavy cutlery

Nice bread - warm - white and brown. Butter a bit soft.

Starter panfried foie gras with lentils and pancetta. Slice of FG very browned both sides - a bit overcooked? (not as melty inside as have had it) on a gorgeous lentil broth laced with slivers of pancetta. Nice.

Main crispy red mullet with chorizo and pastini. Three fillets er, crispy pan fried. Nice crispy skin - tasted kind of like chinesey dried shrimp in places. Came on top of green salad and generic chargrilled veg (red peppers, courgettes, aubergines) tm.  Surrounded by diced chorizo and what looked like tiny orecchione (presume these were the pastini). Again well-executed. Felt a bit like generic brasserice faux-italien mediterranean though.

skipped pud and only a glass of water (quelle horreur) - will leave more for simon. Bill came to about 23 quid

overall food a cut above the clerkenwell-alike brasseries (but a cut below the haute places - as should be expected I guess). ambience again leaning more towards the haute - but was quite a quiet evening. An above-average neighbourhood restaurant. Good first date territory.

Only problem is the mighty St Johns is just opposite which, in contrast, is horrific first date territory but superb eating...


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I went to the Clerkenwell last night.

I was, it has to be said, very underwhelmed.

The cooking was very able indeed and displayed all the hallmarks of the chef's provenance.  BUT and it is a big but, they have set out to do the high end schtick and frankly don't do it very well

The food as I said is well done and prices are reasonable.  An excellent starter of Foie on pardina lentils (£8) was seared to crunchyness on the outside and soft and melting on the inside.  Main courses of Short ribs and Suckling pig were well prepared, but Ay there's the rub.  At a reasonable £12 each, these looked like good value but they were tiny portions.  So much so that we complained and more was brought out to us, but it shouldn't have to be.

The wine list is tiny but well chosen and good value A bottle of tour St Bonnet was £23 which is almost no mark up by London standards

Service was mixed.  The Maitre'd was efficient and friendly, the rest of the staff a little clueless.  They were bedding in, but as I have said elsewhere, why should we pay for their training?

All in all a curate's egg of a place and it may get better.  But for now

5 1/2 out of 10


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Service used to be one of the best things at Quo Vadis, so hopefully that will improve.  I am shocked that the portions were so small you had to ask for more.  My father used to do that occasionally, much to my embarrassment.  That's a serious failing on the part of the kitchen.

I know I am going to be in that area in the New Year, so I'll probably check it out.

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Clerkenwell Dining Room is as Simon reported, except that there is an inexpensive prix fixe menu ( "menu du jour" ) for lunchtime and for early-bird dinners (6-7 pm).

For 11.50 pounds, a diner can choose two dishes, with three being available for 3 pounds more.  Here were the menu du jour selections today:

1.   Wild mushroom soup, creme fraiche, or

      Warm salad of sauteed sweetbreads, or

--> Oyster beignet, slow roasted onions: This dish was quite good, with deep-fried plump oysters sitting atop a comforting nest of onions in balsamic vinegar.  Good utilization of parsley, both in a sprig and in small pieces woven into the onion.

2.  Seared bavette (a type of steak), spinach and

     fondant potatoes, or

     Sundried pepper and potato galette, confit

     tomatoes, or

--> Smoked haddock, poached egg and horseradish.  This was not bad, with spinach and mashed potatoes couching a fillet of smoked haddock (perhaps a bit overdone, but it is hard to say with smoked fish) and an appropriately executed egg.

3.   Choice among three desserts.  The lemon sorbet I selected was a bit heavier than most, but had an attempted artistic aspect of gnarled twists of thin sugared lemon peel.

Overall, a good price-to-quality relationship if the menu du jour is adhered to.  Also, based on the selections I saw, the inclusion of dishes a diner might actually want on the menu du jour.  

House champagne is Perrier Jouet (6.50 pounds per glass), with a special section of the wine list for "bin end" bottles.  On this occasion, such bottles included Puligny-Montrachet, Leflaive 1996 at 70 pounds, and Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc, Chateau de Beaucastel 1994 at 55 pounds.

On other aspects: Service was mixed, but personnel was making efforts.  The food arrived relatively quickly, despite there being quite a few tables being seated simultaneously. Decor is intended to be modern, with an emphasis on blues, greys, whites and a bit of orange.  A bit stark for my tastes. There is an upper level that did not appear to be used during lunchtime.  Less helpful aspects included fairly noticeable background music (a pet peeve).

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I had forgotten the music.  When we were there it was "hats off to Donna Summer" night.  I didn't know if I should eat the food or get down with my bad self

But, as my father has never had a brand new bag, I stuck to the foie


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I had lunch at Clerkenwell Dining Room again today, from the prix fixe menu (which is revised weekly, apparently on Tuesdays). The meal was not as good as that as my prior meal there, which itself had been particularly good.

For 11.50 pounds for 2 dishes (14.50 with dessert) (a very reasonable price), the "menu du jour" menu offered:

1.   Crispy calves' feet, black pudding, pea puree

     Aubergine and tomato salad, chilli jam and flat bread, OR

--> Warm octupus and seaweed salad, mirin dressing: This dish was only so-so, due to the soft and texture-depleted aspects of the large octupus pieces. The chevril and purple, mint-tasting herb atop the octupus helped slightly, as did the soft mesh of seaweed and radish (?) julienne underneath.

2.   Sauteed cornfed chicken winter truffles and vegetables

     Wild mushroom ravioli, mascarpone and tarragon, OR

--> Fish beignets, saute potatoes and sauce tartare: This dish was average because the quality of the single piece of cod-like fish fillet (despite the reference to beignets) was not extraordinary. The batter was light and appropriate for the deep-frying; potatoe cakes were placed on top of lettuce and peas.  For members interested in the menu du jour, the chicken with truffle dish might be a better choice.

3.   Choice of dessert

--> Coconut ice cream. This was nice, with limited (in a good way) coconut flavors and a hint of the texture of the coconut meat's texture in the mouth.

With glasses of Perrier Jouet and Springfield Special Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Robertson, South Africa, and coffee, the bill came to under pounds 40.  If a diner were very careful and took in only two dishes, it might be possible to stay below pounds 20 per person.

As Andy suggested, it would be better to head across the street to St John.  :wink:

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