There's something fascinating in the story of the new British cuisine: discover the place where it has born. Some cooks could praise having started their path from their mother’s kitchens, learning from generation long traditions; others can claim the birth of a new approach to ingredients from the wide open space of a warehouse. But no one, no one, will ever have the honor to say that their style of cuisine has been influenced by East London in the years ’00. Because by saying that, you can start to build up the scenario that deserves a Guy Ritchie movie, where timelines are inverted and flashbacks continuous.
The Clove Club inaugurated in March 2013, in the Edwardian building of the Shoreditch Town Hall. Leading the kitchen is Isaac McHale, helped by his sous since the opening, Tim Spedding; in charge of the dining room are two long time friends, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith. The restaurant finally opened after a few years of pop up dinners and nomadism pretty much anywhere in London that Isaac and his friends Daniel & Johnny had performed.
JULY 2010 – TISNO – CROATIA
The story of the Clove Club begins in a boat party during the “Stop Making Sense” festival, when a couple of DJ from East London met a young Scotsman. After a short chitchat, the three found a few mutual passions others than living the same city. The 2 DJs were Daniel and Johnny, the Scotsman Isaac, young chef that over those years used to sharpen his knife at Brett Graham’s Ledbury and Tom Aikens’.
Daniel & Johnny, that have never stopped mixing music since, used to organize a supper club in their Dalston flat, where they blended together their love for food and music. Under the banner of their band “Fit Loose”, they used to organize gigs, mixing DJ sets to pork pies and oysters, while, during the day, they used to work as waiters at St John Bread & Wine and at the Great Queen Street.
APRIL 2015 – THE CLOVE CLUB - LONDON
While the Gotha of the most important restaurants in the world was meeting up at the Guildhall for the 50 Best Restaurants award, the Clove Club team was hosting Rosio Sanchez, ex pastry chef of Copenhagen’s Noma and owner of Hija de Sanchez, a taco shack in the central market of the Danish capital, to prepare and host the annual unofficial after party of the awards, where music would have been played ‘til morning, paired with tacos and Clove Club’s classic Hendrick’s Tonic.
The Clove Club is an eccentric restaurant, although it took the extravagant features of its young owners personality, a calm and formal atmosphere lives the dining room, where the respect towards guests is key. With its candle lights and the silently animated environment, it almost doesn’t feel like Shoreditch. Still, there are some features that plunge the dining room in East London, with its high ceilings and sense of craftsmanship.
The walls of the Clove Club are adorned with hams and cured meats, personally handcrafted by Isaac, to be aged afterward in the Restaurant rooms. Isaac, has built a small cellar at the entrance of the Shoreditch Town Hall to rest his cured meats in the first aging weeks, recreating the optimal environment thanks to a humidifier. It's at Corte Pallavicina, in Parma, Italy, that Isaac has learned by culatello’s Master, Massimo Spigaroli, on how to process artisanal cured meats. Both fresh and cured meats are part of the Clove Club menu. Since the first service, Isaac serves wood pigeon sausage served with an home made mustard or ketchup as one of the restaurant’s amuse bouche, along with the buttermilk fried chicken with pine salt. A dish that, as Isaac says, will be entitled on his gravestone.
Isaac’s new British cuisine has such a potential of growth because it is deeply rooted in the traditional Victorian recipes, known for its sharp and strong flavors, often smoked, dried or pickeld. His dishes often reproduce a flavor hooked in the memory of Englishmen, proposing them in a modern and elegant vest, taking inspirations from the whole world and working with intelligence with local produce. The recent exchange with chef Jorge Vallejo form Mexico City’s Quintonill gave Isaac the inspiration for one of the new and most significant dishes of the Clove Club: the Scottish Taco, a reinterpretation of the Mexican traditional recipe, seen with the eyes of a young romantic, still in love with his native Orkney Islands.
The tortilla is done using buckwheat flour and pork’s blood instead of corn. The small tortilla is then served with cranberry sauce, pickled onion and a spice mix. This dish represents the intelligent gourmandise overarching the modern British cuisine. A recipe respecting traditional ingredients, going into metamorphosis to become contemporary, over being captivating and superb.
Opposite to Lyle’s, that is way greener in order to soothe the greasy note of English cuisine, Isaac makes love to it. The voluptuous richness of Clove Club’s cuisine is pierced using element of contrast inside the same dish, to create palatal divergence, exploding with aromatic intensity.
The scallop, served raw with beurre noisette, mandarin and black truffle are the essence of the direction taken by Isaac, Tim and the team of the Clove Club. A clear cut dish, without any frills, cracking the smoky sweetness of the scallop, slightly heated by the beurre noisette with the smooth acidity of the mandarin.
The Duck consommé, served with Madeira confirms the intention of picking up classic recipes, to surprise the diners with clarity of flavours, often gentle and round to the palate.
Although on Old Street, the Clove Club is a restaurant that could easily live anywhere in West London, in the wealthy part of town where clients demand a precise style of cuisine. And this is where this restaurant marks its difference, even if the suits and shoes of Johnny and Daniel are as elegant as Isaac’s cuisines flavours, their souls is still hooked to Dalston and to parties that go on until dawn.
Diametrically opposite, but with the same ideas and principles, the new English cuisine has found in Lyle’s and in the Clove Club 2 strong inspirations. Isaac and James have done a long path already to square the circle, a lot more has to be done. Still, there’s something hidden, making both restaurants unique already: their deep relationship with East London and to a culture born in the melting pot and with clear ideas already in is mind.