Also, I believe it’s the only restaurant I’ve ever been to that offers a soft pairing instead of just a wine pairing with your menu. They even say on the website that they do that; it’s not like some secret you have to ask for. Especially in London, where most of the social activity for a non-drinker involves watching everyone else drink till they’re pissed (UK has a serious alcoholism problem but it’s part of the culture so it will remain ignored), it’s great for a non-drinker to have a nice option. In fact, on this visit our waiter told me that not only were they offering a soft pairing, they had two soft pairings available! I could choose between juice and tea, and obviously I chose juice. There were a few missteps in there, but I’ll talk more about that below.
Soon after we were seated, we were asked about our beverages – the wine and the soft pairings, yes, but also whether we wanted still or sparkling water. You know I appreciated getting right to the most important issue – water – without making me take out my big reusable bottle from my bag in a place like this. As usual, I chose still and Z chose sparkling, and the server assigned to our water needs (lol the dream) got confused and gave both of us sparkling for much of the meal. Luckily our main server took over at some point and gave me still. It is hard to chug sparkling and I like to chug!
We were getting the tasting menu, and so the first few dishes sent out were little off-menu ‘gifts’ from the kitchen to amuse our bouches, which are always some of the most interesting bites. I received an adorable tiny crispy cup of green beans and edible flowers that tasted of dill, and even though I tend not to like dill because of food poisoning memories, I loved this. Next up was a little turnip roll, looking like a sushi roll or a baby burrito or something but it was rolled up turnip. Sounds whack, tasted amazing.
Next, I was brought one warm tomato. I kind of thought ho boy, is this how it's gonna be? After that promising chickpea panisse? But it was one warm good tomato, doused with soy sauce, almost a potato but watery, and even though it was hard to eat, I remembered that it's all about the meal at large at a place like this, not each individual dish. It was served with a fresh cucumber juice, tinged with a little apple and some other subtle hints of this and that to make a really lovely, refreshing cucumber juice. A soft pairing win!
The more substantial 'main' dish section of the menu came out now, and my first of these was a grilled baby eggplant with cumin sauce and eggplant caviar. So, not the most interesting or inventive dish, but it tasted great and was well made. Still, given the setting, you'd hope for something more imaginative. I LOVED my soft pairing, though: a steaming hot pot full to the brim of mushroom tea. I drank the whole pot and loved it. The taste was very subtle, almost bland, but that's okay for tea, and the smell was sensational (just like MUSHROOM and SO STRONG).
Luckily dessert came next to distract me from my OVERWHELMING RAGE.
And dessert was epic. You know from my past reviews of fancy places that don't primarily cater to vegans that they often just can't do dessert. They either buckle under the pressure or they never give a shit in the first place and they go 'oh here's a plate of fruit and, if we feel like trying a little, that same fruit made into a syrup or a sorbet ENJOY THAT WILL BE $100!' But my two desserts (actually, three sort of) from Clove Club this evening were remarkable. Not only were they both interesting and creative, but they were also delicious.
First up was a blackcurrant granita with soy foam and berries. The soy foam was more of a substantial cream and there was more of it than there was granita, so that really saved this from being one of the aforementioned kinds of lazy vegan desserts, as did the fact that it tasted great. The granita was a little too melted underneath the cream, like it was ready in the kitchen before the server fetched it for us, but things happen. There was also a shot of olive oil poured across it, which seems fancy and whimsical but I couldn't really taste it so that's just like unnecessary fat but whatever. Oh so for my American readers, blackcurrant is like the most popular fruit flavor in the UK. Husbo keenly observed (he's so keen) that it's used as commonly here as grape flavor is in the USA. It's pretty strange to UK friends that blackcurrant juice et al. is just not a thing in the states. Anyway great dessert. BUT, the real treat of this course was the soft pairing! Thank god they returned with such a strong followup to the Biggest Fail in Soft Pairing History because this blackcurrant and beetroot soda was so incredible, so perfect and delicious with both flavors balanced, that it almost made up for everything. I wish I could buy this soda from them to have at home. And I don't even drink soda!
CLOVE CLUB, SHOREDITCH, LONDON, UK, EUROPE FOR NOW
Water speed: Pretty good, though not as good as last time and I got a lot of sparkling by accident. I know that sounds like theeeee most entitled bullshit to complain about but that kind of detail is what Michelin stars are given for.
Service: Very nice.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms are downstairs, dark and reminiscent of like a brothel in 1800's New Orleans. You know what I mean? The lighting was dim, the colors were dark reds and browns, and random cosmetics were scattered on display. A very strange mood going on but it was nice and clean, so whatever! Also I liked that the stall was separated from the sink area, despite being a single serve bathroom. People don't have to wait outside that way, avoiding the awkwardness that comes from that. Oh the toilet seat was hysterically big and weird! That's enough. (copied from previous review because it's the same.)
Food: Splendid! I read over my previous review, and all my food-based complaints seem to have been addressed: the lack of protein was fixed (they could still do more, especially in the two mains, but still, an improvement), the desserts were improved by extraordinary leaps and bounds.
Bonus: Great to have a fancypants restaurant for special occasions/profligate spending when you have no need for money anymore.