After hearing rave reviews about The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell, I have been keen to check out this highly acclaimed spot.
There must be something in the water in Clerkenwell. It’s the new hot spot for all things coffee and brunch related – Workshop Coffee, St Ali, Look Mum No Hands…… the list goes on. Definitely some stiff competition here.
Much of The Modern Pantry’s success is driven by Anna Hansen, who reached critical acclaim by opening award-winning Marylebone restaurant The Providores with Peter Gordon and partners. Born in Canada and raised in New Zealand, her culinary philosophy is centred around the desire to please and excite the palate by renewing everyday cooking with modern ingredients and global inspiration.
I made a booking on Sunday at 10am upstairs in the restaurant. By 9.45 the hordes arrived – this I thought was going to be good.
Housed in a Georgian style Heritage listed building, The Modern Pantry perfectly balances the old and new. Spread over two floors, the upstairs restaurant was light and airy consisting of two dining rooms overlooking St John’s Square. Sunflowers perched on the window sill soaked up the sun as it streamed through the restaurant. The layout was quite formal – lots of clean lines and crisp white tablecloths.
The staff were friendly and polite but a little too formal for breakfast for my liking. Coming from Melbourne I prefer brunch more on the laid back side, opting for jeans on a Sunday rather than dress with strappy sandals. They bustled around gracefully, perfectly presented and manicured with cute little white aprons.
First came the coffee from Caravan Exmouth. It was sensational. The beans had a real depth of flavour with no bitter aftertaste. It’s a big call but it’s possibly the best coffee I have had in London.
As expected from Anna Hansen, the menu was rather experimental ranging from traditional poached or soft boiled eggs to more unconventional options such as the sweetcorn, feta, green chilli and curry waffles. New Zealand, British and English influences blend into which seems a very international menu. Even for brunch, this is fusion cooking at its best.
To try something different I went for the corn and feta waffles. Unfortunately, wrong option. I was expecting the waffles to be moist and succulent with the corn and feta but they were slightly overcooked and tasteless. The waffles were topped with smoked streaky bacon, roast tomatoes, avocado, spring onion and a lashing of yuzu salsa. I was hoping the salsa was enough to overcome the dryness of the waffles but it was not enough. Despite excellent presentation, the food was definitely a let down.
Next came the poached eggs with tea smoked salmon, English muffins and yuzu hollandaise. Definitely a better option. The tea smoked salmon was lovely and the serving generous. The hollandaise sauce however was a little too zesty for my liking and overpowered by the yuzu. Yuzu what? For those that don’t know what a yuzu is, it’s a citrus fruit originating from south-east asia. Often mistaken for a small grapefruit, it is very aromatic and zesty. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough saltiness in the salmon to overcome this flavour. The muffin did not taste freshly baked and was a little chewy.
There is no doubt that Anna Hansen can cook but I couldn’t help leaving slightly disappointed. If my expectations had not been as high, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more or maybe they had a bad day in the kitchen. Excuses abound, I will not be in a hurry to rush back.