The Modern Pantry
As many people are probably still dealing with the hangovers and consequences of New Year’s eve I thought the sensible thing to do would be to post a review of a brunch recovery place. For me, there has been one standout venue for brunch over the past year and that is the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell.
In the same way that a pantomime has its hero, this review has its villian; the Water House. In every way the Modern Pantry excels the Water House with seemingly effortless negligence turns those positives upside down and gives you a sloppy debacle of a meal. I’ll get to the gory details below.
To begin with the great before we get to hiss at the Water House…. the Modern Pantry is situated in a grade two listed Georgian building. That is enough to get the architectural juices flowing. However, it has been elevated into something more through a sensitive update by Jump Studios and the liberal use of silver cutlery and accessories. It is quite frankly beautiful. Light streams through the massive Georgian windows and you feel as though you are in a contemporary version of a Jane Austin novel (but I would avoid sitting by the door on a cold day).
I first went to the Modern Pantry for supper in the first quarter of the year. It was flat out empty on a Thursday night. We slightly panicked but believed in the reviews and sat down and waited. It did not disappoint. Elegant and precise fusion food trickled out. Australian influenced fusion food surprisingly remains rare in this country and it is even harder to find it done well (I was unimpressed by the other obvious contender – Providores and Tapa Rooms – when I went a couple of years ago and the Sugar Club is long gone).
Following that superlative meal we started going there for brunch. Everytime a friend comes to visit who doesn’t live in London it is the simple choice to wow them. The reason for this is the food is both male and female friendly and always excellent.
On our brunch there this morning with a friend who was over from Los Angeles I had the sugar cured prawn omelete and Vegemite on toast. A combination of the refined and the ghetto in one meal. The sugar cured prawn omelette is (each time I have it) brilliant. The combination of sweet prawns, an omelette that sits in the (correct) middle ground between overcooked and undercooked and a spice paste that you can spread over it. The Vegemite on toast is what it says, but the toast is obviously organicy homemade stuff that is toasted over a charcol giving grill which makes it all the better.
We also had a rolled oats, nuts, seeds, apple and yoghurt today as despite not being hungry enough to warrant it we had raved about how good it was previously to our friend from Los Angeles. Every morsel of it disappeared and it remains the most sensitive and well weighted yoghurty breakfast dish I have had.
I have picked up on Twitter that some people have had bad meals there and also bad service. Our experiences (with the exception of one grumpy waiter) have always been excellent. Today both service and food were spot on.
The Water House
As for the Water House… well boo and hiss. I wish I had done what I normally do and read the Time Out review before I indulged in one and half hours of amateurishness there.
I had been to Arthur Potts Dawson’s other eco attempt – Acorn House – and found the food average and didn’t much like using a bathroom that looked like tramps regularly squatted there (for that kind of price point I would expect it could be cleaned at least once a week). For some reason I forgot all of that and thought it would be sensible to go to the peripheral of the East London world on an off bit of Regents Canal.
We went for brunch. At 11:00am. We were the only five customers for the next hour and a half. I suppose everyone else had read the reviews. Given that they only had two waiters and five cooks in the kitchen I suppose it is absolutely understandable that it took them an hour and twenty minutes to bring us food. They had also spent so long “refining” the food that they seemed to forget half of it and magically drain away any joy, sustenance or interest from what they deposited. I remember reading before I went there that they were proud to made their own sourdough bread. They shouldn’t be, its lifeless husk polluted every dish we had, no matter how unsuited it was to it (French toast should not be served on an offcut husk of a bread).
Price – £60 for five and one and a half hours of waiting at the Water House and about £15 to £20 a head at the Modern Pantry depending on how many juices or flat whites you get