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How to fall in love with English food

With food and drink of the highest quality, Clipstone is red hot – and it’s even winning over the French

01 June, 2017 — By Tom Moggach

The food and drink at Clipstone are of the highest quality

CLIPSTONE is definitely not a “hipster vegan beetroot blabla restaurant”, as described in one memorable Google review.

This is a sterling example of a quite different breed of London eatery: the slightly austere, minimal décor; a meaty, modern European menu; tip-top ingredients arranged on small plates.

Clipstone is the little sister of Portland, a fancier place around the corner. It’s less pricey and more laid back – but don’t pitch up, heady from the sunshine, without a prior reservation. This restaurant is red hot.

Their special Sunday brunch clubs (collaborations with other chefs) sell out in minutes. Staff are keen and charming.

Merlin Labron-Johnson, the wunderkind head chef for both sites, was in Mexico on the night we visited. He won his first Michelin star for Portland aged just 24 – within nine months of the restaurant opening.

We had nabbed two stools at the “bar” – a narrow wooden table looking out on Clipstone Street and next to the open-plan kitchen.

Behind our backs, the room itself is dazzling white. Chairs are hard and wooden. Magnificent glass urns on the shelves hold homemade libations such as plum-infused gin or vanilla vodka.

The food and drink here is of the highest quality – it’s extremely difficult to choose.

Blackboards tempt you with specials: an aged negroni, perhaps, or a complex sauvignon blanc “on skins”.

I’m still dreaming of our best dish: a clever creation of devilled rabbit, complete with plump kidneys, sandwiched between crisp and buttery millefeuille pastry.

The plate was a blast of dazzling orange, with carrots three ways (pickled in fine slices; steamed; puréed), a posh Laguiole knife with a handle of the same colour and a scattering of chervil for contrast. The £17 price tag felt like a bargain.

Dishes from the charcoal grill – cod, duck, Hispi cabbage – are more pricey. A beefy number with gnocchi, pine nuts, watercress and horseradish butter was more than double the price and less thrilling.

Asparagus, one of the smaller “Spring Plates”, was better: thick spears wrapped in glossy, melting ribbons of lardo (cured pork fat) with slivers of new season French apricots and leaves of red shiso.

Unless you’re flush, I suggest fighting the urge to order lavishly at Clipstone.

One way forward is to bulk up on the simplest dishes – the peerless sourdough and lemon-infused olive oil (£3), plates of charcuterie (£6) or house pickles (£3.50) – before heading south down the menu.

Wines are wonderful, starting at a reasonable £4.50 a glass.

Our pudding of lemon meringue tart with buttermilk and basil was crisp in all the right places.

The Google review I had found was written by a “very picky” French woman living in London.

Her verdict on Clipstone? She also waxes lyrical: “I think I am falling in love with English food”.

Clipstone
5 Clipstone St, W1W
0207 637 0871
www.clipstonerestaurant.co.uk

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