THE CLERKENWELL KITCHEN
It's you and me honey, in a crowded booth
At the Smokehouse in the Sand
Who was it that said that if you have a bad steak the best thing to do is have another one ? Trick question – it was me.
I’d sauntered past the Clerkenwell Kitchen many times but for some reason was never tempted in. It looked like a sort of canteen for all the creative types who work in the very lovely area of Clerkenwell Green. This time was different. The words on the board that lured me in just said STEAK + CHIPS. Nothing about the breed of cow or the size of the steak. No indication if the chips were fat, thin or hand cut. There was a certain confidence even chutzpah in putting just STEAK + CHIPS.
Once inside things were a little clearer but not much. The blackboard on which the day’s menu was written explained that the dish was actually STEAK + HOMEMADE CHIPS W/SALSA VERDE. The friendly and efficient staff rustled up a glass of wine and some almonds for me. While I was waiting I admired the light, modern interior and the pleasant sun trap of a courtyard. I noted the good range of sandwiches and other dishes like fish pie that could be bought to take away.
At last my meal arrived. Of course I should have known - it was my current favourite cut of steak: Onlglet. A big old lump of beef which had been seared on the out side and then allowed to rest so that it was nice and rare within . On top of the steak was a zesty, chunky salsa verde that hadn’t been blitzed into submission. Alongside were some great chips: cut long and thin and uneven and cooked crisp, ma non troppo. A simple salad with a hazelnut dressing and sprinkled with pieces of that nut temporarily cleansed the palate before the next mouthful of chewy, beefy, bloody meat. And all for £10.50 which I reckon is a bit of a bargain around these parts.
Rhubarb Fool was ace. A tart and creamy mess, which came mixed with shards of meringue providing crunch and sweetness, was served in a generous portion. There was also a delicate, buttery little shortbread.
This was all great stuff but the cooking reminded me of somebody. A quick chat with chef/owner Emma confirmed that she was a friend and ex-colleague of DH fave chef Rosie Sykes. Like Rosie, Emma is laidback and completely unassuming and yet turns out honest and delicious food that puts much grander places to shame.
Who was it that said one should always underpromise and overdeliver. No idea but whoever they were, they were right.