THE MODERN PANTRY
The wind was driving in my face
The smell of prickly pear
Restaurant openings have been a bit thin on the ground recently. In Manhattan, somewhere London sees as a pretender to its title of World's Greatest City, you'll get any number of new gaffs in a given week - it must be good to be a reviewer over there. Here in Blighty, you usually have to work a bit harder.
One place you couldn't miss if you were passing by was The Modern Pantry whose gestation appeared quite protracted and probably painful. The restaurant, or as it will eventually be: deli, cafe and restaurant, has been opened by Anna Hansen who was chef at Providores in Marylebone. And like that restaurant the sort of food served up has been informed by fellow Kiwi Peter Gordon.
I'll fess up now and admit I don't really get Mr Gordon's cooking which always seemed to me like throwing together disparate ingredients and hoping something stuck, so to speak. The menu at The Modern Pantry isn't as out there as at say the Sugar Club but there's still the sense that no country is safe from being plundered for its ingredients. That's probably the Modern bit.
This was the opening evening so all food was half-price and they did give advance warning of potential hiccups. As it turned out the service was pretty good: friendly and attentive with only a bit of a delay at the beginning making us feel unwanted and unloved, but then we are so needy. The food though was a bit more problematical.
After some decent spiced nuts and some decidedly average bread HS went for the Chorizo, Date and Feta fritters. He though these were good but hated the accompanying Tamarind Yoghurt which he thought was much too sour. I couldn't detect any Chorizo in the fritters. Come to think of it I couldn't taste any Date or Feta either, the little balls coming on more like a sort of Falafel.
I wasn't really wowed by my Grilled Ox Tongue. The meat tasted ok but needed the application of a hotter grill (the idiosyncrancies of a new kitchen ?). The salad component lacked the expected pizazz and the Manouri was tasty but was one ingredient too many in the dish.
HS described his main course as a 'school dinner' curry and I must admit it didn't look that appetising: the poussin was supermodel wan and in desperate need of some colour. We considered sending it on an all-expenses paid holiday to Florida.
Happily, my Onglet was much better. Cooked rare, it had that beefy, offally taste that good Onglet has. The Miso marinade wasn't overdone and the quality of the meat was allowed to come through. I thought the cassava chips were interesting and well made but no substitute for the real thing.
That Steak showed that maybe the kitchen was beginning to get the hang of things, it also showed that there are the seeds of some decent cooking here. If you would pardon the rather clunky simile, it's like successfully packing a suitcase which is all down to having the courage to leave things out. And as we know less is always more (and all that shit).
But the above was just our take on The Modern Pantry. It's new, there's a soft opening offer, so get down there and come back and tell us what you thought. I promise I won't set HS on you if you disagree with us