Helen Hudson enjoys what might be described as Australian fusion food at a relatively new, and highly regarded, restaurant off Clerkenwell Green.
The Clerkenwell location for Bill Granger’s second London restaurant, which opened in April, may be a little tucked away and out of the 10 minute walk zone from the Barbican (only just), but this one is a keeper.
A stylish staircase leads you up to the dining room which overlooks a quiet location just off the northeast corner of Clerkenwell Green near the church.
Granger’s reputation as the ‘egg master of Sydney’ precedes him and his fans will already be familiar with his restaurant in Notting Hill, and these London establishments and his 4 restaurants in Australia now form part of an impressive portfolio extending into Hawaii and Japan. Not bad for a self-taught chef.
Bright, modern and airy with a well-designed cat-walk-wide spacing along key avenues, the restaurant windows are double story and you sit high up from the street level so you can really take in the views, both outside and in.
A huge plus for me is the really comfy bench-divan seating around the outside of the lavishly spacious dining area. Head for the corner seats because then your partner can also have a comfy seat.
The staff are very welcoming; a just-perfect mix of knowledge if you want it and quiet efficiency if you don’t.
With drinks, my partner went the safer route on the pisco, fresh lemon, agave, bitters (£8.50 and her favourite when we asked the waitress). After looking at the menu, I could feel the unknown calling to me and I chose the bourbon, cold brew coffee, chocolate bitters (£9.50), which hit my spot but you have to be in the right mood for a non-fruity cocktail.
There is plenty of choice on the drinks menu with weekly craft beers and pale ales at £5.75, and a varied combination of juices and cocktails to experience. The non-alcoholic Bill’s greens (cold pressed) – green apple, cucumber, silver beet, chia seed & young coconut (£4.80) looked very refreshing. A good range of wines is also available, and most by the half-carafe and glass as well as by the bottle.
Bill’s reputation for fresh and tasty cuisine permeates the menus.
We were here for the Evening Menu, which offers familiar-sounding dishes with enticing twists and a heavy splash of South-East Asian flavour. So you enjoy the comfort of knowing more or less what the dish will be, with the delightful pleasure of tasting it in a new and better way. But this is very much an all-day restaurant opening for breakfast at 8am and remaining open until late evening.
The menu is split into BILL’S PIZZETTAS (£7.50 to £8.50), SMALL PLATES (£3.50 to £13.00), BOWLS & GRAINS (£12.50 to £14.50), BIG PLATES & BBQ (£13.00 to £22.80) and SWEETS (£2.50 to £7.50).
We chose a selection of SMALL PLATES to start. I could eat the figs, labneh, sumac & pomegranate (£8.00) again and again, thank you, and the shrimp tempura & red eye mayo (£9.80) was also delicious. Our waitress explained that the red eye mayo is laced with espresso and I’m surprised that is the only substance added; any red eye mayo left over from the tempura was finished with the other plates because it is simply addictive.
The seeming high cost of some of the SMALL PLATES becomes clear when they arrive and you see the size of the portions. Our third starter, the fried calamari, green papaya, nuoc cham, herbs & crispy shallots (£13.00) was a healthy main portion all by itself, or a starter for two to share and the calamari were tender and almost melt-in-the-mouth. A diner at the next table reckoned they were the best he had had in London – and he was, apparently, a local who eats out a lot at good restaurants!
For the main dish, the shrimp burger, jalapeño mayo, shaved radish salad, sesame gochujang (£15.00) was our nod to our inner Aussie and was a great burger for a huge appetite. The BOWLS & GRAINS looked equally filling. Personally, I could spend a year just mixing and matching the fascinating SMALL PLATES.
The other dishes we didn’t sample include:
flatbread, olive oil & rosemary salt £3.50
fresh goat’s cheese, tarragon, dill, chilli & flatbreads £6.50
courgette chips, nigella seed & tahini yoghurt £7.50
heritage tomato, bush basil & olive oil £6.50
korean fried chicken, iceberg lettuce, spring onion & chilli sesame £8.50
spinach & ricotta naked ravioli, watercress & lemon £8.00
miso aubergine, fried tofu & shiso £7.00
shaved kohlrabi, taramasalata, ground sesame £6.75
stone bass tiradito, shaved fennel, soused onion, avocado & orange £10.50
The size of selection available on the BIG PLATES & BBQ menus inspires confidence; better to have a few dishes perfectly than a menu train smash. As I mentioned, we sampled the shrimp burger, jalapeño mayo, shaved radish salad, sesame gochujang (£15.00 from the BBQ menu), and a neighbour was also very glowing about their choice of sticky chilli belly pork, spring onion salad (£17.20).
BIG PLATES & BBQ menus include:
tea smoked salmon, green tea noodles, samphire, daikon & soy mirin dressing £13.00
baked butter beans, roasted cauliflower & paneer, spiced mango chutney £14.50
parmesan crumbed chicken schnitzel, creamed corn & fennel slaw £14.70
yellow fish curry, spiced butternut squash, jasmine rice & cucumber relish £16.00
roast bream, white beans, green olive & citrus salsa £16.50
shrimp burger, jalapeño mayo, shaved radish salad, sesame gochujang £15.00
grass fed beef burger, club sauce, impatient pickles, iceberg & ranch dressing £14.00 + add swiss £2.50
grilled market fish m/p
sticky chilli belly pork, spring onion salad £17.20
ashdale west country sirloin steak, watercress, horseradish & lemon, french fries £22.80
Although most of the dishes stand confidently by themselves and don’t need anything added, we had a tasty side dish of accompanying broccolini from the SIDES menu where you can pick and choose from:
broccolini, anchovy, breadcrumbs & chilli £3.80
green salad – rocket, endive, fennel, butter lettuce & ricotta £3.80
creamed corn £3.80
french fries £3.80
Coffee to follow and here comes the most important tip of the day for the chocoholics. The dark chocolate pistachio fudge (£3.00) is a great fix at the end of the meal. I fully intend to drop in for coffee and fudge every time I pass by now.
Select your SWEETS from:
scoop ice cream or sorbet ea £2.50
white chocolate & pistachio pavlova, strawberries & yoghurt cream £7.50
jasmine panna cotta & black sesame crumb £6.50
salted caramel & bitter chocolate pot, butter thins £7.00
chilled pandan rice pudding & poached fruit £6.50
banana, chocolate & salted peanut soufflé, cocoa nib brittle & crème fraîche £7.50
salted peanut brittle £3.00
dark chocolate pistachio fudge £3.00
So although we didn’t have a full-on dessert, our neighbours, who were enjoying the romance of being childless for the evening, could not resist the white chocolate & pistachio pavlova, strawberries & yoghurt cream (£7.50). It was a fantastic portion of pleasure. They had 2 spoons to share and we also had a quick taste too, so this pud is definitely enough for two. I’m a dessert person, so I’m quite picky, but this pavlova is gorgeous. If I’d had it with my partner, his spoon would have mysteriously disappeared.
Overall, this is a restaurant which caters to most purses, although with this many tempting dishes it would be easy for Bill to lure you overboard on your first visit so be warned!
Granger & Co is open 7 days, starting with breakfast from 8am. At weekends a brunch is available but this is just a combination of dishes from the breakfast and main menus.
Granger & Co, 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1R 0HA, T 020 7251 9032, E firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open: 8am-11pm Mon-Fri, 9am-11pm Sat, 10am-6pm, Sun