Good Food Review: The Clerkenwell Kitchen
Sally Brearley stopped for lunch at a long-time London Food Link friend (and ‘Eel stockist), a stone’s throw from Farringdon Station.
Before opening The Clerkenwell Kitchen 14 years ago, chef and proprietor Emma Miles worked for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at River Cottage in Dorset. Laura Hearn, Emma’s co-owner and business partner, was head chef at La Fromagerie in Marylebone. Much of the food they serve is organic. However, their chief priority is sourcing the highest quality ingredients from as small a geographical radius as possible, and building relationships with producers who share their commitment to animal welfare, traditional farming methods and Fair Trade.
On the day I visited Emma herself was doing the cooking but she made time to chat. “Not all small suppliers can afford organic certification but we get to know them and make sure we are happy with what they do. For example, Keith and Elizabeth Bennett at Chiltern Farm supply our meat and we are confident that those animals were loved.” Other suppliers include Rookery Farm for eggs, a Cornish day-boat for Marine Stewardship Council certified fresh fish, and Chris Hazeldon for Suffolk potatoes. All their bread is from the Sally Clarke Bakery. “Being a sustainable company is absolutely central to our ethos”, says Emma, recognised way back when they won the Best Sustainable Restaurant award from TimeOut in 2008.
Emma told me how the restaurant supported Sustain’s and Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Smart campaign, until it ended earlier this year. “We had a 10p surcharge on fizzy drinks and this went to the Children’s Health Fund to support projects which will improve children’s health and educate them about healthy food. It’s really worthwhile.” They also support StreetSmart’s annual Christmas food for homeless people initiative.
BRIGHT AND AIRY
The Clerkenwell Kitchen is an informal space, bright and airy, with an outside seating area. It’s located in a shared workspace building on Clerkenwell Close. Clerkenwell is a fascinating area, a mixture of ancient winding streets, social housing and top of the market flats and offices. If you’re a history nerd check out The Charterhouse, the site of the Clerkenwell Outrage, the Finsbury Ice Cream Triangle, and the London Metropolitan Archives to name but a few.
I enjoyed a substantial slice of warm mushroom, thyme and Parmesan tart with red cabbage, beetroot and fennel salad, and Le Puy lentil salad with caramelised red onion. The flavours were rich, complex and earthy and I needed no more than the freely-available tap water to complement them, with a pot of fresh mint tea to follow. There are organic wines from Nothing But the Grape, beers and ales from Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick and hand-roasted coffee from Coleman Coffee Roasters in Lower Marsh. The lunch menu changes daily. Also on the menu when I visited were borlotti bean and chard soup (gluten-free and vegan), braised pig cheeks with polenta and gremolata, braised squid with spaghetti, and courgette and buffalo mozzarella gratin.
The Clerkenwell Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea on weekdays from 8am to 5pm. All the staff are friendly and helpful. You order and pay at the counter, which is good for the lunch-break crowd who don’t want to hang around waiting for a bill.