The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell
48 St John's Square
020 7553 9210
by Grease Witherspoon
Post yoga and micro dermatological facial, I usually insist on my regular breakfast of gluten-free muesli and organic soymilk. However, I make an exception to meet my sister, Jadee, for breakfast at the Modern Pantry, conveniently located around the corner from my aromatherapist. Blood is, after all, thicker than soya.
I’m early and the maitre d’ is on the phone but waves me inside with such a friendly, welcoming smile that I almost mistake it for recognition. When he hangs up, he apologises profusely in an incomprehensible accent before showing me upstairs, chatting incessantly. As I lean in to try to understand and react appropriately, the inevitable happens and I trip over my heels and up the stairs. Mr. d’ makes a sound that I assume is concern for my well-being and although I can’t be sure, think he says something along the lines of ‘stupid stairs.’ Safely at our table, I order a calming peppermint tea. Too much caffeine in the morning makes me jittery and there’s been quite enough excitement already. It arrives at the same time as my sister, in a miniature pot that would barely quench the thirst of a teacup shih tzu. And it isn’t loose leaf. If it comes in a pot and costs £2, it really should be.
Perusing the menu, I notice it features some unconventional ingredients- cassava, goat’s curd, plantain and yuzu nestle between the inevitable pastry selection and chorizo-laced eggs. I settle for the outré sounding polenta, spring onion, feta and curry leaf waffles with bacon and maple syrup. The other Witherspoon sister goes for the rather more predictable option of halloumi, spinach and eggs. I’m expecting them to be plump and ostentatious but when thin, crisp and delicate waffles arrive, I am not disappointed. There is no hint of the graininess usually associated with polenta and none of the stodginess of its stateside cousin. The feta and the spring onion comes through with a faint under note of the sweet curry leaf that brings out the syrup, while the saltiness of the bacon is imitated by the feta. It’s certainly clever and it knows it. The plate of halloumi, eggs and spinach is a much more straightforward option but it shines nonetheless just as brightly. Jadee proclaims the eggs to be the best she has ever had in London, with the cheese mixed in with them without squeaky rubberiness, set aside rough sourdough toast of the artisan variety and fat grilled tomatoes.
As we sit bathed in sunlight from the enormous windows I begin, just for a second, to unwind. Until I’m blinded by the rays and start to feel a little faint. I realise my sister is squinting to see her plate and so make the briefest of eye contact with our waiter. He promptly swoops over and pulls down the blinds, to a chorus of appreciation from other diners. It’s the kind of service one could get used to.