Cuttlefish ink laksa, grilled cuttlefish, harusame noodles, monksbeard, salted liquorice macadamia, natural wine dinner at The Modern Pantry

The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell, Review

47-48 St John’s Square Clerkenwell London EC1V 4JJ

The Modern Pantry exteriorNatural wine finds itself a happy home at Modern Pantry where for the month of May, it is all about minimal intervention. Collaborating with natural wine importers, Les Caves de Pyrene, chef Anna Hansen has created a light tasting menu with matching natural wines as part of Real Wine Month. For a food fanatic like me, there really is no better way of exploring wines than with great food.

Hansen, a Canadian by way of New Zealand, has certainly taken her culinary journey and put it on a plate. Interesting ingredients (verjus, cassava, monksbeard) is seasoned with Asian fusion (curry leaves, tamarind, pomegranate molasses). Though the flavours seemed strangely juxtaposed at times, they some how worked. Rather like natural wines, the food, while not appearing radically different, offered a surprising blend of vibrant and refreshing on the palate.

Modern Pantry’s well lit table made wine tasting really rather simple too – crisp white linen, natural light and window box in sight. Well that last bit is a bit irrelevant to the tasting but it does make the atmosphere a whole lot more pleasant. Just like, perhaps, the clean cut but not sterile décor and their high ceilings.

In this setting, rendang mince with deep fried quail egg and garlic briq tart with tomato and miso dressing made unusual canapé starters, paired with a mellow Domaine Belluard Haute Savoie Gringet Les Alpes 2010. Then came the cuttlefish ink laksa with grilled cuttlefish, a medley of textures and colours that played havoc with the table cloth. The intense monk’s beard was happily appeased by the Antoine Arena Grotta di Sole Blanc 2010.

Beef and lamb followed in the two meat courses. The pink peppercorn dusted beef fillet, tinted with the vanilla verjus dressing, was well rested and perfectly flavoured – easily the best I’ve ever had. The Masala roast lamb rump, with its smoked cassava and fenugreek croquette, wild garlic and coconut labneh as sides, provided quite a flavour map to explore. The pair was matched with Louis-Antoine Luyt Carignan Trequilemu 2010 and Dard et Ribo Crozes-Hermitage Rouge 2010 respectively.

Rounding off the evening was Madeira cake, vanilla cream and sloe gin sorbet on a bed of poached rhubarb. The creamy, tangy mix prepared the palate well for the Jurancon La Magendia de Lapeyre 2008. By the time fresh mint tea and chocolate truffles rolled round, a feline purr is about all you would be able to manage under the weight of satisfaction.

Click here for menu and images

(First seen on BespokeRSVP)

Qin Xie

Qin Xie is a London based food, wine and travel journalist and trained chef.

When not infiltrating Michelin restaurants as a kitchen tourist, she writes about food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared on Yahoo, FT, The Times and CNN.

Her first cookbook, co-authored with YS Peng at Hunan Restaurant, is out March 2014.

According to friends, her watch is always set to UTC -- ready for the next big adventure. In reality, she is happiest at the dinner table or by the sea.


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