Granger & Co in Clerkenwell
Clerkenwell’s new offering Granger & Co, from the portfolio of Australian go-to restaurateur Bill Granger, is a sleek spot for any meal of the day. From the moment you enter, the service is quiet, not overbearing, accompanied by casual Scandinavian uniforms and matching charm. Perfect for brunch, working lunch or dinner with friends, this restaurant is a smart new gem in the heart of Islington.
Cocktails are on offer to start, and an Apple vodka basil elderflower concoction catches the eye. Subtle and delicate, beautifully presented, it’s sweet and sour and everything in between, but lacking in a kick. A little under-generous with the vodka, perhaps, but a lovely aperitif for what’s to follow.
Small plates are perfect for sharing, so we opt for several. The Korean Fried Chicken, Iceberg Lettuce, Spring Onion & Chilli Sesame is a balancing act of fruity spice, crisp and sour but not bitter. Layers of fresh herbs and spices through everything elicit a freshness that is surprising amid so much tempura. Courgette Chips, Nigella Seed & Tahini Yoghurt is delicious, light and fluffy with a beautiful dip that hints at aniseed. Fresh Goat’s Cheese, Tarragon, Dill, Chilli & Flatbreads is a masterclass in milky sweetness, almost dessert-like, with a rosemary flatbread that’s chewy and crunchy all at once, like a savoury cookie. Everything is incredibly light, almost airy, which is remarkable considering the appearance of simplicity and impressive depth of flavour.
An artist by training, Granger’s décor is interesting but bizarre: the beige palette belies the fun and vibrancy of the food, and the layout is a fraction too canteen-like for comfort. The atmosphere is sophisticated, though, and the service gentle, accommodating and unassuming. There’s a swift turnaround between courses, with generous portions.
To complement the mains, the wine is a Pinot Noir, Momo Marlborough New Zealand, at £38 a bottle. It’s heady and powerful, with rich undertones of summer fruit and a medium garnet shade, yet surprisingly light and perfect for summer.
A main course of Parmesan Crumbed Chicken Schnitzel, Creamed Corn & Fennel Slaw is tender and comforting, with a citrus-fresh edge. The slaw is sharp, perfectly cutting through the crumbed meat. The corn falls short of the mark, though – school dinner-like and overwhelming. The chargrilled lemon accompaniment is a thoughtful touch for an added dimension. A side of northern European-inspired New Potato, Crème Fraiche & Dill is cold, creamy and delectable, gentle with dill and celery – the ideal match. The main course overall needs a touch more seasoning, but it’s hardly a fault. A taste of Sticky Chilli Belly Pork, Spring Onion Salad is soft and moreish, with a strong sense of rich Korean flavours, balanced perfectly with the sharp onion.
For dessert there’s White Chocolate & Pistachio Pavlova, Strawberries & Rosewater cream, which is mind-blowing, so unusual that it takes several mouthfuls to truly appreciate the craftsmanship of this stunning summer pudding. It’s almost so good it’s outrageous; rosewater smashing into the nut as if they were born to be together. It’s like an edible potpourri. The Blueberry, Lemon, Mascarpone & Ginger Nut Cheesecake is sadly more like a breakfast item than anything else – too heavy on the yoghurt and lacking in the lemon bite so apparent everywhere else. But it’s not enough to dent a fabulous trip across the world, from Scandinavia to Australia to East Asia and back again.
Food that needs not ask to be remembered, an interesting wine list, and perfectly-pitched service make this a new culinary destination on east London’s map. Vibrant, fresh and bursting with unusual flavours, Granger & Co flies the flag for Australian fusion.
To book a table at Granger & Co, 50 Sekforde Street London EC1R 0HA, call 020 7251 9032 or visit here.