I so want to say I loved The Clove Club. I really do. And I sort of almost do love it. In fact, I've now decided it's possible to love the experience of eating out, rather than the actual food.
Much has been written about The Clove Club, describing it as achingly hipster - it was, in fact, during our meal that I was first introduced to the word 'scenester' - a label that had quite happily passed me by till then. I don't really know what hipster means, truth be told. I can only categorically affirm that I am not it. But I didn't feel uncomfortable at all at The Clove Club. Everyone was perfectly friendly, the service was good and efficient (so efficient that our wine glasses kept getting whipped away from us as soon as they were drained dry - possibly hipster means watching your alcohol intake - seems unlikely though?!)
What did I love about it then? To start with, I loved the simplicity of the venue - it's in Shoreditch's old town hall, but inside everything's pretty stripped back and simple, with whitewashed walls and battered wooden tables. I liked the fact the kitchen was in the dining area - it was great to see the chefs at work and they must have had some impressive ventilation as it wasn't smelly or even noisy. I loved the simplicity of the tasting menu - you get what you're given. It's £47, which for the number of courses is pretty reasonable. I liked many of the dishes - not all of them, but I did like the creativity behind the concepts and the inventive variety of ingredients. As I said before, it felt like an experience, rather than a deliciously satisfying feast.
But, but... Some of the food was odd - the raw beef with cow's curd really didn't do it for me, and I wished I could just wave a magic wand and turn it into a steak tartare. I didn't like the fact that for the first three sharing courses, the hipster nonsense took over, meaning we weren't allowed our own plates. I burnt my fingers on my chicken and had to chuck it in the bread basket for a few minutes to cool down. There's nothing really glamorous about having sticky fingers either IMO, not even if you're on holiday eating tapas under a blood-red sun. My vegetarian friend Amy was disappointed with some of her dishes, too - in her words: "my artichoke heart still had the hard bit on one side and the giant leek was silly – you can't cut a leek with a dinner knife, that's why people use a paring knife at the prep stage!"
Oh, and as charming as the ladies' loo was, seriously, having only one toilet for a restaurant/bar that size reverted the emerging scenester in me back to a cross-legged 18-year-old in a sweaty nightclub queue. Not glamorous.
But in summary, the food was imaginative and unusual, the atmosphere relaxed and I'm glad I went. But I don't think I'd go back again. I'm on the fence this time.