Welcome to Ask Eater, a new column from Eater London in which the site’s editor and contributors offer to answer specific or particularly troubling requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? You can ask it here:
I’m looking for a classy but cool, moderately priced, restaurant to go to one evening with two friends. I’d like it to be relatively healthy (no dirty burgers), have nice wine — French perhaps — but would be open to other offers. Ideally it would be central — think Soho, the West End, Camden, or Euston. We would be willing to go to Shoreditch for the RIGHT recommendation, but would prefer if it were a bit closer than that. We have no dietary restrictions, but would love to try something new — either newly opened or perhaps somewhere that’s doing things differently or has a menu that pushes boundaries.
Classy-But-Cool-Moderately-Priced (French) Restaurant Enthusiast
Hey, Classy-But-Cool-Moderately-Priced (French) Restaurant Enthusiast,
So that’s a fair few conditions. But gratefully, cooking dirty burgers to look cool is a thing of the past.
So, we get the impression that you want cool, but not toooo cool? Hope so! The great news, for everyone, is that innovative, unorthodox cooking (that’s fairly, if not always moderately, priced) is definitely easier to find than it once was.
While it’s really tempting to convince you to make the journey east, (because there are some truly great places there) we think we have the answer: Clipstone, in Fitzrovia, would certainly qualify as cool in many people’s books. It’s not achingly hip, but cleverly rooted in many of the French (and Mediterranean) traditions which ensure a broad appeal. Its plates are minimalist, for sure, but definitely not without nods to classicism: snack on pork rillettes, cornichons, and toast, before moving onto a ceviche of Albacore tuna, with sweet corn, oregano, and smoked crème fraîche, perhaps. Then follow it up with a nice piece of rich Yorkshire hogget, miso aubergine, squash, green olives, and mint. If you’re canny, you can get three courses, excluding drinks, for £45 each.
Fitzrovia, too, is having something of a renaissance — some are even saying it’s the neighbourhood-of-the-moment. There’s a lot going on, with Ottolenghi having recently opened his latest restaurant in the area and Caravan opening its fifth Temple to Brunch. These high-profile new openings have breathed into it a new dynamism, and maybe even pinched a little of Soho’s buzz, too.
While Portland’s (Clipstone’s sister site) Merlin Labron-Johnson may have set things up and earned all those early plaudits, it’s a restaurant now in the able hands of chef Stuart Andrew. And a front-of-house team, which not only has form on the wine front, but which counts one of London’s truly essential restaurants among its small, but neatly formed portfolio.
Have a great time,