Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

The Modern Pantry

with 6 comments

My dinner plans for last night were almost stymied by the fact that neither of my first choices, 32 Queen Street or Moro, were actually open. Salvation soon appeared in the shape of The Modern Pantry. There was a bit of a Sunday vibe here too: items were getting crossed off the menu at a rate of knots, service progressively slowed over the evening and the poor women in the kitchen looked knackered. Despite this the food was exemplary, with only one duff note in the whole evening.

That note was struck by a third starter of cassava chips, ordered to ensure the satiation of a ravenous wife. There is strong fusion theme to the whole of the menu and the subsitution of cassava – yammy, fiberous and dry – for the humble potato was the only time this did not succeed. However, the dish was at least partially saved by its pairing with crème fraiche and tomato chilli jam which rather wonderfully transformed it into something not unlike a Central American version of a cream tea. Of our real starters, softshell crab was messily presented but delicious and I could have easily ordered another sugar-cured New Caledonian prawn omelette straight after finishing the first.

I bagged the last of the pork belly and thank God because it was exactly what my mouth, ribs and stomach demanded. The accompanying quinoha – not at all a favourite usually – released different flavours with each mouthful: here orange, there mint, all expanding and rounding the dish. Options for pescatarians were severely curtailed by the complete abscence of fish from the menu (“come back on a Monday” was a repeated refrain) so N had the tortuously named field mushroom and dill, crème fraiche and cucumber, ‘empanada’, monk’s beard, white corn and radish salad with ancho dressing. Mere salad is not usually enough for my lass – hence the cassava chips – so her contentment at the end of her last mouthful spoke volumes. One thing: despite the apparently comprehensive nature of the description, it didn’t seem to cover slices of an amazing vegetable like a yellow, mild ginger, about an inch wide with holes where the seeds were. I forgot to ask what this was, any ideas?

The fusion theme goes into overdrive on the dessert menu. Having both shunned an extremely unappetising sounding “Eton mess” made with gooseberries and other unlikely ingredients, N then braved an aversion to eggs to order chocolate mousse cake with caramelized banana and liquorice cream and Broadside reduction. (That last addition to the plate was slightly mysterious since the Adnams bitter doesn’t appear on their (excellent) list of beers.) I wasn’t allowed near it for a taste so I think that speaks for itself. I had a beetroot, apricot and something else cake which had the glorious fruity density of Christmas pudding and was perfectly offset by tart slices of blood orange and a crème fraiche sorbet. As you’ll have noticed, crème fraiche was a bit of a recurring theme and I wholeheartedly endorse this and, indeed, The Modern Pantry.

Fifty four pounds a head, including wine, digestifs and service.


Written by Martin

22 March 2010 at 12:11

Posted in food

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6 Responses

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  1. “Fifty four pounds a head, including wine, digestifs and service.”

    Ah, London.

    Adam Roberts

    23 March 2010 at 13:26

  2. Like most London restaurants, it has a set menu that offers excellent value. However, since all my vices have slowly been eradicated and dining out is now pretty much my only indulgence, I tend to be… unrestrained when the menu is placed in front of me. Not to mention the wine list.


    23 March 2010 at 13:52

  3. The ginger-like vegetable is the lotus root, an asian ingredient.


    23 March 2010 at 16:46

  4. Thank you!


    23 March 2010 at 16:58

  5. I optimistically tried to get into Moro at the last minute yesterday. I failed. It did mean another trip to The Modern Pantry though, so that is very much a silver lining.

    I had the prawn omelette again, unfortunately it was slightly scorched on one side which made it less than perfect (although still very tasty). The star this time was okra, courgette, turmeric & feta fritters with mango, golden raisin & kaffir lime leaf purée. Courgette and feta fritters are just a classic pairing, the okra (which I don’t usually like) just punched up the flavour a level and then the whole thing was drizzled in that zingy sauce.


    1 July 2010 at 09:15

  6. I popped into the Modern Pantry for breakfast yesterday. We were asked if we had reservations which, no matter how popular a destination, I found surprising for half ten on Sunday morning. Excellent drinks (we had a berry and mint smoothie and a pink grapefruit juice), excellent jam (gooseberry and vanilla was a stunner) but I’m not convinced it does breakfast as well as dinner. I had two eggs with toast, grilled chorizo, tomato and plantain fritter (garnished with a bit of basil). I had the eggs scrambled and they’d been bulked out with milk and I only got half the tomato which seems unnecessarily stingy. Despite this, all the individual ingredients were good; it just really didn’t come together for me, the sweetness of the plaintain and the spiciness of the chorizo not playing off each other.

    Ordering coffees afterwards, I glanced over the dinner menu. It was much more exciting than the breakfast menu and, most exciting of all, featured the carpetbagger: fillet steak stuffed with oysters. I must try this!


    18 July 2011 at 10:35

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