The Modern Pantry
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.