I've admired the Modern Pantry from afar a few times whilst wandering around Clerkenwell, which is becoming an increasingly hip part of London for food and drink types to head for. Just off the top of my head you have Workshop Coffee, Foxlow, Giant Robot, St John, Polpo, Prufrock, Craft Beer Co and Hix amongst I’m sure others that I’ve not discovered yet. All of these establishments are within an easy 5-10 minute walk of each other meaning you could easily start at Farringdon and head in a circle spending a pretty fantastic afternoon stuffing your face.
The building itself is stunning; it’s only three floors but takes an imposing position at the top of St John’s Square and immediately draws your eye from Clerkenwell Road. The lower floors and seating space outside at the front make up the main eating area and the top floor was being used as meeting room on this visit. This was much to my surprise as the toilets are also on the top and as I made my usual nose around (I can never help myself) I almost blundered into in a pretty serious looking business meeting – closing the door would've helped avoid me making a fool of myself immensely. From what little I saw before I scuttled off, this looked like it would also have made a pretty swish private dining area for small groups.
Whilst I was blundering around upstairs, our coffees, orange and grapefruit juices arrived offering a vibrant multi-coloured start to proceedings. My Americano was fantastic, rich, strong and a real mid-morning head clearer. The grapefruit juice was just as I like only a tiny touch of sweetness mixed in with the tart citrus but it was too smooth to not be from a carton. The glass of orange juice was stuffed with fresh juicy bits and that all so reassuring sugary hit.
"Modern Pantry Muesli"
A large bowlful of intensely creamy soaked Bircher muesli which came sprinkled with fresh ripe pineapple, a dollop of raspberry compote and crispy toasted seeds. This alone would’ve been more than enough to set me up for the day, for me it was exactly what I want from a breakfast – carby, not too sweet and with the muesli, which can often be very bland in the wrong hands, more than bought to life by the sugary fruit and seeds. Lovely stuff.
"Raspberry and Ricotta Pancakes"
I’m hard pushed to remember pancakes better than this I’ve had elsewhere in the UK (or further afield in fact). It did mention on the menu that there's a 20 minute wait which almost put me off, especially at breakfast time, but honestly i'd have waited all morning if i'd known they'd be this good. They came served as a stack of 5 thick pancakes, which were almost verging on the consistency of soufflé. They were cooked well – retaining their form as individual pancakes and so as not to just collapse into a giant pile of mushy pancake dough. The portion was so generous that it was a battle getting through (especially given the muesli I’d already tucked away) but they were so more-ish they were just impossible to leave. The extravagant amount of fruit compote and raspberries throughout meant this must've been at least one of my five a day, right? The crème fraiche finish was an ideal partner to the dish, breaking up the intense sweetness of the compote.
The final course we shared (well my partner in crime started and I finished) was one of the impressively large selection of vegetarian cooked breakfasts which in this case consisted of two poached eggs and toast with pan fried haloumi, spinach and slow-roast vine ripened tomatoes. Initial impressions weren't great as the dish looked so bland compared to the muesli and pancakes but flavour wise it was very well considered. The spinach and slow-roasted tomatoes were juicy and well flavoured, the eggs were poached perfectly - primed with the yolk and ready to explode with the merest exertion of pressure. The bread was lathered in butter and the halloumi had been really well cooked, with only had a hint of that usual rubber-like consistency, which absolutely goes through me like nails down a blackboard. Here it was thick, buttery and actually had genuine flavour to add to the dish rather than just be there as a pointless addition.
The coffee was strong, the service was fast, food was all very good and we both left absolutely stuffed for just under £40. The addition of fruit or vegetables to each course at least made these feel healthy and as a very late slightly hungover breakfast this absolutely kept me going until dinner time which is all I could ask. If I worked locally it’d be my spot of choice for meetings and breakfast which can often be a meal that’s difficult to inject life into – they really cracked it with the menu seeming both reassuringly familiar but with an injection of their own personality.