Paternoster Chop House

Address:  1, Warwick Court, Paternoster Sq., London EC4M 7DX
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Wednesday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 6/10

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.12.22Paternoster Chophouse is part of the restaurant empire of Sir Terence Conran, who also sells sofas and salad bowls (think Habitat, BhS, M&S etc.).

It achieved a small amount of notoriety as the venue for the Channel 4 show First Dates, where an eclectic mix of people are paired up and then filmed making toe-curlingly awkward small talk, before deciding at the end of each episode whether they want to meet for a second date or not.

We went there on a random Tuesday evening (it certainly wasn’t our first date), and sadly no romantic encounters were being filmed. What was occurring however, was a besuited father taking his three-year-old daughter out for a burger. He fulfilled his paternal duties in the most basic of senses, kitting his daughter out with a range of colouring pencils – which she used on the table – and chatting on the phone whilst watching as she stood on her chair and washed her hands in her glass of water. Extremely romantic for those of us sat directly next to them.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.12.04As for the food, it slid somewhere in between adequate and good. Better than a Pizza Express, but worse than a restaurant you would recommend to a friend you wanted to keep. I started off with a chicken liver and port pate, which was the highlight of the meal, sharp and tangy, spreading smoothly over some decent bread.

My partner in culinary crime ate some smoked salmon, with shallots and capers, which she found nice. Although given that you can get nice smoked salmon in most British supermarkets, this is not the highest of culinary hurdles.

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 22.11.58It may be one of the driest summers in recent British history, but my main course of chicken Kiev came swimming in so much grease and oil that it could have been used to moisten the whole of the south east of England. It was accompanied by some cauliflower that had a green, unhealthy colour. Perhaps they were feeling sea-sick from bobbing up and down in so much grease.

My partner in culinary crime, a true scavenger of the ocean, ordered the sole for her main course. She liked it. The sauce was buttery, rich and lemony, a smooth accompaniment to a well-cooked fish.

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We finished with a Lancashire cheese and two rather sad little Eccles cakes. I’m sure it is a tried and tested combination, but I found the excessively sweet cakes a poor match for the strong, sour cheese. Perhaps the dish was a homage to some of the less successful dates that have featured on the show.

The restaurant is situated in the lovely Paternoster Square, bathed in the beauty of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St Paul’s. I would say that the best thing about this restaurant is the view you get of the cathedral as you walk out of the door. Hey, it’s a one in a million view. It’s not a one in a million restaurant.  No second date for me please.

 


Fodder

Great Guns Social
Address: 96 Southwark Bridge Rd, London SE1 0EF
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Friday Night
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7.5/10

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.46.19Great Guns Social may look like a squat little pub, but it is actually a very good restaurant. Or perhaps I should say that it’s a very good restaurant right now. Why this emphasis on the present? Great Guns Social has adopted a series of cooking residencies, offering talented chefs the opportunity to occupy its kitchens for a period of time, win some admirers and gain some experience, before rotating on and vacating the place for the next batch of eager cooks.

This is so obviously an excellent idea that I’m amazed more pubs haven’t tried it: good cooks get badly needed exposure, and pubs get the opportunity to serve something that isn’t a greasy battered cod or a rubbery hamburger. And, most importantly, we all get the chance to eat in the places.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.45.54At the moment, the kitchen is occupied by Fodder, a 4-strong culinary crew including two former Fera at Claridge’s chefs, Michael Thompson and Ollie Downey. They say that they “celebrate local, wild and seasonal ingredients by foraging for their produce”. ‘Foraging’ is a culinary concept I’m only vaguely aware of, and in the context of London it conjures up an image of an urban fox rummaging through a split bin-bag in the moonlight. But perhaps that’s just me.

Either way, what we were served certainly didn’t taste like it had been discovered in a bin. Every little dish we ordered was clever, inventive and exciting. Pig and Squeak were two solid little cakes of pork and cabbage, sat in a sweet apple sauce, their rough exteriors giving way to steaming, succulent contents. The green, whipped beef fat butter that accompanied our sourdough bread was rich with salt and flavour.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.46.07We ordered a poached cod in a bath of buttermilk. If a fish is going to be killed, it seems only reasonable that this sacrifice should be made worthwhile by the excellent cooking of the creature, and what we ate was a lesson in the posthumous treatment of a cod. It was delicate, soft and delicious, and the buttermilk was so tasty that it now seems wrong that a cod would ever swim in anything else. I’m not sure how one goes about foraging for a cod – did the chefs spend the night before wading around the surf on Chalkwell Beach, Southend on Sea? – but frankly I don’t care.

We ordered a chicken thigh, which came accompanied with broccoli. It had only been added to the menu that day, but I hope it enjoys a long and fruitful existence within those pages. It was lovely, the skin crisped and golden, the sauce light and encouraging.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.46.31Jersey Royal potatoes with baby dumplings and tiny morel mushrooms was also a fascinating little dish in miniature, although it did occasionally feel like being slapped on the tongue with a clove of garlic. Not a dish for a first date, unless you carry a bottle of strong Listerine around with you. One could probably be foraged in the Co-op around the corner.

We finished with a scoop of dark chocolate mousse and ice-cream made out of nettles. One of the fodder team informed us that nettles are one of the few things that are forageable all year round, and thus the unseasonably cold weather holding back Spring hasn’t put a dent in them. My partner in culinary crime was a little wary of gobbling up spoonful’s of something derived from a notoriously unpleasant little plant, so I had it all to myself. My mouth tingled for ten minutes afterwards.

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 10.45.35Great Guns Social is pushing a great idea, and fodder is doing it proud. Visit this restaurant if you find yourself in Borough. And next time I see a fox foraging in the moonlight, rather than shoo it away, I’ll wander over, and see if I can net something for the table.


Morito

Address: 32 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4QE
Bookings: no booking required
Day: Tuesday
Meal: Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.45.57Exmouth Market is a little oasis of restaurants in Clerkenwell, stretching from Paesan in the west to Bourne & Hollingsworth in the east, with the jewels in the middle being Moro, and its younger sibling, Morito.

These are run by the same husband and wife team, Samantha Clark (nee Clarke) and Sam Clark, who were apparently introduced by friends many moons ago because of the similarity of their names. It turns out they were both excellent cooks as well.

We stood outside Moro and Morito for a few moments, deliberating between the two. Moro, large, a little formal, a little empty at 6pm on a Tuesday night, or Morito, tiny, seats crammed against the pane of glass facing the street, pulsing with people and energy, a whir of small plates meeting wooden tables.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.40We chose the latter, and moments later found ourselves perched high at the window table nearest the door, which meant we were exposed to an arctic blast every few minutes as some cheery food pilgrim came in to enquire about availability.

Morito serves tapas, which loyal readers will know is a favourite eating form for Life at the End of a Fork. It is perfect for the indecisive eater, allowing you to order a series of meals in miniature, each one an experience unto itself.

Once ordered, the food came thick and fast, and a slight moderation of pace from the kitchen would have been appreciated as we found ourselves shifting the plates on the table into ever more intricate patterns just to make space for the next arrival.

Two small jamon and chicken croquetas dropped first.  They were good, but lacked the truly eruptive flavour of the very best croquetas we’ve had at Barafina.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.57Next appeared a mound of well-crisped aubergine, cooled with a whipped feta and date molasses concoction. Seldom have opinions been so divided at Life at the End of a Fork. My partner in culinary crime found the dish positively offensive, wrinkling her nose and reaching for her diet coke to act as a makeshift mouthwash. I found it to be perhaps the best dish of the evening: tangy, creamy, sweet, and deeply moreish. This the is the perfect sort of disagreement to have over tapas: I decided I would drag the dish in my direction and eat the whole thing, and she was happy to oblige.

A plate of bruschetta was fresh enough, with a frisson of garlic, but a little non-descript. It could have done with a little more vinegar, and the tomatoes with slightly more texture. A pair of prawns in a green pesto sauce blinked at us unappealingly, but a hard-fought war with their shells revealed the small slither of meat within to be firm, but juicy, a shot of the ocean.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 18.46.24We finished with some spiced lamb, mixed with pomegranate and pine nuts, sat on a bet of pureed aubergine, which was unequivocally delicious. The lamb had body and a thick salted flavour, the pine nuts crunched, and the pomegranate offered a sweet little kick to the whole thing.

It was a satisfying ending to a satisfying evening. Drop into Moro if you fancy something serious, something substantial. But go to Morito if you fancy a flurry of fun, a twist of Spanish soul on a little strip of London.