The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell
Who doesn’t like a brunch date? Well, quite a lot of people actually. This may be due to daytime lighting, potential sobriety and a lot of time to kill before bedtime. However, if it’s love not lust you’re after, there is no wiser gesture after a night of passion than to take your date to brunch. Fail to do this and you’re a scallywag or a slob. The Modern Pantry offers all day dining but is widely acknowledged to be a superb London brunch option. Set over two floors you can either go rogue in the white brick and grey surface eatery downstairs for some communal feasting, or reserve ahead and secure a more formal table upstairs, white table cloths and lower decibels adding a bit of class to the event. My advice on deciding between the two is simple. If it’s the morning after, stay downstairs where the buzz, the groups, the higher frequency of drinkers and the spread of papers will compliment a hangover and deal with any gaps in conversation. If it’s a planned date, go upstairs, look fresh, wear something crisp but casual and pretend you’re grown up with some topical chats. Both scenarios work well, the former for comfort, the latter for a sense of occasion. Thankfully the menu is the common factor and this is what stops the place from being somewhere trying too hard to please both the preppy and the depraved.
The Modern Pantry isn’t the type of place you order a fry up with an extra sausage and a tomato-hash brown substitution. You’ll order what’s on the menu and you’ll damn well like it. Comparisons to The Providores or Kopapa in Covent Garden are fair, in that what is on offer here is a different take on some classic dishes, such as eggs on toast with halloumi and tomatoes. All dishes are well executed but I must play favourites here and applaud the sugar-cured prawn omelette with green chilli, spring onion, corrianda and smoked chilli sambal. My god is this a tasty omelette, a fiery edge to a sweet, buttery dish. The drinks list is as long as the food one, lots of fresh juices, way too many hot drinks and some restorative cocktails including a Lycee Bellini. Yum.
Well, it depends where you ended up sitting. If you are downstairs then you already had some fun last night. You woke up next to your date after a night of abusing the cocktail lists of Shoreditch, had a delightfully sleepless night and faced the morning light with hangovers but no regrets. You both wonder whether someone is going to throw the brunch gauntlet out there or if you’ll be required to collect your stuff and make an awkward exit. Someone braves the question and you sigh inwardly and agree- the only way is up now. By the time you’ve reached The Modern Pantry you’re both giddy with the excitement of having avoided a solo walk of shame and now put all efforts into lining your stomach so you can carry on with Japanese Bloody Mary’s, pretending to read the papers whilst playing footsie, and having some un-challenging but bloody marvellous chitchat for hours. If you are upstairs, you have a little more work to put in, good luck.
There can be a wait on the weekend if you haven’t booked. You also may run into friends as it seems to be the go-to for professionals living in that area. Be prepared for mild paranoia about people overhearing your conversations and make sure you substitute all names.
A respectable 2.