Douglas Blyde heads inside what was once Shoreditch Town Hall to explore The Clove Club. During his visit, he discovers what wines make head chef Isaac McHale tick and learns how the restaurant is improving its English sparkling offering.
Set in the former Shoreditch Town Hall beneath the statue of Progress, with a blue-tiled, open-kitchen stage and amusingly utilitarian clock within, The Clove Club “brought haute cuisine to Shoreditch with a swagger of East London attitude”, wrote Ben McCormack in The Telegraph.
Previously at the architecturally comparatively modern Mana, Manchester, Sam Hancock joined The Clove Club – which he says “borrows its name from the old boys club of Hackney Downs School” – in August 2019 after being called “out of the blue”. Given complete freedom over the list, with only space in this listed building being a “limiting factor”, Hancock brought maturity and focus to a list previously subject to notably opinionated authors. Himself a heavy metal fan, Hancock was assisted on the floor by Mercury Music Prize awarded rapper and jungle, drum and bass MC Dominic Smith, a.k.a. “Dom the Somm”, whose suave manner can calm even the most tense of guests.
Of the Scottish-born head-chef-patron Isaac McHale, who recently cooked dinner for a 30-year celebration at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Hancock notes he enjoys drinking lighter reds such as Truffle Hound by Unico Zelo, available by the glass. McHale began his life in food at a fishmonger at the age of 14, which informed a lifelong fascination for ingredients and producers, going on to work at The Ledbury for six years, as well as Noma and Eleven Madison Park. With chef James Lowe (Lyle’s), he launched the precursor to The Clove Club in the formative “Young Turks” pop-up above The Ten Bells, Spitalfields. At The Clove Club, his precise, pretty, yet comforting, deeply savoury dishes might include hand-dived Orkney scallop and black truffle matched with 40-year-old Sekt (Peter Lauer Riesling Sekt) and smoked sardine bone broth and sashimi with Junmai Daiginjo sake served in one of an assortment of cups from which the guest must choose.
Over his tenure, Hancock, whose motto is “finish strong”, has improved his English sparkling wine offering, with no fewer than 14 listings from Sussex alone, and a Tuscan selection, including Sangiovese Parus Le Potazzine by the glass. Being a Jurançon fan, expect the odd, interesting bottling such as Didier Dagueneau Les Jardins De Babylone. Over time, Hancock will focus on listing more cuvées and vintages from fewer producers which his team are “particularly fond” of.
In addition, Hancock ensured his team can connect with guests not drinking alcohol, applying their knowledge and understanding of flavours to the likes of unpasteurised sparkling kombucha.
- Venerable Madeiras from the 1930s on
- Enviable Spanish selection
- US Pinot Noir
Score: 96, Value: 93, Size: 95, Range: 97, Originality: 96, Experience: 99