The Clove Club
Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, EC1V 9LT
WLC Rank : 20
Glass from : £ 9 (125 ml)
BEST FORReinvigorated wine programme
Tall ceilings, big windows
Meaningful sourcing underpins both the tasting menus of Orkney-born chef, Isaac McHale and the 500-bin wine list of the sommelier, Oliver Christie, who has recently fattened his half-bottle selection and introduced more producers from lesser-known regions.
Oliver Christie prefers to understand a guest’s preferences rather than leave them alone with the wine list meaning they often discover new finds. He is assisted by Mercury Music Prize awarded rapper and jungle, drum and bass MC, Dominic Smith, a.k.a. “Dynamite MC”. Christie says, “it didn’t dawn on me that he’s a big deal until I had the misfortune to find myself in Ministry of Sound where, on the stage with Ronnie Size was Dom the Somm!”
Christie loves building rapport with guests. Previously at Pied à Terre under mentor, Mathieu Germond (now of Noizé) Christie dreamt of doing the “big boys’ stuff” of ordering and accounting, but fast realised more fun was to be had on the floor.
Moving from being what Christie calls, “that funny crowdfunded restaurant seven years ago” to becoming “27th best in the world” (World’s 50 Best), The Clove Club today can claim an expertly refurbished wine list embracing producers who farm in a reasoned manner such as Gravner from Collio who gifted the restaurant 14 handmade glasses with pinch holes for older vintages. “Staying with Sasha Radikon, I spent a week in the Collio hills having long conversations with eight humble, honest producers, seeing vineyards teeming with life where there’s a heartbeat and rhythm from the biodiversity,”
Such meetings “shorten the distance between consumer and producer,” says Christie, who has visited up-to 40% of the producers whom he lists. “And from Isaac’s point of view, we visit the farms we get ingredients from, such as livestock farmer, Tom Jones who knows the story of his cows.”
Christie maintains a sense of joie de travaille during service. “Our industry has made wine seem mystical and therefore inaccessible. So, you won’t find me droning on about something which is exciting to me as a sommelier like soil types.”
In addition, Christie ensured his team can connect with guests not drinking alcohol, offering such pairings as the warm infusion, served from a glass teapot, of seasonal herbs, kelp and homemade koji to compliment the dish of koji, mackerel and cucumber.
Bringing more fun to the business of service is the miscellany of sake cups for the 25 strong range of brews, each with their own backstory. “Isaac loves sake, which has been a massive learning curve for me.”
When The Clove Club was “taken out”, Christie found the first weeks of life during the lockdown to be “a real learning curve”. He says: “I was no longer whizzing around the whirlpool of all-enveloping hospitality.” Next, Christie plans to spend a year working in the vineyards of Piedmont, “to see how wine is made, clean floors and tanks and prune vines.” And in time, expect to see him found an importer in Northern Italy. “When I speak to winemakers they tell me they’re fed up drinking their own wine or that of their neighbours…”
By Douglas Blyde.