Three of the best … … Valentine’s Day Options in Clerkenwell
Lino: An old carpet warehouse in Bartholomew Close has been transformed into a promising new dining and drinking space for Clerkenwell’s workers and residents.
Lino is headed up by two 2016 YBFs winners, chef Richard Falk (previously from The Dairy and The Ledbury) and FOH superstar Claire Wright. Its concept is that of a multi-functional, comfortable place where drinkers and snackers can rub shoulders with coffee-slurping-pastry-nibblers, business- lunchers and date-night-diners alike. Falk has a strong vision for Lino as “a great bar that serves really good food”, and it is. There’s a not-overwhelming list of clever cocktails, good beers and wines (though the prices by-the-glass seem pricey, the pour is generous), and lively but uninvasive music playing across the space.
And the food really is good. Highlights from our meal included Montgomery cheddar and sauerkraut croquettes with truffled mayo, and grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber and oyster mayo, which has all the hallmarks of a signature dish. Richard’s approach to the menu is comfortingly unpretentious, with a focus on minimising waste and serving food that people want to eat without overcomplicating it. In his words – “We’re not above doing a burger, but if we do one we will do it fucking well.”
We’ll look forward to that then, Richard.
The Apple Tree: Aimed squarely at those who historically might have struggled to find a port in a storm, The Apple Tree on Mount Pleasant describes itself as “a home to the LGBTQ+ communities and to those living an alternative lifestyle”. It also promises a “warm welcome” to all, and we can absolutely attest to that. This is, put simply, a really lovely pub.
The menu is majority vegan with a couple of meat options, flipping convention squarely on its head, and the bar is nicely stocked with all the hits. We enjoyed a conveyor belt of “small plates” accompanied by a couple of much-welcomed early afternoon pints. The Rainbow Sliders, a trio of mini burgers, all vegan, were fittingly diverse in taste and texture but uniformly terrific (especially the one with jackfruit and avocado). The “Really Brave Potatoes” were a spicier take on patatas bravas and would make a great bar snack.
But the star of the show was the Aubergine Cashew Parmigiana, which as the title suggests finds a cashew blend where a traditional parmesan might be. Clever, fun cooking, and with an uplifting soul soundtrack playing throughout. Massive props to the selector. Visit theappletreelondon.com
Le Café du Marche: In an impatient ever-changing world, you need places that are confident enough to keep doing the thing they’ve always done, and Le Café du Marche – a family-run brasserie tucked away beneath an archway off Charterhouse Square – is just that. You won’t find anything arriving at your table through a fog of dry ice, no bizarre trickery or unusual gels, this is traditional French cuisine done the same way it’s been done since it opened in 1986, and let’s be frank here, thank Christ for that.
Sometimes all you want in life is a nicely-lit dining room, a crisp bottle of plonk, and a perfectly made, deep, rich fish soup followed by a steak with béarnaise sauce and a good pile of frites. These are old friends that won’t let you down, and they certainly don’t here. They’re fantastic. As is the crab and spinach tartlet starter, which comes with a lovingly poached egg and nice little wallop of parmesan.
There were waiting staff in tuxedos, a fella in the corner gently tinkling the ivories, and glasses were kept reassuringly full at all times. It doesn’t matter what era you’re living in, these are little throwbacks that you’d never want to get rid of. Magnifique, as they say. Visit cafedumarche.co.uk