Italian from the Clove Club Crew
Category : Restaurant
| Cuisine : Italian, Modern European
Address : 88 St John St , Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4EH, UNITED KINGDOM - Directions
Web : www.luca.restaurant
Opening Times : Mon-Sat: 8am-11am; 12pm-late
Closest Tube : Barbican, Farringdon
Isaac McHale, Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis are probably the closest thing London has to a culinary George Best. They‘ve brought an irreverent DIY ethos to fine dining, taking over east London with The Young Turks before taking over the world with The Clove Club (which promptly won a Michelin star and, at the time of writing, has the highest ranking of any British restaurant on the World‘s 50 Best List). Rock stars often struggle slightly with their sophomore album, however this was patently not the case we experienced at their restaurant Luca in Clerkenwell.
They‘ve chosen one of London‘s best sites and, with the help of interior designer Alexander Waterworth, created one of London‘s most elegant dining rooms, channelling the easy grandeur of mid-century Milan. The long winding space skirts a bar and reception area in its anterior section. Guests then pad along hardwood flooring past wooden columns and cosy booths overhung with exquisite banker‘s lamps. The room really comes into its own as you step up into its back quarters, where floor-to-ceiling glass windows beckon in blue skies (when we visited at least), potted plants and century‘s old brickwork and architecture. Adjoining it is the private dining room, which brings across the same gorgeous Art Deco design. It‘s the ideal place to while away an afternoon or evening dining on enlightened Italian fare.
Rather than flying their produce from Italy, Luca has opted to glean where possible from the Great British Isles. We settled in with a couple of the house martinis, made dirty with Porter‘s dry gin, vermouth and peach brine. They were the perfect foil to the parmesan fries, which absolutely must be ordered, evincing nerdy technical skill, fried to crisp perfection, resembling churros crafted from light, punchy hard cheese. Insanely tasty scallops followed, the opaline bivalve fire-roasted in its shell with Jerusalem artichoke and nduja. The smokiness of the Calabrian sausage propped up the buoyant and overriding sweetness of the shellfish, flown down that day from the Orkney Islands.
For pasta we opted for orecchiette with turnip tops, smoked cod‘s roe, chilli and garlic which offered the tang of the seaside with hefty salinity shot through as well as warming heat from the chilli. The rigatoni with pork sausage ragu is probably their most discussed pasta dish and for good reason. The unctuous tomato sauce is interwoven with anchovy and mint, offering a mesmerising chemistry and depth of flavour. Desserts lived up to the rest of the menu. A Sicilian lemon tart with roast fennel and black pepper ice cream was an effective citric denouement, but our hearts were truly won over by the rum baba. Layered with blood orange and Ivy House crème fraiche, it was a French force of nature.