Sosharu – Jason Atherton’s Japanese in EC1

Creative cuisine in Clerkenwell

An izakaya (Japanese gastropub), Sosharu serves innovative Japanese-inspired dishes, in a minka (traditional, wooden house) themed interior that is informal, intimate and calm.

We start our evening in the basement cocktail bar, 7 tales, where it’s 2-for-1 on cocktails and we are the only customers. We order Way of the Warriors and One Eye Dragons. I’m smitten with the Japanese toilets with all the gadgets and warm seats – great on a cold, winter evening. I’m already transported back to Japan and happy holidays…

Our table for two (reserved well in advance) is ready so we return upstairs. The lighting is very low and although the tables are a bit small and crammed together, there’s a feeling of privacy and spaciousness due to all the decorative wooden wall dividers.

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Tuna temaki (top left), sea bream sashimi (top right), assorted sashimi, crab salad (bottom)

We’re pretty excited as we’re celebrating our anniversary. Our waiter is equally excited and talks us through every item on the menu, twice over, before eventually leaving us to read it.

The menu is split into different sections – sashimi, chilled, temaco, tempura, bento boxes, hibachi grill, classics, and noodles, with chef’s seasonal favourites (cf) helpfully marked as such in each section. For ease, you can order a tasting menu of seven plates @ £45.00 per person.

With help from our waiter we order a cold saké (36 PeopleJunmai @ £48.00) and choose our own tiny cups from a lovely saké cup selection box. Saké might be strong, and it might seem expensive but the small cups really help slow you down! It seemed like a never-ending bottle, and being cold, crisp and clean went really well with the food, cutting through the oily fish flavours nicely.

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Sake, bream sashimi and grilled miso cod

We order something from most sections of the menu:

Assorted sashimi: 6 pieces of tuna, salmon and yellowtail @ £24.00

Chilled:
– bream sashimi salad with crispy potato (cf) @ £13.00
– cornish crab salad with fried blood orange and miso dressing @ £12.00

Temaco: 2 x open tuna temaki with scallion tobiko, sushi rice, avocado + fresh wasabi @ £9 each (cf)

Tempura – karaage: fried chicken with lemon + salt @ £8 (cf)

Hibachi grill: wagyu rib-eye beef with ginger + garlic crisps @ £30

Inspired by classics: miso grilled Cornish cod, sweet soy, cod gyoza, monks beard @ £19

The sea bream sashimi salad was so carefully composed, it was almost a shame to eat. And quite difficult to share. The assorted sashimi was a stand-out dish for me. As was the Cornish crab salad which had real novelty factor with its beautiful fried, crispy blood orange arrangement.

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Wagyu beef

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Fried chicken

The design of the tuna temaki was something else – art on a plate, while the wagyu beef wasn’t particularly special, nor was the fried chicken.

We’re pretty full but we’re celebrating and can squeeze in a dessert. And so we do: a coconut rice with mango for K and an apple kakigori (inspired by tarte tatin) made of fresh apple, caramelised compote, salty caramel ice-cream, shaved ice and Calvados foam for me (both @ £9).  K’s rice pudding was served in two dishes which looked spectacular but didn’t really go together and was well, just a bit odd.

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Coconut rice dessert

The serving of the apple kakigori was also theatrical with the Calvados foam being sprayed on last, at the table. It didn’t look very appealing but once the ice shavings started melting and all the flavours started blending together, it was absolutely divine.

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Apple kakigori

The verdict: The food is innovative, fancy and pricey (our meal for two came to £249.75). That’s all part of the experience. We felt very well looked after and really enjoyed the low-lit (dark), wooden interior style. I can’t imagine rushing back here any time soon when there are numerous other Japanese restaurants in London I’ve yet to try, but this was a thoroughly good, enjoyable dining experience.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 64 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5RR
– Nearest station: Farringdon
– Website + menus: Sosharu website
– Photos on flickr: images of Sosharu food
– Location: Sosharu map

Sosharu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monohon Ramen – Japanese noodle bar on Old Street, EC1

Keeping it traditional – the tiny ramen bars specialising in chashu or slow-cooked pork belly soups that you find in neighbourhoods in Japan are rare in London. Monohon is one.

Because this noodle bar opened up near work, because I love Japanese food, and because it was recommended to me, there was absolutely no excuse but to try Monohon’s ramen one lunch time. This was my first ramen bar tasting since Ginza Bonten in Tokyo, and I was eager.

 

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Abura soba – as served

My first visit was in July 2017. I don’t think it had been open very long but it always looked full at lunchtime, so three of us went early to try and get a seat (you can’t book ahead). The only seats available were at the counter. Fine by me, no chance of slurping and splashing the person opposite’s face! A queue formed shortly after we arrived.

I had abura soba (soupless ramen) – thick, bouncy ramen noodles on a sesame-oil based ‘tare’. Toppings include spring onions, beansprouts, crispy fried shallots, slow cooked pork shoulder, marinated bamboo shoots, soft poached egg, shredded toasted seaweed, and fine strings of cayenne pepper. It’s £10.00 for regular size (pictured) or £13.50 for large.

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Abura soba – mixed up and ready to eat

Sitting at the counter, we were able to watch the staff preparing the noodles (check out the chef’s story and inspiration for opening Monohon on their website)

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Shouyu Tonkotsu – Chashu (pork belly) ramen

On a more recent visit (a cold, snowy winter’s day) I had shouyu tonkatsu – umami-infused soy sauce seasoning ‘tare’ with creamy pork bone soup, served with thin cut hosomen noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, kikurage (Chinese mushrooms) and a slice of chashu (slow cooked pork belly) @ £11 for a regular serving or £12 large. I chose regular and had an extra slice of chashu. It was absolutely gorgeous and I’ll be hard pushed not to have this again next time. And the next.

Other optional extras to go with shouyu tonkotsu include ajitsuke tamago (soft boiled egg), beni-shoga (shredded, pickled ginger), yaki nori (toasted seaweed), etc.

 

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Monohon menu

 

 

The verdict: Monohon has all the feel of a neighbourhood ramen bar in Japan, without all the reliance on an app to translate and understand the menu. At first glance it might seem like the menu is limited with only five choices; it’s probably more fair to say they stick to offering ‘house specials’. What they do, they do well. And the lunchtime queues are testament to that.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese, ramen
– Address: 102 Old St, London EC1V 9AY
– Nearest station: Old Street
– Website + menus: Monohon Ramen website
– Photos on flickr: images of Monohon Ramen food
– Location: Monohon Ramen map

 

The Wilmington – gastro pub Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell

It’s Monday morning. Still smiling and happy from a good weekend, what better way to extend that weekend feeling than with a pub lunch? 

Go on then.

OpenTable recently published a list of “London’s top 10 gastro pubs” based on diner reviews. One of them – The Wilmington – is just off Exmouth Market in the Farringdon/Clerkenwell area. It’s handy for work so I’d put it straight on LardButty’s “to try” list. And today seems like the day.

On arrival at 13:30 it’s pretty much dead, though it’s clear to see there’s a great range of craft beers on at the bar and that the pub is split into several segmented spaces for drinking or dining. We’re led to our reserved booth in a dining section by someone who seems happy to be at work.  He tells us about the specials with enthusiasm and generally makes us feel welcome and pleased to be here.

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At The Wilmington, off Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell

It’s an interesting, original menu that requires a proper read:

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We order:

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Orecchiette, peas, oyster mushrooms, romanesco and gremolata @ £11.50 

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Rosemary chips on the side @ £3.50

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Field mushrooms with garlic crumbs @ £3.50 – gorgeous

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Fritto misto – mixed seafood including king prawns, calamari, fish – with citrus aioli and crispy fennel @ £7.50

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Homely bar space with lots of craft beers on tap

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Appealing dining spaces  – wooden floors, solid wood furniture

The verdict: Excellent service, great quality gastro pub food (I’m left wanting to try more of the menu) and a variety of craft beers on offer.

More of the menu (re-visited):

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Starter portion of cod scampi with nduja aioli @ £8.00

IMG_0068b_wilmington blue cheese salad

Seasonal salad – pickled pear, chicory, candied pecans, quinoa, blue murder, celery – main course portion @ £12.00

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Duck egg and wild mushrooms on sourdough @ £8.00 + roasted root veg @ £3.50

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Artichoke ravioli @ £7.50 with rosemary chips @ £3.50

 
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IPA battered haddock and chips having a whale of a time, March 2018 

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: pub, gastro-pub, British, international
– Address: 69 Rosebery Ave, London
– Postcode: EC1R 4RL
– Nearest station: Farringdon, Angel
– Website + menus: The Wilmington pub website
– Photos on flickr: The Wilmington pub images
– Location: The Wilmington pub map

The Wilmington Arms Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Polpo Italian tapas – Smithfield EC1M

Italian sharing plates in an informal, cosy setting – Smithfield, Farringdon branch

Part of the same restaurant group as Mishkin’s (Jewish style deli) with a similarly styled simple menu, Polpo serves Italian tapas. It’s all about sharing simple, good quality food and wine in a humble environment.

After meeting friends after work last night in a busy pub by Farringdon station (packed and we couldn’t hear ourselves talk) we decided to look for somewhere – less rammed and noisy – to eat. Polpo on Cowcross Street by Smithfield Market seemed calm and relaxing.

 

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Grilled focaccia @ £3.00

 

We ordered a bottle of cold, sparkling prosecco, which seemed wholly appropriate for a warm summer evening (although, I’ve no idea when it’s not appropriate to drink prosecco…) and a few plates to share between the four of us.

 

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Polpo menu – Italian ‘tapas’

 

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Fritto misto @ £9.00 – calamari (squid) rings, octopus, prawns

 

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Lamb meatballs @ 7.00

 

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Arancini (front) – stuffed rice balls coated in bread crumbs and deep fried, two balls @ £8.00
Crab linguine (back) @ £9.00

 

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Courgette salad @ £5.00

 

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Milan style breaded chicken @ £7.00

 

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Inside Polpo

 

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Outside Polpo – on Cowcross Street by Smithfield Market

 

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Nutella pizzetta @ £6.00

 

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Panna cotta @ £5.00

 

 

The verdict: No frills, no fuss. It’s all about simplicity and good food, with good service too. Our meal for four – including two bottles of prosecco and desserts or liquid desserts (liqueurs) came to £171 (about £43 a head).

 

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Italian tapas
– Address: 3 Cowcross Street, Smithfield, London
– Postcode: EC1M 6DR
– Nearest station: Farringdon, Barbican
– Website + menus: Polpo website
– Photos on flickr: Polpo images
– Location: Polpo map 
Polpo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Granger & Co – Clerkenwell

International dishes with an Australian twist in a relatively peaceful, green location

Looking at Granger & Co from leafy St. James’s church garden over the road, this feels more like a village green than the middle of London:

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Granger & Co – Clerkenwell

Zooming out a little, this photo shows the sculptural installation of bird boxes (created by London Fieldworks for Clerkenwell Design Week 2011 to reflect the surrounding architecture – more info here) in St. James’s church garden:

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There was a time a few years ago when it seemed like Australian chef, Bill Granger was never off the TV, particularly the Saturday morning food programmes. And Granger & Co is his London chain of restaurants – there are three at Kings Cross, Notting Hill and Clerkenwell.

There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the lunch menuwhich offers small plates (from courgette chips to goats cheese and flatbread to crispy squid or Korean fried chicken), mini pizzas, sandwiches and burgers and some interesting salads as well as ‘classics’ (like scrambled eggs and sourdough toast), bowls and grains (puy lentils, broth and brown rice) and big plates (such as belly pork, crispy duck or fish curry).

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Bondi salad bowl 

The Bondi salad bowl @ £12.50 is a mix of buckwheat, quinoa, golden beetroot, courgette, tamari pepitas, goat’s yoghurt, feta and rose harissa which gives it a subtle spicy kick. Not your average ‘salad’ by any means. It’s just gorgeous.

 

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Courgette fritters and halloumi – a big plate

The courgette fritters and halloumi dish is a ‘big plate’ option @ £11.80, served with siyez (wheat) and shredded kale salad and zhoug (green chilli sauce). Another great dish, once the blanket of coriander is removed.

 

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Lunchtime menu – as of August 2016

 

The verdict: The Clerkenwell branch is in a relatively green and peaceful location for the city. Interesting salad options and fresh juices too. Not cheap but worth a visit.

 

More of the menu

October 2016

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Crispy duck, clementine, star anise, brown rice and citrus salad – a main course of a 3-course set menu @ £29.95

 

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Chilli miso salmon, hot and sour aubergine, herb salad and brown rice – a main course dish from a 3-course set menu

 

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Pistachio pavlova, fresh passion fruit and yoghurt cream – perfect meringue, gorgeous!

 

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Sambal chicken salad – green papaya, coriander, peanuts, Thai basil, chargrilled spring onion @ £13.50

 

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Scrambled eggs on sourdough toast – light and fluffy eggs @ £8.20

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: International, Australian
– Address: 50 Sekforde St, Clerkenwell, London
– Postcode: EC1R 0HA
– Nearest station: Farringdon
– Website + menus: Granger & Co website
– Photos on flickr: Granger & Co images
– Location: Granger & Co Clerkenwell map

Granger & Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sun cafe on busy A1 – Clerkenwell

The Sun on the busy A1 – Goswell Road – in Clerkenwell looks like something of a transport caff from outside; fairly unappealing with its garish signage and menu posters plastered on the windows.

But venture in and the service is speedy and friendly. On my lunchtime visits, it’s been apparent that the patrons know many of their regulars and welcome everyone regardless. And the food is more bistro style than greasy spoon.

 

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Halloumi salad

 

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Poached eggs on toast

I ordered a salad as a healthy(ish) option. At about £6.00 this was great value given the variety of  ingredients and large plate full. The halloumi and dips were spot on too. That said, I had food envy looking at those poached eggs, cooked to wibbly perfection – ready to spill their yolks.

 

The verdict: Good value cafe with an extensive brunch and lunch menu including sandwiches, burgers, omelettes and jacket potatoes and a range of salads. Get there early if you want a table at lunchtime.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: British, greasy spoon
– Address: 55-63 Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, London
– Postcode: EC1V 7EN
– Nearest station: Barbican
– Photos on flickr: Sun Cafe images
– Location: Sun cafe map

 

Sun Cafe & Sandwich Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Jerusalem Tavern – Clerkenwell

I haven’t eaten here (yet!) but the Jerusalem Tavern deserves a mention in the Lardbutty index. I popped in here yesterday – about 6pm – while walking through Clerkenwell to Darbucka and it was packed, though it is a small venue.

It’s interestingly quaint – very battered and higgledy-piggledy – and the building dates from the 1720s, reputed to have been the site of an early city coffee shop. When you step through the heavy front door, it feels more like you’ve entered someone’s front room in an old house than a pub.

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There’s a great range of real ales, brewed by St Peter’s Brewery, and an appealing menu. And, it’s a Time Out Critics Choice.

Venue info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: British, pub
~ Address: 55 Britton Street, Clerkenwell, London
~ Postcode: EC1M 5UQ
~ Tel: 020 7490 4281
~ Nearest tube station: Farringdon
~ Website St Peters Brewery – Jerusalem Tavern
~ Location: Jerusalem map

Jerusalem Tavern on Urbanspoon