The Modern Pantry, the upmarket bistro in Farringdon, opened to such good reviews I forgot to go. It was a dead cert. Beautiful use of everyday ingredients influenced by global cuisines from the woman who brought us one of London’s best fusion restaurants, Providores. I spent five years looking forward to actually going I didn’t actually actually go. Last week I put the record straight. But after such a time, would it still feel modern?
The restaurant takes up a neat little corner of St John’s Square, with a whitewashed café on street level and more formal dining upstairs. It was opened by Anna Hanson, of Danish descent but who grew up in New Zealand. The Danish side is most obvious in the design: whitewashed floorboards, bare white tables and simple white flowers. It’s feminine but the lack of frills or soft furnishings make it a kind of feminine that goes surfing before work. Good to catch up with friends or the nailing down of clients.
The menu is where the guts of the place are, a hearty spread of prime cuts and fish each with an Asian sparkle. The steak is marinated in miso, the pulled pork is served on coconut bread, and the cod is satay. Our sugar-cured prawn omelette was, as so widely reported, good, but a little overpowered by a chilli sambal, that fish-intense paste that so easily runs any other flavor out of town.
The pork belly was juicy and crunchy, with a sumac sauce that added a lovely warm bit of lemon, and golden beetroot, a feminine touch but so tasty it had muscle. There was only one vegetarian dish, of caramelised celery, pickled white peach salsa and purple potatoes. The restaurant may be white but Hanson packs a colour punch with the food.
She learnt under Fergus Henderson, the godfather of nose-to-tail eating, after washing dishes at The French House in Soho. In 2001 she opened the award-winning Providores with Peter Gordon leaving in 2005 to work on her second album as it were, The Modern Pantry, then an MBE to follow. Her rise has been fast, and after a confident, interesting and tasty lunch, this place is still at the top of its game, modern for so long it has matured into a classic. Don’t leave it as long as I did to enjoy.
by Vicky Paterson
The Modern Pantry now has an online shop, selling oils, spices and pastes, from out there smoked aubergine relish, confit watermelon rind and black garlic to staples such as jams, granola and coffee.
47-48 St John’s Square
T: 020 7553 9210