Workshop Coffee/Clerkenwell Café.

by Nick Harman - Monday February 1, 2016 11:02 am

27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN www.workshopcoffee.com

Unable to get a data signal, Nick is forced to concentrate on his food and finds a good light lunch at a fair price.

‘I’m sorry, we don’t have Wi-Fi, ‘says the waitress. I reel back in shock, who doesn’t have Wi-Fi these days, especially any place that has ‘coffee’ in its name? This is really bad news because the cellular signal in here is down to all but zero, so I won’t be able to avoid conversation with my companion by staring at my phone all through lunch, as is the modern way.

I suppose it discourages table-blocking men with beards and Apple laptops though, the ones pretending be writing screenplays while making one small coffee last three hours, but even so it does seem an odd thing to skimp on.

I’d want to spend time in the coffee area downstairs myself, if I had nothing better to do, it’s very coolly designed and laid out, right down the massive coffee grinder squatting Leviathan-like at the back that backs up their offer of being coffee sourcers, roasters and wholesalers. The food on the bar has cutesy hand-written signs and is bang on trend and looks pretty tasty, with everything from breakfast to dinner available.

Upstairs is a proper dining area, with bare brick walls, orangey lamps and everything else that’s hip at the moment. Still no mobile signal, though, as I discover to my disappointment when we sit down.

Still the menu is strong, the sort of minimal and simple approach that works well for lunch. Not too many choices to faff over, easy to order and apparently seasonal and local, although the latter claim seems odd. Not many farms around Clerkenwell any more.

We get served tap water, in the American way, without having to ask, which is good but it’s lukewarm which isn’t. No one seems to be drinking anything else, which is kind of odd. Have we all become teetotal at lunch time?

Anyhoo, a heritage beetroot salad with watercress and anchovies is clean, fresh and bright, the colourful beets are al dente, the quails’ eggs just right and the anchovy is not from a tin. A bit of bread would have been nice, though.

C has confit pork belly, two pieces, and feels a third would not have broken the restaurant’s budget and would have looked more interesting on the plate, which seemed a bit empty. Still the crackling was fine and not too much fatty fat with the sweet apple working well, as it always does, with the pork.

There then followed rather a long gap, not great at any time but particularly irksome at lunchtime. This was not apologised for or explained, so we sipped our warm water and tried to make conversation. A bit of Wi-Fi would have been most welcome at this point.

Still the stuffed chicken thigh was overall worth waiting for. Stuffed with kale and generous amounts of heady tarragon plus parsley and lemon, it lacked a bit of textural interest but punched hard with flavours. The white bean ragu had the mouth feel of beans properly cooked from dried and not mush from a tin, but there could have been more of them to my mind.

A chestnut and parnsip (sic) tarte tatin was a simple idea well executed, rich and puffy and heavy with shallot compote. This was just the right size for a lunch portion, being filling enough but not so much as to send the eater asleep at her desk in the afternoon; I know because I watched. Rosemary salted fries were crispy and clearly homemade, but neither of us spotted any rosemary flavour about them.

And to end a cardamom-baked pear with a chocolate crumb, which was excellent, the pear butter soft all the way round, and a stem ginger semifreddo with roasted pistachio, again a well turned out slice of dessert.

Overall, a good well-priced place for light casual eating. I do think they could get in some Wi-Fi though.

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