Sister restaurant to the much loved Modern Pantry of Clerkenwell, this younger sibling is sassy and glamorous and all grown up.
Good food from the Antipodes is not well represented in London. Peter Gordon from Providores led the Antipodean push into London with Marylebone stalwart, Providores back in 2001. More recently Granger and Co (see my review here) and Skye Gyngell’s new opening, Spring from last year (see review here) have titillated those seeking Australian and New Zealand food sensibilities. But there hasn’t really been a massive takeover of London kitchens by chefs from ‘down-under’.
Anna Hansen’s new Modern Pantry, Finsbury Square, is set to pop Australasian cooking back on London’s culinary map. Fresh and exciting with loads of zing and bouncy flavours, her food is typically Antipodean; playful and refreshing.
The soft-shelled crab with shoaxing is full flavoured and coated in a gorgeous crispy Chinese wrapper giving it a wonderful textural contrast. The seared diver caught scallop features some of Anna’s classic ingredients such as a ponzu butter and caramelised shallot dusted wild rice. It is a gorgeous starter, but at over £10 for a solo scallop I thought it was a little on the exey side. The confit duck leg with star anise marinated black fig, pickled pink onion and grilled endive salad was better value at around £7. The fig was particularly lovely with liquorice and aniseed notes playing nicely against the generous duck meat. The quail was also fabulous nestling on a bed of piquant kohlrabi and moistened by a gorgeous unctuous jus,
Mains like the amchur and fenugreek marinated lamb rump continue to play with some of Anna’s trademark Asian ingredients. The squid ink coated cod is beautifully cooked and fun, though, as Ian from Great British Bakeoff said on a recent episode “black food is hard to make visually appealing”. Agreed.
Desserts are capital D Divine and excellent value at under £7. The donut flavourings are extraordinary; urfa chilli sugar, tamarind marmalade and pistachio. The chocolate fondant is sublime.
The interiors deserve a review in their own right. Grand and elegant. Light and welcoming. The hand blown lights are exquisite and I was very much aware than my derrière was nestling into several hundred pounds worth of chairage. This is no cheap dude-food toilet block make over. Modern Pantry, Finsbury Square is a quality fit out which transports you ‘elsewhere’, making you feel flush, if only for a few hours. Just what a restaurant interior should do.
I have a soft spot for Antipodean food and Anna Hansen does this cuisine well. People sometimes ask me how it differs from other cuisines, and if, in fact Antipodean food is a cuisine in its own right. Until I moved to London (from Australia) I didn’t think there was such a cuisine, but when I see it executed well it reminds me how special it is. I guess in essence it’s ‘fusion’ food. It plays with ingredients and techniques from the Asia Pacific rim, but melds them gently with British/European produce in a way that’s not bald or contrived. It’s fresh and bright and zingy.
Having launched the original Modern Pantry in 2008, Anna Hansen’s empire expansion has been slow. But importantly, it’s been thoughtful and considered and the proof is very much in this rather exquisite pudding. Well worth the wait.
Modern Pantry Finsbury Square
14-18 Finsbury Square
ph: 020 3696 6565
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