“MODERN comes from the Latin term modernus; pertaining to, or characteristic of the current period. It conjures up the excitement of something new, fresh and original.
PANTRY comes from the Latin word panis, meaning bread. A pantry is a cupboard or room which houses the necessities of life…
Together, these two words embody The Modern Pantry’s philosophy: the desire to please and excite the palate by fusing everyday cooking with modern ingredients.”
The first time I went, I have to admit that I really wasn’t blown away. There are two branches in London both close to each other, near Old Street. They both have slightly different menus and I’d chosen the one in Clerkenwell. It’s the bigger of the two and it has a ground floor cafe which is perfect for brunch – open, relaxed and modern – as well as private dining rooms on higher floors. Looking back now (and having been a second time – to the Finsbury Square location), I can’t understand what I disliked so much about it – they put a modern twist on all of their dishes with a number of unique things that I hadn’t seen elsewhere or wouldn’t know how to make myself.
They have an extensive menu and they serve all of the classic brunch options as well as a variety of more exciting options – a few dishes which I want to go back and try include the coconut and cassava waffle with pineapple and thyme salsa, coconut yogurt and bacon, the Persian chicken burger with coconut and black sesame labneh, gooseberry relish and amchur salt dusted chips or the sweetcorn, feta, Medjool date & spring onion waffle with smoked bacon and maple syrup. I love trying new things, and too often when I go for brunch, I find myself getting drawn in by my bog-standard favourites such as porridge, avocado and eggs. As a compromise, I decided to go for two savoury dishes (which could be a first and last for me!) – one was a more classic dish with a twist and the other was something I’d never usually choose. To start with I went for the tea smoked salmon with two poached eggs, English muffin, yuzu hollandaise, hazelnut & macadamia dukkah – a traditional dish with a lovely twist.
Strangely I don’t remember the salmon being as overwhelmingly salty as the one I most recently had at Finsbury Square. Maybe the creaminess of the hollandaise took away the edge but I remember really enjoying it, especially (surprisingly) the hollandaise. I’m not actually a huge fan of hollandaise, but I love yuzu, and this sauce was subtly flavoured with the most beautifully refreshing yuzu flavour.
I surprised myself when I ordered the Rendang mince on toast with a deep fried egg and chilli lime dressing as this is definitely not usually something that I would even consider. As I’ve said so many times, I’m not a fan of Asian food and it definitely isn’t something I’d eat for breakfast, but I was intrigued by it and I knew it would be something that I wouldn’t be able to try elsewhere. I really enjoyed it – the flavours and spices were tasty without being overwhelming, the deep fried egg was certainly something different (and clever) and it was a modern and less greasy take on what I imagine is served from many street food stalls in and around London. My only criticism would be that I would have preferred the toast on the side, as the toast went soggy and the whole dish became a little sloppy but I imagine that a lot of people would prefer it that way!
To be honest, I don’t remember the coffee very well. They use Caravan beans though, so I can only assume that their coffees have that distinctive ‘fruity’ and bittersweet taste that all coffee shops using Caravan beans seem to have. I’ve tried and tried to get to like it, particularly as Caravan beans are so popular and so widely used over London but I just don’t. They do have Bon Soy milk though, which in my opinion is by far the best milk to make soya lattes/flat whites with 🙂
After quite a while, I decided to give this place another go, as I looked online again at the menu and everything looked so appealing. I decided to go for the Finsbury Square location the second time and I think that one is my favourite. In my opinion it has the better menu, and the dining area is a lot bigger, featuring both a restaurant and a tapas bar. The restaurant is modern, high-ceilinged and whitewashed, which makes it feel incredibly spacious even when it gets busy.
When I go out with my friends, I tend to eat a lot less than when I go out with my boyfriend.. as I’m always so conscious of how much more I eat than them.. and it’s kind of awkward to be the only one wanting a two or three course brunch! But there was so much choice here that I went for it anyway, and I’m so glad that I did!
I started off with something sweet. Thanks to their unique twists on common brunch dishes, I got to order porridge but made completely differently to how I would ever make it at home. When I eat porridge at home I only ever use oats (not that I’m complaining as I love them), but I love how creative some restaurants get with using different grains in their porridge bowls. I ordered the warm amaranth and chia seed porridge with coconut blossom roast banana, black sesame and coconut yogurt and it was delicious. The texture of the amaranth and chia seed blend was perfect and the sweetness of the caramelised bananas was incredible with the creaminess of the coconut yogurt. The whole dish was presented beautifully too.. almost too beautiful to eat – I definitely won’t try and recreate that at home as I’m sure it wouldn’t compare, though every time I look at the photos I get a huge craving for the caramelised bananas!
For my second course I got two poached eggs with tea smoked salmon, slow-roast tomatoes and buttered mushrooms. In hindsight this probably wasn’t the wisest choice given what other interesting items were on the menu but I can’t help but love the (not very original) but incredibly good combination of salmon, eggs and toast. Plus I was determined to have poached eggs, since I still can’t make them myself (though after a couple of failed attempts ages ago I haven’t even tried to be fair!). The waitress did warn me that the tea smoked salmon wasn’t like traditional smoked salmon but it was still a lot worse than I was expecting. I didn’t remember that I’d ordered it the first time I went, but I definitely think I would have remembered (and made a mental note never to order it again!) if it had tasted like this! It was a decent sized slab of salmon fillet, but it was the saltiest thing I have ever eaten. Smoked salmon is usually quite salty but this honestly tasted like eating pure salt.. I hate wasting food but I seriously struggled to finish it. Even piling it up with eggs, toast and mushrooms couldn’t drown out the overwhelming saltiness. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it, though I did try my friend’s crispy halloumi, buttered spinach and lemongrass roast vine ripened tomatoes and that was a far better combination.
I finished with the hazelnut and tonka bean croissant and a fresh mint tea. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I probably have higher standards than most for pastries, as I love them and I’ve had some seriously good ones but this wasn’t one that I’d recommend. It was slightly sticky on top, as if it had been left in a sticky glaze for too long. There were a few toasted hazelnuts on top but other than that there wasn’t even the most subtle of hints of hazelnut either in the filling or topping. The whole pastry lacked flavour as a whole really – it was crispy rather than flaky on the outside, a little soggy (in a bad, artificially syrup-soaked kind of way) on the inside and generally a bit of a disappointment.
Overall I guess I have mixed feelings about this place. I love the place itself and the decor, I love their menu and their unique dishes. I’ve had some incredible food from there and I’ve definitely made some poor choices but I’m aware that I’ve made a few negative comments and I do think that the quality of some of their food isn’t quite as good as I’d hoped. It wouldn’t be my first choice of brunch place but it’s certainly one of the more individual places and I am going to go back again to try their doughnuts, more brunch items and maybe even some tapas 🙂
Would I recommend it? Yes
Worth going out of your way for? Probably not
Would I go back? Yes