Peasant, London EC1
A gastropub that has retained its Victorian pub heritage
Peasant is located in the Northern
end of St John Street, nearer to
The Angel than to Smithfield. It's
a notable contributor to the revival
of Clerkenwell which now has a number
of excellent eateries including Moro,
the Clerkenwell Dining Room, Le Café du
Marche and of course the eponymous
St John. This grand Victorian pub
has been updated in a very sympathetic
manner, the bar at street level is
more comfortable, thanks to a scattering
of sofas and a blazing fire, but
the original pub atmosphere hasn't
been lost. Upstairs is the restaurant,
which you might not realise is there.
The walls are adorned with circus
posters and memorabilia and there's
a wonderful old baker's table to
provide both a focal point and a
useful station for the waiting staff.
chef is Giancarlo Vatteroni, who
was responsible for the inauguration
of the kitchens at nearby Moro and
also the Lighthouse at the opposite
end of town in Wimbledon Village.
He's a very international sort of
chef, so you might only find the
occasional Italian dish (the night
we visited there was pannacotta,
and an antipasto misto) included
in his robust menu. It changes quite
frequently and I therefore missed
out on January starters of pot roast
hare and steamed baby octopus.
we began with "Warm roasted
cauliflower and piquillo pepper salad,
kalamata olive dressing and shaved
parmesan" - yes, Giancarlo gives
you the full shopping list, whose
ingredients made an agreeable enough
melange. Rather more outstanding
was the "Organic salmon tempura
with avocado, fermented barley dressing
and crispy red onion rings".
The avocado purée base was perhaps
a little over spiced, but the tempura
was light and dry, and the salmon
was perfectly timed and the onion
rings really were "crispy".
It was a world away from the more
usual pub fish, chips and onion rings,
where "battered" truly
means abused. With our starters
we tried various glasses of white
wine, including a very crisp Sauvignon
de Touraine and a gutsy white Rioja
from Bodegas Muerza.
guest wanted to try the "Pan-fried
free range chicken breast with chorizo
and sweet potato mash and Gai Lan".
Our charming Spanish waitress explained
that Gai Lan is Chinese broccoli.
The chicken was tender and contributed
some of its own flavour rather than
being merely a vehicle for appliqué flavours.
The roast wild Scottish venison is
a stunning dish - don't miss
out on it if it's still on the menu
when you go to The Peasant. The thick,
pink succulent slices of Bambi come
on a bed of confit aubergine, given
extra flavour and texture with raisins
and pine nuts and a few dried cranberries
for addtional piquancy. I enjoyed
every mouthful. This was partnered
with a fruity Provencal red from
the Domaine de Triennes, which at £20.00
is halfway up the price range of
a carefully chosen list that starts
at £11.75 and contains some 25 wines
to choose from under £25.00.
felt duty bound to sample Giancarlo's
pannacotta, which was dark with tell-tale
vanilla seeds and tasted really good.
My guest was intrigued by the thought
of "Italy attacks, Cold Fusion
and Space Junk", apparently
the latest in cool ice cream, but
suddenly he suffered an English attack
of chauvinism which could only be
cured by a comforting plate of Neal's
Yard British cheeses with toasted
sour dough and walnuts.
wish I had such a good local pub
that offered an interesting well
executed menu, plus a fantastic Sunday
brunch with as much black pudding,
corned beef hash cake and haddock
kedgeree as you can throw a rolled
up Sunday supplement at. The Peasant
certainly enhances life in Clerkenwell.
price guide: Starters £4.50 - £7.40;
Mains £9.50 - £ £15.80 (for the venison);
Puds mostly £4.70
Bar prices start at £1.90 for light bites, to around £7.00 for platters to
share, and £9.50 for a chef's dish of "slow cooked pork belly on soft
polenta with black eye bean, cavolo nero and potato" (shopping lists provided
Mould February 2005
Peasant, 240 St John Street, London
020 7336 7726
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org -
Their website has details of location
and latest menus, events etc: www.thepeasant.co.uk