Review: Strut & Cluck

 banquettes & dining bar

You don’t need to be partial to poultry to dine at Strut & Cluck. Zoë Perrett discovers that there’s much more to this Eastern Med restaurant than the moniker suggests…

Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest idea to book dinner directly after a three-hour Ice Cream Ecstasy Tour, but opting to make the journey from Covent Garden to East London on foot has certainly restored our appetites to optimum level.

After removing three or so layers, I appear rather more at home in Strut & Cluck’s decidedly Mediterranean-feeling dining room. Distressed off-white wood, mismatched chairs, rope-strung lanterns, and an abundance of greenery tumbling from haphazardly-hung hanging baskets all call to mind Santorini, not Shoreditch – a welcome break from that so-modish industrial chic.

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Many restaurants attempt to play on the ‘family-run’ angle with schtick that comes over as trite or disingenuous, but here, the atmosphere that husband-and-wife team Amir and Limor Chen have created feels entirely organic. And it’s a big part of why dining here proves to be such a pleasure.

Cocktails (credited to ‘our friend Mauritzio Sarria’) lubricate our pre-order pondering – a Rosemary On Fire Sour for me; a When Basil Met Ginger for The Snapper. After all that ice cream, we save ourselves a couple of calories by refusing olives and crispy chickpeas, and dive right on in.

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Strut & Cluck’s menu is made up of small plates and salads, mains, and a small selection of the turkey-based dishes that first made (and indeed inspired) a name for the restaurant. Although we feel obliged to sample something from the latter category, it’s really everything else that catches our eye.

I love the stinging astringency of the crispy squid with sumac mayo that The Snapper declares too vinegary for his liking, but we agree the scattering of crisp kale leaves is a good move. Fluffy charred pitta conveys smoky aubergine dip, tahini, and zesty, herbal zhoug from bowl to mouth; feta fritters offer a welcome salty hit; and ‘Far East Middle East’  lettuce cups prove that chef Limor does indeed know her way around a turkey.

And a piece of steak, for that matter. Thinly-slivered tagliata is a perfect medium-rare and deeply umami – a quality further enhanced by a pile of crisped cavolo nero leaves and a slick of burnt onion puree. It’s a thumbs-up for the textural contrast a sprinkle of crisp chickpeas lends our lamb koftas and hummus, although the dish favours cumin rather more than The Snapper and I do.

As its ingredients suggest, a fennel, kalamata olive, orange, dill and chilli salad is a refreshing little number. We’re less enamoured with one of Strut & Cluck’s most heavily-praised dishes – charred cauliflower with lemony creme fraiche, pomegranate molasses and seeds – whose flavours are well judged, but which needs more char and less boil.

With our bottle of Lebanese white empty, we order a couple of glasses of something sticky to accompany good puds. The sweetness of chocolate mousse cake is countered by a nutty-bitter halva ripple, and the friable crunch of kadayif pastry gives way to a cloud-like dollop of vanilla cheesecake cream. Our exit walk might be more waddle than strut, but we’ve had a lovely time.

Where: 151-153 Commercial Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6BJ
Reservations: Click here to book or phone 020 7078 0770

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