Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Larder - Good enough too last?

What with Wagamama vouchers in Time Out, the tastelondon card in my wallet and toptable high in my list of internet favourites, opportunities for discounted noshing are plentiful. The downside is that when I do end up going somewhere full price, the experience is always slightly tarnished by that slightly ripped off feeling. This was certainly true of the Loft - a new bar/bakery/eaterie on St John Street whose list of main courses starts with the crisp pork belly for a hefty £17.50. The place is all wooden tables and tea lights, with freshly made bread at a counter in the back (judging by the olive offering I picked from the bread basket, the doughy stuff is nice, but nothing overly special). The service was very friendly, voluntarily topping up the tap water (from a rather beautiful glass jug), bringing an after-thought order of crispy thick cut chips in a couple of minutes, apologising profusely for having run out of mayonnaise. In the interest of frugality we stuck to main courses. The aforementioned pork-belly was indeed very crisp, and melt in the mouth tender. It was gleefully lapped up by its orderer, though I thought the Chinese-y sauce was overpowering. The salmon was also nicely done and apparently the ravioli with which it came was delicious (and wolfed down before I got the chance to sample any - humph). My wild mushroom pancake with three different types of cheese was pretty much the cheapest thing on the menu at £9.50. It was plumply stuffed with a great selection of forest fungi, but their delicate flavours were sadly drowned in a cheese sauce that tasted strongly of unadvertised mustard. The sauce went very well with the chips though. Add a beer each from a list which pleasingly features a couple of bottled ales (£4.50) and London Pride on tap (£3.50), and the bill for the three of us weighed in at £65. A bit much, I thought, for one course and a drink in a casual place. Perhaps this fact, combined with the abundance of other eateries in the area (some of them truly outstanding) explained why only about four other tables were occupied. It was a Tuesday night, but we couldn't help wondering whether the Larder would survive on Clerkenwell's fickle restaurant scene. So we resolved to return - as long as there is a special offer or someone else offers to foot the bill, of course.

The Larder, 91-93 St. John St, EC1M 4NU; Tel. 020 76081558; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon

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