Something for the weekend: Brunch at The Modern Pantry

Everyday ingredients are combined with the unusual – offering an exciting induction into the ritual of brunch

I thought brunch was just a clever combinations of words; close cousin and confidant of dunch; it was breakfast meets lunch, a neat little word that made stretching and snuggling in your duvet for two extra hours and having your breakfast after 9am OK.

It was the two fingers to the hotels that finished serving toast just too early. It wasn’t, however, something real, and it certainly wasn’t a whole new eating concept. Or so I thought.

Cue my discovery of the wonderful world of brunch. I’m not sure who to thank for it. It was probably the Americans, although the skills and passion with which the antipodeans seem to have picked it up often leaves me wondering if it was an invention from Down Under.

Either way, brunch is marvellous and about so much more than eggs past 9am. Oh so much more.

My most recent mid-morning sojourn to eggsville was to The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell (a regular player in the Time Out list). It is snuggled back off the main road, on the contemporary yet somehow warm and welcoming St John’s Square. Warm and welcoming was no mean feat considering the torrential downpour we found ourselves running through.

Once inside and safely at our table, we were attended to by a friendly efficiency that is sometimes lost during the weekend scramble (pardon the pun). The inside is exactly how you might imagine a trendy country kitchen to look – not too kitsch or over-adorned.  

My brunch buddy and I sat in the window – she with a lovely view of the raindrops bouncing off the flagstones; me with a view straight into the semi-open kitchen. Quite a treat watching the chefs work – managing to appear effortless – which doubtless is wasn’t.

The Modern Pantry is run by chef-owner Anna Hansen, a Canadian born, New Zealand raised former-protégée of Peter Gordon (previously of Sugar Club, presently The Providores and Kopapa). The connection has not been abandoned as Hansen pursues a similar fusion-inspired romp through ingredients that one expects from Gordon.

A bunch of plantains (could be misconstrued as bananas to the untrained eye) resting on the pass were a subtle giveaway to the adventurous ingredients coming out of the kitchen.

Cassava and coconut waffles

Cassava and coconut waffles

Having bypassed the healthy smoothies and ordered a glass of Prosecco (it’s the divine right of the bruncher to dabble in pre-noon alcohol without raising an eyebrow), I leaped into the flavour abyss and ordered coconut and cassava waffles with maple syrup and bacon.

My slightly less adventurous friend ordered two poached eggs on toasted English muffin with smoked streaky bacon and yuzu Hollandaise. Yuzu, we discover, is a Japanese citrus fruit used to give the Hollandaise some kick.

In we delved and it was fabulous. My only minor grievance was that the waffles could have been more coconuty; a mere smudge on the polished plate of delightfulness that was The Modern Pantry.

I may have had a slow start but I have embraced the concept of brunch wholeheartedly. If you haven’t done so yet, I compel you to. Go forth and brunch my friends, for it is a rewarding treat.


The Suitometer: LLB’s quick guide to sleeping and dining in the capital

Would brunch at The Modern Pantry….

  • inspire a productive business meeting? Yes. The music is not too loud, there are large tables to spread out over and the coffee is amazing.
  • impress the boss when everything else has failed? Perhaps not. The cafe downstairs is a little too casual. There’s a formal dining room upstairs but I haven’t checked it out.
  • break the ice with those awkward clients? Yes. The food is an interesting conversation point and the atmosphere is friendly.
  • sufficiently blow your bonus and make you feel like a king? Not really. It’s all a bit too laid back.
  • provide the right setting for an all-important first date? Yes. The exotic menu will make you look and feel like a seasoned foodie (maybe do some research first).

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