'Mint' means Quality, in East London slang Innovation and Variety in Clerkenwell

182-186 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1 4JZ

Prior to arriving in person, I took look at the web site of the Mint Bar and Restaurant and saw the claim, “One of the finest restaurants in Clerkenwell”. Not such an amazing claim, I thought. How difficult could it be in an area that I remembered as fairly run down?

Upstairs Dining Area & Bar As we walked up St John Street, those memories, of sixteen years ago, were swiftly eroded. The further we progressed, I could see that I would have to reconsider my opinions first formed whilst searching out dubious public houses to serve individuals of my questionable age.

Clerkenwell has developed into an area with a vibrant nightlife and a multitude of restaurants, wine bars and pubs to cater for all tastes. This is not the St John Street of old!

We easily found the Mint on the corner of St John Street and Compton Road, and arrived to a warm welcome. The entrance, which leads directly into the main bar, has an open, warm and comfortable feeling, created with bright pastel-colored walls and the intelligent use of downward lighting. Around the perimeter of the room, on a raised level, the restaurant area provides comfortable and generously spaced seating. Downstairs is another bar and lounge that caters comfortably for large private parties.

For a starter, I followed our waiter’s recommendation and opted for the Warm Salad of New Potatoes, Fine Beans, Shallots and grilled Halloumi. Having never tried grilled Halloumi cheese before, it intrigued me. It proved to be well suited to grilling, and with the combination of the new potatoes, shallots (that had either been gently roasted or sautéed in olive oil) created a mix of flavours to compliment the curd cheese that just drifted over the palate.

Downstairs Party Scene Wally chose the sautéed Pigeon breast, Wok fried Celeriac salad and Balsamic Plum dressing for starter and was thoroughly impressed by the gamy taste and the powerful plum dressing that accompanied it.

For the main course, I very nearly chose my old favourite of fillet of beef. Instead, to be more adventurous, I chose the Cassoulet of Guinea Fowl, Black Pudding, Olives, Toulouse Sausage and Chick Peas, which certainly proved to be a wonderful choice. The guinea fowl, black pudding and Toulouse sausage, cooked slowly together, created a big hearty meal of delicious flavours. The black pudding had hints of garlic from the Toulouse sausage and just melted away in the mouth.

Wally chose the Blue Fin Tuna steak, with coconut, Chilli and Lemongrass risotto and Tamarind salsa. The tuna was a great success and was perfectly presented, as were all the courses. Never a great fish fan, Wally found the fish paste flavour in the Risotto a little too strong for his palate. Though I could understand Wal's point of view, I found the risotto held a startling combination of inovative tastes. The lemon gave it an initial citrus flavour which after dissipating unmasked a sharpness (from the combination of tamarind and fish paste) that will be enjoyed greatly by lovers of anchovies and Thai cooking.

Dessert was a Lemon Tart, with the finest of caramel glaze creating a deep golden colour. The light taste of lemon citrus with the slight hint of caramel, accompanied by cold lemon ice cream provided a refreshing lift, which was very welcome after the hearty Cassoulet and ended a completely satisfying meal.

Wine Flight Sampler Both the food and the environment at the Mint deserve recommendation, but several other items came to light that we must highlight.

First, something that should make this venue very popular are the wine flights. With these, for £6, you purchase five 50ml classes of wine from almost the entire wine list. It is an excellent way of choosing a bottle of wine for your meal and led us to an excellent St Francis Zinfandel (1997).

Second, the spirits, a wide selection of malts, rums, vodkas and cocktails guarantee this as an ideal venue for a night out.

As for the Mint, being “one of the finest in Clerkenwell”, they certainly get my vote.

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-Midnight, Sat 6pm-Midnight
Happy Hour: 2 for 1, Mon-Fri 5pm-7pm
Private Parties for up to 300

Meal for 2 with wine, £45
Monday Dinner Special: 50% discount (call for details)

Tel: 0207-253-8368
Fax: 0207-253-8371
Tube: Farringdon

Email Reservations
Mint Web Site

Adam Nelis & Wally Robertson, January, 2001

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