Just as we began to nibble on our superior bread basket at The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell, a hubbub arose in St John's Square. A small bus pulled up, ejecting an immaculately dressed blonde bombshell and scruffy rock star, pursued by a horde of photographers.
With its huge windows overlooking Zetter Townhouse, The Modern Pantry is perfectly placed for people watching. And, if you happen to be there without obliging celebs, the interior isn't too shabby either: minimalist white with painted brickwork, and warmed by hanging copper lamps. The outdoor area is more fanciful, with fairy light-strung trees; upstairs is a more formal restaurant with rooms for private hire.
To the backdrop of the Bombshell stepping in — and then out — of a black cab, repeatedly, and to the obvious delight of the photographers, we began our feast. We started well, too — my steamed asparagus and marinated feta salad was delightful, light with a touch of pomegranate and roasted red onion sweetness. My companion's pulled pork and quinoa was reported to be good, too, if in need of a more generous serving of smoked chilli jam and yuzu dressing.
The sauce issue raised its head once more for the main course: my guest's beef onglet steak in a tamarind marinade, while tender, was let down by a stingy sauce portion. However, my ricotta and beetroot-filled inari pockets (thin slices of tofu, pan fried and stuffed) were perfectly put together and bursting with unusual flavours.
But the pièce de résistance was saved for last — a caramel-drenched pineapple tarte tatin and a gooey chocolate fondant. This duo held our attention so completely that it wasn't until we surfaced a few minutes later we realised Bombshell (American supermodel Martha Hunt, we later discovered), Rock Star and accompanying hullaballoo had finally vanished.
Friendly staff who know the menu inside out.
Anna Hansen's menu reflects her Danish ancestry, childhood in New Zealand and journey to the UK — the mix works and food is clever and contemporary.
Desserts are fantastic — make sure you leave room.
The not so good:
The toilet on the ground floor is so close to some of the seating that you can hear patrons' conversations — a little too close for comfort.
We could have done with more than a swirl of sauce to accompany the food, please — it's tasty.
You're likely to be almost elbow-to-elbow with other guests; we found it cosy, others might find it intrusive.
Good food and a good atmosphere without trying too hard. The Modern Pantry makes for a fun, intimate and delicious evening. Choose the ground floor for a laid back love-in with friends, or head upstairs for posh nosh.
The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ (+44 (0)20 7553 9210; themodernpantry.co.uk).