Different for all the right reasons - we Test Drive The Modern Pantry in Finsbury Square

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So what can you tell us about this new The Modern Pantry?

This is the second restaurant by Anna Hansen - the original's opening in Clerkenwell was a founding member of that area's gastronomic revival. Now she's intending to do the same for Finsbury Square. In the kitchen, cooking up a storm is Head Chef Rob McLeary who has worked with Anna since 2008.

Where is it?

It's on the corner of City Road and Finsbury Square, on the ground floor of the Alphabeta building.

Where's best to meet friends for a drink first?

There's a lovely tapas/wine/cocktail bar here (more of which later), but if you're after something else - the Singer Tavern pub/cocktail bar on the next street corner along's a pretty good bet. Or you could pop along for a cocktail at The Worship Street Whistling Shop which isn't far away.

So there's a tapas bar and a restaurant?

The space here is split into three interlinking rooms (including a private dining area). At the front is the tapas bar with around 18 seats. You could have your whole meal here, sipping sherry and trying a wide range of innovative tapas.

Or you could do what we did and kick off with a cocktail here and the chef's selection of tapas, before moving into the dining room for the rest of our meal. That's £25.00 for five dishes from the day's wider selection which was more than enough for two of us to enjoy. A highlight dish was probably the chicken liver parfait which came dotted with drops of sour cherry gel and an extraordinary looking shard of liquorice brulee.

What about the food then?

If, like us, you enjoy a menu packed full of ingredients that you haven't an earthly what they are, let alone how to cook them, then this Modern Pantry will be right up your street. The menu reads like a dream - your only nightmare will be working out how to narrow down what you want.

From our dinner there, top dishes were

  • Seared scallop with burnt shallot puree, ponzu butter with carmaelised shallot dusted wild rice (£8.50). At least I think this was good - my dining companion sneakily finished the whole thing before I could try it, defending herself by saying it was too good to share.
  • Baharat and fenugreek marinated lamb rumb served with a leek puree, grilled smoked baby gem, pickled tomatoes and shallots (£21) - one of the nicest lamb dishes we've EVER had. We're going to pursue the chef until he gives us the recipe for this.
  • The Modern Pantry doughnuts - three doughnuts for £6.80 of the strangest, most compelling flavours. On the evening we were there these were pandan custard and pistachio; lemon and turmeric marmalade with amchur sugar and liquorice chocolate custard with Urfa peppper sugar.

And the wine?

Presumably devised with their City crowd in mind, there are plenty of wines by the glass or carafe here, if you're aiming for a light lunch. You could even push the boat out for that one glass with a one of a handful of wines served only by the glass using the Coravin system - like a 2012 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa which is £29 for 175ml.

From the wines by the bottle we went for a light but fruity Carignan from the Languedoc for £24.50 - and there's plenty around this price range if you want to keep the final bill down.

Overall thoughts:

There's so much to like about this The Modern Pantry. It's a beautifully, grown-up dining room and would be a lovely place to lunch with plenty of natural light. We'd happily pop back again and again to pick at the tapas menu and that lamb was worth coming for alone.

The Modern Pantry is at Alphabeta Building, 14-18 Finsbury Square, EC2A 1BR. Find out more about The Modern Pantry

Prices were correct at the time of writing. Hot Dinners ate as guests of The Modern Pantry.