After removing three or so layers, I appear rather more at home in Strut & Cluck’s decidedly Mediterranean-feeling dining room. Distressed off-white wood, mismatched chairs, rope-strung lanterns, and an abundance of greenery tumbling from haphazardly-hung hanging baskets all call to mind Santorini, not Shoreditch – a welcome break from that so-modish industrial chic.
Many restaurants attempt to play on the ‘family-run’ angle with schtick that comes over as trite or disingenuous, but here, the atmosphere that husband-and-wife team Amir and Limor Chen have created feels entirely organic. And it’s a big part of why dining here proves to be such a pleasure.
Cocktails (credited to ‘our friend Mauritzio Sarria’) lubricate our pre-order pondering – a Rosemary On Fire Sour for me; a When Basil Met Ginger for The Snapper. After all that ice cream, we save ourselves a couple of calories by refusing olives and crispy chickpeas, and dive right on in.
Strut & Cluck’s menu is made up of small plates and salads, mains, and a small selection of the turkey-based dishes that first made (and indeed inspired) a name for the restaurant. Although we feel obliged to sample something from the latter category, it’s really everything else that catches our eye.
I love the stinging astringency of the crispy squid with sumac mayo that The Snapper declares too vinegary for his liking, but we agree the scattering of crisp kale leaves is a good move. Fluffy charred pitta conveys smoky aubergine dip, tahini, and zesty, herbal zhoug from bowl to mouth; feta fritters offer a welcome salty hit; and ‘Far East Middle East’ lettuce cups prove that chef Limor does indeed know her way around a turkey.
And a piece of steak, for that matter. Thinly-slivered tagliata is a perfect medium-rare and deeply umami – a quality further enhanced by a pile of crisped cavolo nero leaves and a slick of burnt onion puree. It’s a thumbs-up for the textural contrast a sprinkle of crisp chickpeas lends our lamb koftas and hummus, although the dish favours cumin rather more than The Snapper and I do.
As its ingredients suggest, a fennel, kalamata olive, orange, dill and chilli salad is a refreshing little number. We’re less enamoured with one of Strut & Cluck’s most heavily-praised dishes – charred cauliflower with lemony creme fraiche, pomegranate molasses and seeds – whose flavours are well judged, but which needs more char and less boil.
With our bottle of Lebanese white empty, we order a couple of glasses of something sticky to accompany good puds. The sweetness of chocolate mousse cake is countered by a nutty-bitter halva ripple, and the friable crunch of kadayif pastry gives way to a cloud-like dollop of vanilla cheesecake cream. Our exit walk might be more waddle than strut, but we’ve had a lovely time.
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Where: 151-153 Commercial Street, Shoreditch, London
Find out more: To visit the website, click here