Come to dinner he tells me. It will be great he enthuses, they make modern British food; it’s halal, and they make amazing cocktails. No alcohol though – it’s a dry bar, no booze. Great cocktails!
What on earth are you talking about? I think, but I agree to go, on the proviso that I will be forgiven if I fall asleep face first in a plate of mash. I have just flown in from Australia, and am horribly jetlagged, after a turbulent flight; the ground has only just stopped moving.
The Great Chase is on St. John Street, just a short walk from Angel Station, so we wander down from there, walk through an unassuming door and are promptly seated.
The two-person booth in which we are sitting opposite one another feels beautifully appointed. The space is contained and cosy but not at all suffocating. Tables on either side allow for only a narrow walkway and smatterings of small photo frames with maps and birds create focus either side on the walls. Sitting in the booth, from my vantage point watching a (dry) cocktail being shaken and stirred, it feels like I am on a luxury train journey, like traveling on the Orient Express, minus the murder.
We’re both pretty peckish, so we decide to order all the snacks: salted smoked almonds (£3), Nocellara, Ligurian, Giaconda olives (£4) and the sourdough bread, butter, smoked sea salt (£4). Its all simple, classic and delicious. I especially love the bread, with crunchy edges a soft middle and the most delicious butter and oil to accompany it.
We skip the small plates and move on to the the large ones. I get excited by the word trout and fail to properly read the rest of the menu as I sit glassy eyed, chugging back the most delicious alcohol free cocktail I’ve ever had. It would have been useful to take note of what it was (another jet lag fail).
It is only when my main arrives, poached sea trout, broad beans, mussels, labneh, preserved lemon (£17) that I realize the trout is surrounded by mussels. I don’t eat mussels, on account of being Jewish. ‘Help!’ I say to my friend, and his fork moves fast, like lightning, in a moment the mussels are gone. He assures me they were delicious. It’s convenient having a friend who will eat so quickly on cue. Mussels removed, I move on to the trout – flaking and perfectly cooked – and the side of Cornish new potatoes, seaweed butter, pink pepper (£4.5) which melt in the mouth.
The service is lovely, attentive but unobtrusive, very knowledgeable and delivered with a smile. We are brought the dessert menu and a five page tea menu which is undoubtedly comprehensive. Order for me, I say exhausted, and he obliges.
A short time later our Cox apple, plum and oat crumble, cornflake ice cream (£6) arrives and we dig in, my spoon not moving nearly as fast as I wish it to. After washing dessert down with a tea infusion I am fully sated and ready for sleep.
The thing I genuinely like about the concept of this halal and alcohol free restaurant, is the feeling that rather than it being exclusive to any particular group, it feels even more inclusive to all. It’s paving the way for those that might not necessarily go to a modern British fine dining restaurant due to dietary constraints to enjoy their food without worrying, and of course anyone and everyone else is welcome too.
At the table next to us is a group of young girls. They are all wearing headscarves and have just ordered a round of drinks. They are giggling loudly, sharing their drinks around so everyone gets a try. It’s a girls night out. It looks like they are having a fantastic time. I almost wish I could join them.
For enquires or to make a booking call 020 7998 0640 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Great Chase
316, St.John Street,
Clerkenwell, EC1V 4NT