Located in the culinary vortex of EC1’s Clerkenwell, Medcalf in Exmouth Market is the very embodiment of well executed British gastronomy. The cuisine style is not surprising; London’s historic Smithfields meat market is within spitting distance. So too is is St John’s, The Quality Chop House and all manner of first rate mod-British food haunts capitalising on the market’s proximity. It’s widely reported the Queen won’t accept her sausages from anywhere else.
But Medcalf is also more than an outlet to enjoy Smithfield’s plentiful pickings. Risen from the ashes of a former butcher’s shop (owned by a Mr Medcalf until the 70s), the restaurant is suitably rich in bovine heritage, but assumes – like its staff – an air of familial, understated cool that thankfully avoids trying too hard. Bashed up wooden chairs join rusting metal furniture and industrial flourishes of exposed pipes, bare brick and chalked up specials which attract a regular flow of media types and architects, the no-nonsense charm apparent proof that some things are best kept simple.
This is also true of Medcalf and its food. Potted crab, chargrilled ox heart or pig cheek tease carnivorous palates, whilst delicate pan fried plaice with brown shrimps or robust Colston Bassett stilton tarts are enough to sway the biggest meat lovers onto a livestock free path. Regularly changing and largely free range, the superior execution of each dish, combined with an easy, informal ambience, go a long way to making Medcalf an well-sung hero on Exmouth Market’s prestigious food scene.