Restaurant Review: St Clement’s

30 07 2010

I’ve got the bug. Incensed by poor service at a cafe in Battle the other day, I signed up to trip advisor to post a review. So often I’ve relied on that site, like a shameless leech, never giving anything back… so I’ve repented, and I’m now hooked on reviewing restaurants!

I won’t bother you with all my foodie thoughts, only the ones worth checking out! So here’s a review of a gorgeous little restaurant we visited on the coast this week. And why not, eh? I never promised every post was going to be profound. In fact, I never promised any of them would. But in the vain hope that someone reading this may be a) interested in food, b) perhaps visiting the Sussex coast in the near future and c) in the market for some great fish, you may find this to be a helpful recommendation:

St Clement’s restaurant in St Leonards. The last time I visited was about two years ago, and I remember being slightly puzzled as I wound my way through the odd backstreets only to arrive in a tiny run down road, with double-parked cars and a greasy-looking tyre shop. This time, I strode more confidently; the distant memories of my previous visit (pork terrine and cornichons, followed by huss and the most amazing caponata) stirring my saliva and quickening my pace. And sure enough, there was St Clement’s restaurant; a quiet, unassuming little building in the midst of the chaos.

Fish cakes with caper crème fraiche

Seating, I don’t know, about thirty people max, the restaurant is small, with some unobtrusive modern art on the walls. It is welcoming and thoroughly unpretentious. Service was cheerful and perfectly pleasant. Their lunchtime set menu is great value; £12.50 for two courses or £15.00 for three courses, despite the fact their à la carte dishes are priced on average at £16.50.

Given its proximity to the sea, it would be churlish for St Clement’s not to offer a plethora of fish dishes. They do not disappoint. I always love dining there in the knowledge that the produce is fresh and local. A delivery-man arrived mid-service, wheeling in a cart of supplies for the evening sitting, fresh from the ocean. But the restaurant offers a number of meat dishes and vegetarian alternatives as well. The lady beside me was enjoying slow roast pork belly, which looked and smelled gorgeous. Although inwardly I was judging her for not partaking of the local fish…

Smoked pork salad with pickled mushrooms, crispy onions and tonnato sauce

For starter, Helen had fishcakes, with a caper crème fraiche. Absolutely beautiful fish, perfectly cooked. I am a sucker for anything containing capers. Seriously, you could serve me the most burnt up, ill-conceived concoction, and yet if it contained some good capers I would rave about it. There’s something about them that just destroys any sense of objectivity I might otherwise hold! But anyway… the fishcakes were beautiful.

I went for a salad of smoked pork, with crispy onions and pickled mushrooms. The mushrooms were a surprise – I had expected them to have more bite to them, and made the mistake of starting by eating one on its own. It collapsed in my mouth and the vinegar was like a kick in the back of the throat! But once I ate it with the rest of the ingredients, I found it complimented the smoky meat and the creamy tonnato sauce perfectly. The onions were beautiful; thin, crispy, and yet still with enough crunch underneath the batter to stop them being limp and oily.

Huss with Thai vegetables

Then the main; both of us had huss with rice and Thai vegetables. The fish was so soft and cooked perfectly, and the vegetables were fresh and beautiful – none of that colourless, listless, floppiness that sometimes characterises Thai veg. Everything was fresh and bordering on under-cooked (including, unfortunately, half a dozen of grains of rice, the only downside to the entire dish.) The sauce was a beautifully balanced mixture of sesame oil, thai fish sauce, chilli, lemon grass, and a little additional sweetness of some sort. The warmth was perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

To be honest, neither of us was in the mood for a dessert, which was a good thing really, as none of the dishes on offer particularly gripped us. But given that I would always happily forego a sweet for a decent starter, I was perfectly content.

I would highly recommend St Clement’s for great food and good value, especially at lunch times (the evenings add an extra £5 to the set menu). It hasn’t disappointed me yet, and I will happily keep on returning so long as the fish is fresh, and capers continue to make an appearance!

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