Who knew the next restaurant from the Clove Club crew would be a breezy Italian? But there are a few twists along the way …

Luca is swish, snazzy and hospitable. He cooks up wonderful handmade pasta and throws out quality cocktails. He is Britalian (ouch!), conceived by Brits and with Italian heritage. He is also a restaurant.

From Clove Club (currently ranked 26th best restaurant in the world) to Clerkenwell Italian, chef Isaac McHale and partners Johnny Smith and Daniel Willis have this time gone for a busy, bustling location in what seems to be a move away from Michelin and more about giving the hardworking folk of Clerkenwell a pukka watering hole and chowdown venue.

luca-restaurantAn apperitivo bar, all 1930s wood and fabric, give way to a 60-seat dining area. Italian cocktails, with spritzes and Camparis would seem the order of the day, but the Brit bit shines in the sourcing of ingredients such as Morecambe Bay shrimp or Cornish seafood for the fritto misto.

The air-dried ham comes from Wales, there is cheese from Berkshire, and goat ragu and duck egg with morels on toast for the adventurous and the snacking. All under the watchful eye of head chef Robert Chambers.

It’s all pretty middle of the road, given the Clove Club’s rep for pushing the envelope, but it has to be said, it all seems perfectly balanced. These guys have nailed every detail: it’s calm but funky, the menu is accessible but special, people can come and drink or eat.

McHale has admitted that while the Clove Club tries to take things as far as possible where “we want people to stop talking and go ‘wow’”, Luca is a kind of deep breath. It’s knockabout, rather than a knockout.


Words: Charles Howgego