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The Well (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Well in Angel & Islington, London

180 St John Street, Clerkenwell, Angel & Islington, london, EC1V 4JY
Cuisine: Modern European Average Price: £30.00
Tel: 020 7251 9363 | Email to The Well | Transport: Farringdon | Write review

The Well Review

Book a table at The Well

Best for: a Clerkenwell bar & restaurant cosy-up

Great: at everything!!!

The hardest restaurant reviews to write are the ones where nothing really goes wrong. Sometimes I find myself sitting at the best table in the restaurant, eating some confidently cooked speciality, and hoping against hope that the waiter will come over carrying the bottle of wine in his waistband, or that I’ll spot a couple of cockroaches making a bid for freedom.

Even something as innocuous as finding mould on the bread or the waitress spilling a bowl of soup into my lap would do the trick, just so I had some ready-made hook or witty observation on which to base my review.

So, there I was one perfectly pleasant evening sitting at a great table with a delightful dining companion in the very lovely Well bar and restaurant after an uneventful journey to east London.

James, the manager (‘really very charming in such a French way’ was the verdict of my companion, as she leered over her menu), brought us both over a cold glass of champagne – and my heart sank. Yes, it was all panning out far too perfectly.

The menu is heavy on fish, which is all selected by the chef from Billingsgate Market every morning. ‘Is it all just a bit Clerkenwell-smug?’ I asked myself as I looked around the bar, peering hopefully into the busy restaurant and trying to spot the ubiquitous and achingly cool young parents with their green eco-prams, Acne jeans and weekend papers rolled under their arms.

In fact, the clientele was reassuringly varied, and, in a surprising turn-up for this end of town, there were even a few tables where the punters were not being forced to order food, but being positively encouraged to relax and have a lovely time with just a couple of glasses of something nice. I looked back down at the menu crossly, trying to ignore the sounds of my companion debating happily over a few tasty sounding dishes.

So, it was with some defiance that I handed back the menu to James who came over to enquire, in a deliciously Gallic drawl, whether we were ready to order; after the proper amount of time had elapsed, of course. ‘I’ll have the lobster please; and chips.’ Let’s see how they do with that then, I thought, and sat back against my chair with folded arms.

A few fuss-free moments later, the starters arrived. The chicken livers were perfectly cooked, ever so slightly crisp on the outside, and meltingly rare in the middle, nestling on a light, faintly sweet brioche. The duck’s egg that crowned the whole happy dish was rich, deep yellow, and more than made up for the slight excess of peppery spice that had been added unnecessarily to the livers.

I tried to see into the kitchen as the table was efficiently cleared, peering vainly in the hope of finding the chef licking the spoons or picking up a dropped fillet of salmon off the filthy floor and whacking it straight on the grill, but no such luck.

And so it continued as the night progressed – the meaty lobster came with a hot buttery sauce, the skinny chips that came with it were satisfyingly crunchy, and since they still had their skin on, were clearly much healthier than their naked brethren, counting as they do toward several of my five-a-day.

My last shred of hope that I would find a small fly sitting merrily atop my raspberry sorbet was dashed as the desserts were brought over and my companion declared her light yet satisfyingly creamy bread-and-butter pudding one of the best she’d ever had. I knew by then that I was fighting a losing battle, but the sweet, liquoricey dessert wine that was brought to our table at the end of our meal was the last nail in the coffin, and it was at this point that I admitted defeat.

There really is nothing wrong with The Well. In fact, there is a hell of a lot right with it. And that’s what makes for a great neighbourhood restaurant, and a lousy review.
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Food

Confit chicken and foie gras rillette with port jelly and toasted sour dough

Roast turbot with purple sprouting broccoli, mussel and shrimp beurre blanc
and chives

Updated 11/04/2006

Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: Modern European
  • Average Price: £30.00
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Music Style:
  • Group: ETM Group

The Well Hire Details

Complete with its own cocktail offering and food menu, the downstairs bar can be hired for private celebrations for up to 70 people, with bespoke packages available to meet individual event requirements.
The whole venue can be hired out on a weekend for a wedding or christening celebration for up to 170 people.

Updated 11/04/2006

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