Test Drives

roomInside St Clair during a bustling lunchtime service

What do we need to know about St Clair? 

This parkside ‘fish boutique’ and cevicheria is the latest addition to a burgeoning restaurant scene which extends along The Pavement near Clapham Common. The restaurant opened last November and aims to bridge a number of categories - acting partly as an upscale seafood bar and partly as local bistro.

The kitchen is led by head chef Jorge Baumhauer da Silva, formerly head chef at Ceviche Restaurants who has sought to imbue the menu with his take on Nikkei cuisine – a Japanese-Peruvian approach popularised by the likes of Coya, Lima and Chotto Matte.

Where is it? 

Occupying a coveted spot on The Pavement, St Clair overlooks Clapham Common and shares a stretch with other top neighbourhood favourites including The Dairy, Trinity and Minnow. With so many excellent nearby options, St Clair has taken steps to ensure it sits neatly alongside its contemporaries - sporting a fully developed evening, cocktail and brunch menu too - a must-have for any establishment this close to the park.  

Can we grab a drink nearby? 

We’ll get onto the drinks at St Clair later, but if you’re looking for a quick pre-dinner drink, you can’t go past Counter Culture – The Dairy’s ‘little brother’ which is located just a few doors down from St Clair. This small snack bar with seats for 15 is a hot ticket most nights of the week but features an ever-changing wine list and a cracking selection of cocktails such as their Yuzu Sake Negroni (£10) which is just the thing to put you in the mood for an evening of fresh seafood and ceviche.  

roomStarting as one might expect, we tried all three of the seasonal oysters on offer - Belon, Maldon and Jersey Oysters (£4.20, £3.80 & £2.00 each) - which with a martini in hand we’d happily work through another half-dozen.

And where should we sit? 

Situated on a sunlit corner site, St Clair feels like it was plucked straight from the streets of Marylebone or Mayfair. The tables by the windows look directly out onto Clapham Common and are perfect for when the sunshine's streaming in. However these tables are a bit smaller than the others, so if you plan on ordering a lot of dishes, you may want to plump for the mint-coloured leather banquettes which have enough room and will be appreciated by those looking to tackle a fair share of the menu.

Also not to be missed at the front of the restaurant is a fish counter selling fresh fish by the kilo as well as condiments, olive oil and tinned goods which complement the deli format.

What should we order from the food menu?

We’ll cut to the chase, we tried our way through a good chunk of the menu here, but it’s the seafood at St Clair which you’ll want to return for. The menu is broken into three clear sections starting with a vast selection ‘to begin’ which covers off most of the fresh seafood dishes and ceviches. These are followed by a handful of mains and sides which circle back onto the Nikkei theme and, from what we’ve seen, are updated regularly.

roomCeviches platter (£19.70) - a serving of four signature ceviches including the ‘StC’ ceviche, Nashi Pear, Crab Salad and Salmon & Yuzu - each delivering a unique balance of sweetness, brine and acidity - this is a must-have and unsurprisingly was ordered by both tables next to us too.

roomCrab Cake Benedict (£9.95) - served on weekends only, this cheffed-up version of the classic features freshly made crab cakes, lemon and dill hollandaise, spinach and poached eggs.

roomRoasted Duck Leg & Yuzu Glaze (£14.70) - French technique meets Japanese flavours, this 24-hour preparation was a stark contrast to the fresh, zippy flavours of the seafood courses. Imagine a confit duck with enoki mushroom risotto - and spiked with a yuzu jus. Sounds odd but it works - even better when accompanied by a glass of red.

roomBaby Gem (£6.75) - There are just four sides on the menu, but this was an early contender for side dish of the year. Fresh Baby Gem striped with pistachio cream on top of pickled fennel, chervil, mint and toasted pistachio.

Anything else worth trying?

If you can still fit in dessert then there are three options to choose from. The trio of mochi (£7.40) was a gentle nod to the Japanese influence, topped with a leaf and filled with ice cream - our favourites were the passionfruit and yuzu. The Lychee Ceviche (£7.25) also caught our eye for a future visit. 

It wasn't on the menu when we visited, but we would certainly want to pick a few dishes from their section of crustacea & molluscs which currently includes dressed crab, mussels, crevettes and whole lobster - a section which has hot summer's day written all over it.

roomThe trio of mochi (£7.40) - yes they're pretty darned instagrammable

How about the drinks list and wine menu?

The proprietors of St Clair have made the right choice when it comes to drinks, with a snappy list of cocktails, followed by an extended list of wines by the glass as well as chilled bottles of sake. Whilst there are some great options by the glass, we found that prices outside of this list ramp up quite quickly, which is great for those with a penchant for oysters and white burgundy, but you might want to keep an eye on the bill. 

We started the meal with a Mare Martini (£12.50) an alluring combination of Oyster and Nori infused Gin, Elderflower, lemon and seawater - quite the mouthful but perfectly balanced and very nearly had us ordering another.

The team were very helpful in finding a glass to accompany our meals and convinced us to break with tradition and go for a rustic glass of chianti from Tuscan producer Ruffino to accompany our mains.   

Finally, we couldn't resist a (generously-sized) glass of Sauternes, a sweet way to end our meal and prepare us for a brisk walk around the common.

Our overall thoughts 

Clapham residents who’re used to having to head to central London seafood specialists such as Parson’s, Scott’s and Wright Bros to get their fix will be delighted to have a high-quality option of their own right on their doorstep. The restaurant is a welcome addition to the area and its unique take on a classic seafood joint will ensure it finds many fans among South West London’s discerning diners.

 

More about St Clair

Where is it? 22 The Pavement, London SW4 0HY

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @stclairuk.

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Hot Dinners dined as guests of St Clair. Prices correct at time of publication.

 

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