Have your cake and eat it

Aprés Food Co have been on the right hand side about half of the way up St John St for a couple of years now and I’m ashamed to say that we never even noticed them.  The place looks like a coffee shop, and even has a name like a coffee shop, so that’s my excuse.  But what a travesty!  My ignorance has denied you the shiniest little gem!  Before now, they have been a breakfast and lunch venue, but now they are open for dinners, too.

In a nutshell, Aprés Food Co is all about eating nutritionally well in order to improve your life.  I know it sounds like a motivational teleshopping ‘time to change the channel’ catchphrase, but I have witnessed proof to back up the pitch so I’m already sold – more on that later.

Let’s go through the basics.  To find Aprés, head left at the Tesco on Aldersgate St, and walk halfway down Smithfield Market (while it is still there), turning right as if you are going to Farringdon tube, but bear sharp right into St John’s St and up the hill.

On the right hand side further up on the right hand side, you’ll see the tiny green oasis that is Aprés Food Co and the shopfront is so aptly named MAKE FRIENDS WITH FOOD

Inside it is narrow but not scrunched up and it is cleverly laid out to maximise dining options for singles and couples, as well as large groups.

Large groups are no problem

Plenty of options for single diners

The most gorgeous little nook for side-by-side intimacy

Altogether a very welcoming little bistro-type setup

Aprés Food Co is staffed by the owners.  Catherine handles the kitchen and Danny is your host, so there is no shortage of explanations and descriptions about the menu and their objectives as a ‘movement’.  They are quietly evangelical about preparing delicious (and familiar) dishes you can lose yourself in, but with alternative ingredients powering you up with nutritional goodness.

We started with a couple of Aprés’ shots – one apple and one a sweeter berry.  There are over 30 different types of vegetables and 5 different fruits in our shots (all organic), which change all the time depending on what’s in season.

There is plenty to choose from alcohol-wise, and later on we have a couple of glasses of wine although it’s not fully apparent that they are licensed form the website.  Their wines are organic and we washed our food down with a dry white glass of pinot gris and a full -bodied red shiraz.

The menu stopped us in our tracks as we tried to choose – everything looked tempting today – so we started with a plate of tomato bruschetta.  Presentation was rustic perfection and great for sharing – and the bread, well… I don’t know if it was the recipe Catherine uses or the fact that the loaf was less than 2 hours old… but it was delicious morishness.  It was also filling but with a texture that you wouldn’t expect to be filling – my tummy couldn’t keep up with my eyes!

Cherry tomato & red onion salsa bruschetta (a meal in itself) £7

Already full after just a shot and some tomato bruschetta?  That’s just not me!  The problem lies with Catherine’s ingredients.  The food is as delicious as I’ve ever tasted, but more filling in some magical way.

Nibbles include:

Pecorino with pickled baby cherry tomatoes and dressed rocket £5

Avocado & pesto bruschetta £7

Cherry tomato & red onion salsa bruschetta £7

For starters my partner chose some more bruschetta with crab and avocado (that’s how good it was) and I opted for the pea soup.

Handpicked Cornish crab & avocado bruschetta, garnished with chilli, served with dressed rocket & watercress £9.50

Again, this is a meal by itself, and tastes as you’d expect but somehow better – whether it’s the bread or the dressing, only Catherine will know, but it was fantastic.

Pea, broad bean and asparagus soup (comes with more of the freshly baked bread) £6.95

The sweet earthy taste of the peas wasn’t overpowering (as in some pea soups I’ve had) and I’m only guessing that it’s the broad beans that give the soup their creamy rich texture.  More bread came with the soup and – I just didn’t care at this point – I soaked the last trickles of soup up with my last slice.

Starters include:

Seasonal soup & homemade bread £6.95

Puglia burrata with Ligura Cuore del Vesuvio dressed tomatoes £9

Vietnemese coconut soup with lemongrass, lime and coriander £8.50 (add chicken + £3 add crevettes + £6)

Handpicked Cornish crab & avocado bruschetta, garnished with chilli, served with dressed rocket & watercress £9.50

Mezze platter for two: sticky roast heritage carrots, with pomegranates & avocado with a fresh herb yoghurt dressing.  Cherry tomato & epiros marinated feta, with a soft herb & shallot dressing.  Puglia burrata with Ligura Cuore del Vesuvio dressed tomatoes, served with warm bread £19.50

For the main courses we chose the chicken leg and the duck breast.

Free range roast Norfolk White chicken leg with mango & coconut Indian spiced sauce served with cauliflower pilau rice, garnished with apricots, natural yoghurt, toasted flaked almonds & pistachios with freshly chopped coriander & chilli and a homemade pita £21

What can I say, this dish speaks volumes for what Aprés do so well.  A typical roast chicken leg dinner comes nowhere near.  The ingredients Catherine lavishes on the plate combine heavenly to elevate the taste and texture dimensions of the dish.  It’s not just that the meat is sourced from a farm which guarantees quality, but again, it’s the kitchen wand which Catherine waves in the back room which transforms the meat into melodrama.

Pan roasted duck breast with crispy pancetta, creamed Savoy cabbage, mashed potatoes & toasted hazelnuts £24

Neither of the mains are as cheap as some we have featured at other restaurants –  I grant you – but with these mains, you really shouldn’t be thinking about starters – or even puddings – just saying!

If I’d known that this gorgeousness was going to be my main course, then I wouldn’t have eaten all day.  If I had to pick one meal to eat for the rest of my days, then this is it – and I’d even forsake a pudding for it.  The perfectly pink and luscious breast was full of red meat like flavour which combined joyously with the generous quilt of cosseting creamy mash and cabbage.

Mains include:

Aubergine, sweet potato & spinach fragrant Thai curry served with cauliflower pilau rice, garnished with apricots, coconut yoghurt, toasted flaked almonds & pistachios with freshly chopped coriander & chilli £17.95

The Aprés burger – free range pork, beef, apple & caramelised onion burger with our pickled cherry tomatoes, sweet pickled red onions, watercress, homemade mustard mayonnaise & red pepper chilli jam served in our bun with sweet potato fries, chilli & coriander yoghurt dipping sauce & rocket & watercress garnish £19 (add cheddar + £1.50 add bacon + £3)

Free range roast Norfolk White chicken leg with mango & coconut Indian spiced sauce served with cauliflower pilau rice, garnished with apricots, natural yoghurt, toasted flaked almonds & pistachios with freshly chopped coriander & chilli and a homemade pita £21

River trout baked in a paper pocket served with roast pepper, cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach & crushed new potatoes £21

Pan roasted duck breast with crispy pancetta, creamed Savoy cabbage, mashed potatoes & toasted hazelnuts £24

Sides (which we didn’t need) include:

Stir fried Savoy cabbage with white wine & lemon juice with toasted hazelnuts £5.50

Chargrilled broccoli with chilli & garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, lemon & toasted flaked almonds £5.50

I honestly wasn’t going to have dessert, but we felt obliged to taste test for you, and so we shared a sticky toffee pudding.  Aprés’ version is a warm sticky toffee cake with toffee sauce.  You can even feel good about eating this version because it is made with ingredients you wouldn’t expect (dates,  goat’s double cream, goats’ butter, stoneground brown rice flour etc) but tastes like you need to starve for a week to pay for it!  And it’s gluten-free; did I mention, they are very big on that.  All dishes are marked with indicators informing you of vegan, vegetarian, dairy free, contains nuts, gluten free.

There are many desserts to choose from because Aprés’ have a cake and snacks menu to satiate any craving.

The post-euphoria coffee was freshly ground and Aprés’ decaffienated version impressed my partner (who isn’t easily disposed to that state over his coffee, I can tell you).

And now to the telling sign that Aprés’ is something very special – my evidence that their pitch is backed with proof.  My daughter was working a late shift, hadn’t eaten all day, and so I ordered a salad to take home for her when she got back home that evening.  Catherine whipped up a little box of goodness, I took it home and my daughter emptied it out into a bowl when she arrived home.  Note that the portion was about the size of a soup cup – not massive, but not just a mouthful.  After only half of the bowl, my daughter couldn’t manage any more and had to leave the rest in the fridge for the next day.  I have to point out at this point that my daughter never leaves food on her plate – we both enjoy a wartime-like attitude to plate cleaning inherited from her grandmother – so this is my example of how filling good nutrition can be.

I’m eager to convert to this way of eating and I’ve already asked Aprés’ when we can expect lessons and/or a cookbook.  In the meantime, we’ll have to cope by joining their mailing list and practicing with the recipes they have online.

Aprés Food Co have joined our Resident Discount scheme!  Offering Barbican Association members 15% off all food on the menu (so please mention when booking and/or show membership card on arrival).

Aprés Food Co, 72 St John Street, Clerkenwell, EC1M 4DT

Tel 0207 6868 888

Email hello@apresfood.com

Web www.apresfood,com

Open Mon – Fri: 8am – 4pm and 6pm – 10pm & Sat: 10am – 2pm