Martin Klein meets Isaac McHale

More light, more power!

On the way to Isaac McHale’s The Clove Club, I see new restaurants, studios and lots of art everywhere I look. I’m in Shoreditch, part of the trendy borough of Hackney. At the heart of all this activity stands Shoreditch Town Hall. Under the heading “more light, more power”, concerts, dance courses, exhibitions and events are now held here every day. The slogan originates from the time when the local council wanted to electrify the district. But it is still very fitting today, especially for Isaac McHale’s restaurant, based inside this cultural hub. After training at Noma and spending several years under Brett Graham at the two-star restaurant The Ledbury, Isaac and his friends Jason Lowe and Ben Greeno formed the Young Turks Collective. Together, they wanted to revolutionise the fine dining scene in the UK capital, which they believe had become dominated by Francophiles – a bit like the Young Turks who rebelled against the Turkish Sultan in 1908 to limit his absolutist rule and introduce a modern constitution. With their pop-ups and supper clubs, the friends became very well known in no time. Today, all three of them successfully manage their own kitchens. Ben Greeno, executive chef of Momofuku Seiōbo in Sydney, was a guest chef in Salzburg two years ago.

Isaac McHale – in his late thirties with dark-brown hair and horn-rimmed glasses – wears the same chefs’ uniform as all other members of staff. He welcomes me at The Clove Club with coffee, sourdough bread and home-made butter. The first thing I notice in his restaurant are the tables with massive wooden surfaces, and the dark-blue tiles in the open-plan kitchen. The only decorations are large, smoked pieces of ham on the white walls. There’s lots of room for new ideas in this restaurant. Isaac isn’t a fan of strict recipes – if he thinks of an idea while drinking his morning cup of coffee, he’ll want to present it to his guests for lunch. However endearing this spontaneity may be, we’re going to need a fixed menu for Isaac’s guest chef appearance at Restaurant Ikarus – and it takes a while before we both agree on one. Luckily, the guests at The Clove Club already have many favourite dishes that they ask for time and again. These dishes for which Isaac is famous will form the basis of his guest chef menu back in Salzburg. Many of them are based on Scottish ingredients. After all, Isaac was born on the Orkney Islands. Although they belong to the UK, they are actually much closer to the Faroe Islands than to London. Isaac cooks in his own unique Scottish-Nordic style.

The haggis doughnuts are a nice opener. To make them, we form some delicate dough balls in a cake pop mould later on in the kitchen. The trick is to bake the ball with a hollow centre and then stick a teaspoon of haggis and a piece of pickled swede into the crispy ball at the right moment. We then drip a bit more dough onto the opening and turn the ball so that it is baked nice and crispy all over. The doughnut is served with a powder made of dried apple wine and smoky whisky barley. As someone from Alsace, Haggis reminds me of filled pig’s stomach – only the stomach in this case belongs to a sheep. Not a tender lamb but a full-grown sheep. It’s an acquired taste, a real Viking dish. With the fresh acidity of the swede as a kind of seasoning in this small Haggis praline, the Haggis still has a strong taste, but it’s delicious. Isaac uses his favourite supplier in Glasgow for his haggis. But it’s not yet clear whether he can deliver to Salzburg. A second dish with Scottish-Nordic roots is the black pudding taco, with suckling pig, onion purée and pickled onions. As soon as the guest folds the taco together, all of the flavours mingle just as Isaac planned.

Although our first attempts at making it together in the kitchen may seem a little meat-heavy, Isaac still considers himself a proponent of vegetable-based cuisine: “I don’t just want the vegetables to provide a stage for a wonderful piece of protein. Instead, the vegetables should be the stars of the show,” explains the chef. One example of this attitude is his soup made from new potatoes from the Channel Island Jersey. The harvest begins in April. Isaac’s guest chef appearance in May will therefore come at the perfect time. We smoke some large Fjord trout fillets over smouldering hay to make a tartar. We pulverise a lemony Sichuan pepper with dried spinach and select a wonderful caviare. But more than anything, these components enhance the fresh sea breeze flavour of the salt marsh potatoes. Yes, the potato is the star! We cook them in a dashi broth with seaweed and bonito flakes. This dashi also carries the natural marine flavours of the potatoes.

Later on, we talk about the trend towards very basic restaurant service, as found at The Clove Club. This laid-back approach is a perfect reflection of Isaac’s personality. But it also saves on staff costs, allowing Isaac McHale and gastronomes like René Redzepi and David Chang to offer their menus at lower prices than would usually be possible. Isaac also loves rituals: as a small part of his guest chef menu, the waiter pours some hundred-year old Madeira into the guest’s glass. They are asked to swirl it around and take a sip. The waiter then fills the glass with a duck consommé from a polished crystal jug. The aroma that rises from the glass is not just wonderful, it’s a real bouquet. Incidentally, the Madeira Pereira d‘Oliveira Boal is from 1908 – a coincidence? 

Recorded by Hans Gerlach

The Clove Club

Shoreditch Town Hall,
380 Old Street


Tel.: +44 20 7729 6496



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Guest chefs at Restaurant Ikarus

Guest chefs 2017

Ikarus invites the world`s best chefs

The Hangar-7 cookery book 2016 /en/service-shop/ikarus-invites-the-worlds-best-chefs-2016/

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: August 2017

Ikarus Team

Martin Klein and the
Ikarus Team

Salzburg, Austria

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: July 2017

Daniel Boulud

Martin Klein meets

Daniel Boulud
New York City, USA

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: June 2017

Thomas Bühner

Martin Klein meets

Thomas Bühner
Osnabrück, Germany

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: May 2017

Isaac McHale /en/ikarus/guest-chef-at-restaurant-ikarus/2017/isaac-mchale/

Martin Klein meets

Isaac McHale
London, Great Britain

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: April 2017

José Avillez /en/ikarus/guest-chef-at-restaurant-ikarus/2017/jose-avillez/

Martin Klein meets

José Avillez
Lisboa, Portugal

Guest chefs at Restaurant Ikarus: March 2017

"Best of Vienna"

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: February 2017

Manish Mehrotra

Martin Klein meets

Manish Mehrotra
New-Delhi, India

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: January 2017

Christophe Muller

Martin Klein meets

Christophe Muller
Collonges au Mont d´Or

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: December 2016

Søren Selin

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: November 2016

Christian Bau

Martin Klein meets

Christian Bau
Perl-Nennig/Mosel, Germany

Ikarus invites the world`s best chefs

The Hangar-7 cookery book 2015 /en/service-shop/ikarus-invites-the-worlds-best-chefs-2015/

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: October 2016

Vladimir Mukhin

Martin Klein meets

Vladimir Mukhin
Moscow, Russia

Guest chef at Restaurant Ikarus: September 2016

Syrco Bakker

Martin Klein meets

Syrco Bakker
Cadzand-Bad, Netherlands

Chefs at Restaurant Ikarus: August 2016

Ikarus Team

Martin Klein and the
Ikarus Team

Salzburg, Austria /en/ikarus/martin-klein-auf-reisen/2016/martin-klein-and-the-ikarus-team/