Strut And Cluck began life as a pop-up serving only turkey. It’s since graduated to a spot in Shoreditch’s Commercial Street and broadened out.
Not, however, when it comes to access. I try to walk through the two doors that occupy its entrance (together they are only a little wider than a standard portal) and find one bolted.
At the last minute I manage an inelegant swivel of the hips, half falling into the restaurant to the obvious amusement of staff. So much for strut.
After negotiating the forehead-height bulbs (naked filament, of course) hung haphazardly from the ceiling to the venue’s rear, I make it to a table.
There, things improve,despite a wall of drooping Triffids threatening to caress the faces of the unwary diner.
The room is welcoming and comfortable , despite a precarious feeling generated by vintage wooden chairs that move and flex alarmingly with each shift in weight.
Still, the decor is not overly distressed and the enthusiastic introduction to the food from the lady who serves really picks things up.
She knows I’m reviewing, so I take care to observe her with other guests who get no less; an in-depth and informative guide to what’s on offer as well as recommendations that feel genuine rather than learnt or overbearing.
The fact she appears to care whether I enjoy what I’m eating and the whole evening sets the tone and is more than enough to bump the joint up a star.
As it is, the food is both a foundation of concrete and sand for the castle of hospitality she builds.
Very well-made dips are completely overpowered by the astringent taste of over-grilled flat bread.
It’s the first indication they like to singe stuff at Strut. Should the turkey schtick fade further a re-branding as Burnt Offering would not be completely inappropriate.
That’s fine when it’s delivered in the form of a charred cauliflower starter (£5.50 a quarter). It’s an intelligently wrought dish where blackened leaves are prettied up with pomegranate sprinkles.
Other starters are also potent in flavour and well wrought including a tiny pizza-like plate of delights apparently thrown together from a well-stocked larder (£POA) and a wonderful salad of unashamedly pickled beets and baked goats cheese (£7).
But my charcoal grilled escalope main course (£11.50) has the look of a smoker’s lung.
This time though the overpowering is left to the “tangy skordalia-style puree” which delivers a persistent, lemony whine beneath the surprisingly juicy bird flesh sitting on top. Unpromising.
So it comes as a complete shock when a dessert of levant rosewater pudding (a bargain at £5.50) turns out to be a complex, well-balanced approximation of the flavour of Turkish delight without a hint of the cow’s hoof chew associated with that flawed concoction.
The interplay between the rose and the cream of the pudding is superb, finished with a pistachio crunch that lasts long after the mouth is clear.
Leaving with even more difficulty through the restrictive door, I reflect that a restaurant is more than just its food.
Still, a little less black on the plate would go a long way.
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