Occupying a coveted spot on The Pavement, overlooking the Common and rubbing shoulders with some of Clapham’s favourite neighbourhood spots, St Clair has much to prove to South West London’s discerning diners. Describing itself as a ‘fish boutique’ and cevicheria, it joins a growing trend of restaurant-cum-fishmongers selling fish by the kilo from a marble counter at the front of the site.
The marble doesn't stop there – a large bar with shiny brass fixtures and countertop seating stretches the length of the room, surrounded by intimately spaced marble-top tables. This, combined with the plush velvet scalloped chairs, whitewashed walls and porcelain artwork, lend the interiors a sophistication that seems more typical for a central London restaurant. However, perhaps it’s this contrast to Clapham’s laid-back vibe that is drawing in an enthusiastic crowd of diners, even on a Monday night, to try St Clair’s Nikkei fusion food.
Things didn’t start encouragingly with freshly baked sourdough served with an overly salted wakame and matcha butter presented in an unappetising smear around the edge of a plate. The arrival of the ‘mackerelmole’ got things back on track, with smoked mackerel added to a traditional guacamole and served with blue corn tacos.
A mixed selection of ceviche is an easy sell for those overwhelmed by the choice of raw fish dishes, but it’s a pricey hit for four tiny plates. Nevertheless, each one provided vibrant and fresh mouthfuls of well-balanced flavours and authentic ingredients.
We followed the recommendations of our waitress with the hot dishes and opted for the Nikkei pork cashu, a succulent wedge of pork belly caramelised in miso and served in a puddle of smoky black bean molé with a spicy pineapple reduction. The beetroot and potato side salad was perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening; not really a salad at all, but rather a homage to the humble Peruvian ingredients showcasing their colours, flavours and textures in the most artistic fashion.
Although this newcomer is on the expensive side for SW4, come the summer when the doors are swung open and the outdoor terrace doubles its covers, we doubt that the prices will be enough to deter patrons from enjoying a glass of fizz or saké and some fresh oysters in the sunshine.