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Strut & Cluck: A Single Ingredient Restaurant Where the Hero is Turkey

Strut & Cluck
151 - 153 Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
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Helen Hokin: You don’t even have to like turkey to love Strut & Cluck.
 
The trend for single ingredient restaurants shows no sign of abating. Hot on the heels of pioneers like Mussel Men, Arancini Brothers, The Melt Room and Ma’Plucker the latest offering, from the brains behind the hugely successful Apostrophe coffee chain, Amir and Lemor Chen, is Strut & Cluck where their hero ingredient of choice is turkey.
 
Having spent some 15 years immersed in all things coffee, until the sale of their 23-strong Apostrophe chain in 2012, this isn’t the Chen’s first foray into single ingredient territory.
 
But turkey?
 
It sounded like an odd choice at first. But like the Chen’s, I happen to love turkey. And for all the same reasons: light, lean, high in protein and loaded with serotonin producing tryptophan. Indeed, as we made our way over to Shoreditch my step-daughter commented she expected to snooze through her post-lunch train journey back to Scotland.  In the event, she did, but that was probably down to the cocktails.
 
Stepping inside Strut & Cluck from the uniform grey of Commercial Street is a wonderous thing.  Like a cool and airy urban garden the interior, designed by Limor Chan, is all pale distressed wood, hanging baskets cascading their frothy green foliage down white painted walls towards delicate bunches of wild flowers, set loosely in little vases on the tables. So feminine.  
 
And there’s light, absolutely loads of light, pouring in through two high Victorian windows. Surely, this is Notting Hill, or Primrose Hill or wait... that’s it; it’s a chic interior patio in Tel Aviv.
 
But Commercial Street? It can’t be.
 
To begin there are cocktails, namely, ‘When Basil Met Ginger’ which is declared instantly Instagrammable and posted #NoFilter as a thing of beauty, by my step-daughter, Tess.
 
Being always and only about the wine I choose, from a short but judiciously curated list, a silky, fruity Rioja served casually in a stemless tumbler.  
 
Fluffy, warm pita bread is served with smokey aubergine and tahini ‘to scoop’. So good we momentarily forget we’re here for a turkey dinner. “It’s sooo smokey; it’s like licking the charcoals at the bottom of the grill.”Says Tess, “And I mean that in a good way.”
 
From the ‘Roasted & Tossed’ part of the menu we share a Spread of Labneh: a little vine of about five tomatoes roasted until nearly collapsing in their own juices and placed over a thick spread of soft cheese labneh. Oh boy is it good – creamy, tangy, a little sour and transported via torn up slices of warm toasted sourdough.
 
But our hands-down, mutual favourite - we fought over it and I must have the recipe - is Charred Cauliflower, served whimsically, as if it were a rotisserie turkey, by the quarter, half or whole. I could eat this, and only this for the rest of my life, is what I thought at the time. Ah, how to describe the pleasure of the prefect bite: delicate, lemon- infused crème fraiche combined with cauliflower, aromatically slow-roasted in nigella seeds all lifted by a zesty pop of pomegranate. Incredible. Fabulous.
 
And still not a turkey in sight.
 
That’s remedied with the arrival of our main courses chosen from a list of turkey bits and bobs that are listed as either ‘On The Bone’ or ‘No Bones’. It’s all so simple and neatly thought through.
 
My No Bones hand-pulled shawarma with dates and pine nuts on a bed of hyper-trendy freekeh has a satisfying texture: nutty, chewy, sticky but it’s just a little burnt – it could be the dates, I’m not sure, but maybe after the extravaganza that was the cauliflower nothing was going to cut it.
 
Tess orders Sticky Wings smothered with an enticing-sounding mix of harissa, honey and rosemary and topped with roasted sesame and more rosemary, this time crispy.  That big fun party of aromatics and honey carefully seal the delicate meat inside keeping it tender and moist. Alas! We’re beat and only manage one of the three yummy wings.
 
To me, Strut & Cluck is about modern and really well-executed Levantine food arranged around innovatively flavoured and prepared cuts of turkey. And I think that’s a good thing; the owners have clearly given themselves room for manoeuvre if they so require. In the end, you don’t even have to like turkey to eat here.
 
A single ingredient restaurant it might be, but a one-hit-wonder it ain’t.
 
Helen & Tess Hokin were guests of Strut & Cluck.
 
Address: Strut & Cluck, 151-153 Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ
Website: www.strutandcluck.com
Email: info@strutandcluck.com
Telephone: 0207 078 0770
Twitter/Instagram: @StrutandCluck
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