There are too many stories of much-loved London pubs closing down and being turned into private residences, so The Clifton‘s story is a breath of fresh air. This original hunting lodge, built in 1846 in St John’s Wood, became a pub a few years later and was allegedly where Edward VII rendezvoused with the actress Lillie Langtrey. As royalty was not allowed to set foot in a public house, the story goes that the King had the name changed to The Clifton Hotel. So it remained until three years ago when it sadly closed down, and the local residents campaigned tirelessly to have it re-opened again. Happily they were victorious and The Clifton is a welcome re-addition to this leafy part of St John’s Wood.
Walking in on a Friday evening, the interior is welcoming and homely, and the much needed East London Liquor Company Gin & Tonic perfectly prepared. The wine list has a good selection of wines by the glass and bottle and is in fact a collaboration between the owners and Raul Diaz , the wine expert on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch (look out as the team will be hosting a monthly ‘Wine Club’ to showcase the impressive list.) The bar food on offer includes mac ‘n’ cheese truffle croquettes and haggis sausage rolls. Little twists on a traditional menu that are carried throughout the main menu. We sat on a squishy sofa, looking out into the bright conservatory, letting our drinks take the edge off a busy and hot week. Moving into said conservatory to eat (you can also eat in the main room in the pub), we deliberated over the small but well constructed menu. We choose a duck egg, duck ham and oyster mushroom dish to start (basically the most refined full English you’ll ever have!) and beef carpaccio; tender rounds of flavoursome beef served with ink mayo and radishes. We mopped our plates clean with an amazingly moreish bread, homemade on the premises with a secret ingredient (potato… ssssh). We opted for good old fashioned pub-grub options for our mains; fish and chips, and a steak. As we’d already come to expect from this kitchen though, these were an update on the norm. The fish was whiting, flaky and moist with the most delicate batter, home-made tartar sauce and excellent skinny chips. The 8oz rib-eye steak (interesting how more and more chefs these days are choosing this cut for its flavour) was tender and tasty, and topped with a snail butter. My companion, a first-time snail-eater, declared that they offered an unexpected dimension to the meat. Somehow, as is so often the case, we managed to find room for dessert, and boy were we glad we did. Even the super-friendly staff waved the flag for the deliciously gooey salted caramel brownie, and the peach trifle was an old-school style pud, the sponge soaked in madeira wine, well set with almonds and honey drizzled on top. The Clifton has literally just re-opened, but you can almost feel it breathing out in relief as happy patrons flow through its doors once more. Run by brothers Ed and Ben Robson you can tell it’s a happy and buzzing enterprise, still in its infancy, with so much to look forward to. We’ll definitely be back very soon to see how it’s growing up.
96 Clifton Hill, London NW8 0JT, 020 7625 5010