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The Clarence (Bar, Restaurant)

Picture of The Clarence in Westminster, London

53 Whitehall, Westminster, London, SW1A 2HP
Cuisine: Gastro
Tel: 020 7930 4808 | Email to The Clarence | Transport: Charing Cross | Write review

The Clarence Review

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Let’s face it – the British are not known for their culinary abilities. We all know that old joke that details the key differences between heaven and hell. Heaven is run by the Swiss. The police are English, the lovers Italian, the cooks French, and the mechanics German. Hell on the other hand is a somewhat nastier affair. Firstly the Italians are in charge. Next the baton-wielders are German, the lovers are Swiss, the grease monkeys are French and, you guessed it, the British dish up the grub.

But not everyone accepts this as a reality. Walk into a pub around lunchtime near any of central London’s tourist traps and you will encounter large gatherings of an Americans waiting to tuck into a “traditional” plate of fish and chips or bangers and mash. And we all know that the hallowed Sunday roast is an institution of exceptional quality not to be messed with.

However, as the ancient proverb reads, “s/he who so believest in stereotypes shall be cast aside as an ignorant git”. Now that this review has over-indulged in bigoted typecasting, we turn to the truth. Not all of the products of British cooking are stodgy and dull! Only most of it! And that means that some of it must be fabulous. We went to find out whether The Clarence on Whitehall Road offered diners some of the finer stuff.

The Clarence is all about location. You can find this recently refurbished designer gastropub between Trafalgar Square and Big Ben. This makes it a popular choice for tourists, local business folk and civil servants alike. “Hopefully, no more than two MPs allowed in at a time” mumbled my fellow diner as we ducked indoors. The composition of the guests is anyone’s guess. What is known is that this central London pub was full and bustling. The atmosphere was vibrant and inviting and it was early on a Tuesday evening. A sign of good things to come? I was excited.

Unfortunately, when we explained that we were there to eat dinner, my guest and I were pointed away from this jolly environment to a staircase which led to a beautiful but near-lifeless room. It was as though we’d been sent to the kid’s table while the grown-ups got to laugh and drink. A bust of Winston Churchill, after whom the room is named, sits on the windowsill and chaperones. Nevertheless, both the room and Winston looked fabulous. Smatterings of a bygone colonial era propped up by modern elegance.

A waiter bustled over, friendly, bubbling and helpful. I was starting to feel the onslaught of the dreaded winter lurgy and he brought me a strong hot toddy followed later by a flavoursome mug of mulled cider. As winter’s claws dig deeper into London I know I will be trekking across the city for this mulled cider alone. My co-partaker, a bit of a wine expert, commented that The Clarence offered a wide, interesting and eclectic collection of wines from all over the world, including a sparkling wine from Tazmania – the Jansz Premium Cuvée.

The food menu heavily emphasized the particular British origin of each dish, most probably for those eager lunchtime Americans. Never has bread and butter sounded so appetising: “Oxfordshire bread, Nether End Farm salted butter” stated the menu. It read beautifully and was by no means dull. For starters, we selected Curchill’s country pate chutney and toast, and the smoked trout and quails egg salad. The latter was fresh, lightly dressed and the salmon slightly undercooked – just the way it should be. The former, on the other hand, was sausage in a pate guise. It was tough to cut through and certainly not spreadable. “More (hockey) puck than pate” noted my deflated diner.

But our hopes were still high. We were advised that the beer-battered fish and hand cut chips were popular for good reason. We added roast Norfolk chicken with roasted potatoes, peas and carrots to this order and sat back in our chairs, gazing at the old sepia map on the ceiling. We occasionally heard particularly loud guffaws from the grown-ups downstairs, but otherwise were entertained by almost-funky background music.

Massive portions of good-looking food arrived on our table to big smiles. Now was judgement hour. Would this English grub out-do its continental rivals on culinary reputation? The chicken was tender and well seasoned. The vegetables were cooked but a little bland. The gravy assisted in this matter though. The fish however was all stodge and flour. If it was fresh, it certainly didn’t taste that way.

Looking back up at the map we conceded that the continent had indeed won the food battle again. While the drinks may have been great, the downstairs vibe heaving happily, the decor fresh and interesting, the service sharp, at least half of what we ate was, to say the least, not quite what we'd hoped for. Even Churchill looked disappointed.
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Customer Reviews for The Clarence

Average (based on 3 votes): 3 Atmosphere: Value: Quality:

The following customer reviews are not endorsed by Fluid London and are simply those of users who wish to publish their independent experiences of The Clarence.

“It's hard to give a rating on the atmopshere of this pub. It all depends on whether you sat upstairs or downstairs. Upstairs was a little lonely but once we'd eaten we moved down to join the masses in some cheerful evening drinking. Menu served all your traditional dishes and the food was alright...”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Sally-anne Meyburgh, London (7 years 9 months 15 days ago)

“Visited quite early in the day so can't judge the crowd. However, this pub provides a nice change from the usual chains of el-fako "A Traditional British Pub" venues that seem to dominate this area. Go upstairs to the Pol Roger room, cleverly decorated with Winston Churchill memorabilia (Pol Roger was his fave tipple). It's also got a lovely view across Whitehall and the menu looks yum!”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Lilac, London (7 years 11 months 4 days ago)

“The London Pride was excellent but the food left a lot to be desired. Especially for a pub near a major tourist attraction (and on a bank holiday. I would give it 2 stars max. for food. Staff o.k. and a certain atmosphere. I would go back if there were two positive reports on the grub.”
Atmosphere: Value: Quality:
Colin Hartwright, [ Unknown ] (13 years 6 months 9 days ago)

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Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: Gastro
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: Geronimo Inns

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Venue ID: 1602

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"Very rude management. Asked to leave the table when there were no queues. Then the manager was very arrogant and told us that if we wanted to leave a negative review we could do so. Poor customer service..." Which venue is this?

Hated

"Very rude management. Asked to leave the table when there were no queues. Then the manager was very arrogant and told us that if we wanted to leave a negative review we could do so. Poor customer service..." Which venue is this?

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