Rosie Paterson finds this 19th century hunting lodge is now fit to serve hungry 21st century consumers.
Initially conceived as a 19th century hunting lodge, The Clifton premises were converted into a pub in 1846 – supposedly the same one in which Edward VII conducted his affair with actress Lillie Langtry.
Abandoned for the last three years and in danger of being redeveloped the pub reopened in May thanks to brothers Ed and Ben Robson, who have spent twelve months carefully restoring it, fit for the 21st century customer.
You will find The Clifton in St John’s Wood – once the Eyre Estate – set back from the pavement on a quiet residential road but still within easy walking distance from Abbey Road Studios and Regent’s Park.
Fed and watered
As we have all come to expect when eating out, the food menu revolves around fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce.
We visited on a particularly (and rare) sunny day, foregoing the customary Sunday roast for something a little lighter – hand picked Devon crab toast to start, topped with watermelon and radish, followed by confit duck leg and seasoned quinoa salad. The latter lean in texture and rich in taste. Delicately-sized dishes mean you will have comfortable room for pudding (if it’s on the menu go for the devilishly tasty salted caramel brownie) and a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses.
Food aside, it is worth a visit for a glass of the house Pimms alone. A tempting mix of peach-infused gin and vermouth – ask for it to come mixed with equal quantities of lemonade and soda water. There’s also a well-thought out selection of gins, each charmingly matched with their own garnish – Bobby’s, a Dutch gin with Indonesian botanicals comes with orange and cloves. For designated drivers there’s a selection of house-made sodas.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts
The Clifton, helped in part by its location, is the antithesis of generic and somewhat brash pubs that often populate the more touristy areas of London.
The all-important bar is housed in the main Georgian building – think bare, wooden boards, warm grey green, chalky walls and not a piece of clumpy furniture in sight – giving way to a charming, conservatory style extension. Al fresco seating is available to the front of the pub.