When The Clarence Tavern opened in early March – contemporary lick of paint, restaurateurs of nice reputation, attention-grabbing menu – it lasted 4 entire days earlier than Boris Johnson instructed everybody to cease going to pubs. So that they shut once more.
When some inventive thoughts finally pens Britain 2020: The Musical for the Edinburgh Fringe, it ought to focus round The Clarence as the right parable of Britain’s ongoing fightback. The Clarence in Stoke Newington, north London, was as soon as Steptoe’s within the 1980s, the place, if I crimped my fringe and wore lipstick, they’d serve me halves of lager. Since then, it’s been The Daniel Defoe, The Clarence (once more) and the Stoke Newington Tea Home (although nonetheless, confusingly, serving beer), earlier than reverting to its unique title, registered in 1860. This feels apt: the pub had survived equally as scary issues as Covid-19 and managed to remain upright and serve ale. And, sure, now it’s serving potted shrimp with gooseberries, and farinata with candy and bitter aubergine, too, as a result of occasions should additionally change.
At this level within the musical, an aged common from the Steptoe’s period would stumble in to honk via a plaintive torch track entitled What The F*** is Farinata? “I come right here for a pint and a quiet hour,” he’d sing, “now you’re serving me yuppie pancakes produced from chickpea flour.” Severely, I’ve had time to consider this; I don’t get out so much today.
The night menu is a single sheet of considerate, certainly-better-than-pub-grub choices. Borlotti beans with contemporary tomato and tuna. A tangle of inexperienced bean fritters with sharp, pickled walnut ketchup. Bavette steak with watercress. A heavenly, creamy gratin dauphinois that prices £eight and can take eight months to rid from my bum cheeks.
That is nonetheless very a lot a boozer: service is well mannered, informal, and positively not silver, flooring are stripped, tables are sparsely set, there’s a neat, scrubbed outside terrace, and the clientele are aged from seven to 70. The Clarence is a sibling pub to The Anchor & Hope in Waterloo and Canton Arms in Stockwell, in addition to The Magdalen Arms in Oxford, all locations that took a central half in crafting the unofficial rulebook of the fashionable gastropub. It’s maybe little surprise, then, that a night right here gave me a contemporary lease of life.
We stayed for greater than three hours, and lingered over rhubarb bellinis, many additional plates of chips and the sunshine slander of mutual enemies. It felt ever so barely like previous occasions. Maybe this was as a result of it being my third time of eating with the identical faces, and by now we’d burned out on the themes of concern, woe and inconvenience. We’d already navigated such awkward issues as whether or not or not it was the finished factor to share starters or whether or not it was permissible to nudge one another playfully mid-sentence. As an alternative, we drank white rioja, argued over whether or not gooseberry goes with shrimp – I say sure, it’s intelligent and nouvelle – and tried to work out what the tangle of herbs was excessive of my aubergine farinata. It turned out to be dill and coriander, by the way, with pine nuts. No vegetarian will go away The Clarence and declare their possibility was tasteless and finished to dying. This was a somersault of flavour.
Please do strive, in case you go, the peach and brown butter tart, which is all the fitting sorts of candy, moist and summery. Although it’s extra flan than tart, if I had been choosy, and my empty plate would counsel fairly the other.
I used to suppose that I used to be the least cuddly particular person ever, however now I discover dinners with out hi there and goodbye hugs fairly brutal. Prickly me, I realise, is a fallacy. I lengthy to bear-hug associates, seize their ears, tweak their noses, shove a spoon of their half-eaten trifles. I didn’t do any of that at this explicit meal, however there have been undoubtedly oceans of laughter. The Clarence Tavern had the worst grand opening possible. Its second try is value singing about.
• The Clarence Tavern 102 Stoke Newington Church Avenue, London N16. Open lunch, Wed-Solar, noon-2.30pm (3pm Sat, 5pm Solar), dinner Tues-Solar, 5pm-10pm. About £30-35 a head for 3 programs, plus drinks and repair.