Pub review: The Clifton serves imaginative, flavourful fare
PUBLISHED: 10:51 11 September 2020
Crunchy lettuce, tender steak and a memorable banana bread, plus a welcome dose of normality and relaxed atmosphere at this St John’s Wood hostelry
As the hospitality industry tentatively eyes Government announcements for the latest restrictions, there’s an air of keep calm and carry on among many restaurants.
A combination of Rishi’s meal-deal and punters’ reluctance to trek into central London has been a boon for quality neighbourhood pubs like The Clifton in St John’s Wood.
Our visit offered a welcome dose of normality, with drinkers at candelit benches out front or well spaced tables indoors. Eating in the well-ventilated conservatory, from a menu that’s designed for sharing but doesn’t have to be, felt very convivial.
There’s always been a relaxed vibe here - something to do with the understated decor and imaginative but unfussy menu. There’s a good spread of non-meat and healthier fare, for starters a smoked haddock mac n cheese, halloumi fries, cod cheek katsu curry or buttermilk fried chicken with kimchi all sounded tempting.
Sipping respectively a more than drinkable Viognier and a pint of Hells, we went for a beetroot and goats curd salad with figs and blackberries - a well judged use of salt and vinegar acidity saved it from being too sweet. Candied walnuts offered a welcome crunch to a nicely seasonal starter.
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Speaking of crunch, a truncated baby gem scattered with croutons, bacon bits and a creamy cheddar ranch dressing offered texture in spades.
Mains include a lamb shoulder with lovage and baked celeriac, but our generous portion of rump steak cooked for tenderness, was well set off by crispy onions and an earthy mushroom ketchup.
Served with griddled peppers, the sea bass was overcooked and underdressed, the balsamic and herb oil not in evidence. Thankfully we had ordered a side of patatas bravas, the crunchy roast tatties topped with a garlic aoli and paprika-spiked tomato sauce were the perfect complement to the slightly dry but flavourful fish.
Pudding had to be a sharing experience, a sweet but moreish confection of warm banana bread, dulce de leche, caramelised bananas and rum and raisin ice-cream.
We could have eaten two.
Lord knows what will happen between now and Christmas, but for now let’s celebrate the joy of a short walk to a good meal in a nice pub.
The Clifton, 96, Clifton Hill, NW8
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