Test Driving Clifford's - a candlelit spot off Fleet Street

cliffordsroomTucked away downstairs from Fetter Lane is this lovely candlelit dining room and bar

So what do we need to know about Clifford's?

It opened pretty under the radar last summer as the passion project of young chef Gemma Ellis who trained up at The Harwood Arms. Gemma is cooking up modern classics "simple and with little intervention to beautiful meat, fish and vegetables sourced as much as possible from the British isles".

Where is it exactly?

You'll find in on Fetter Lane, just off Fleet Street and deep in London's legal territory. It's taken over the basement space where the 28:50 wine bar was. The nearest station is City Thameslink, and it's equidistant from Temple and Chancery Lane. And while the building itself dates from the 1930s, the site itself is that of the old Cliffords Inn which dated back to the 12th century, hence the name.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

There's a huge Editor's Tap craft beer and sports bar just across the road, or you could go trad with a pint in the Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. But there's also a decent sized bar area here and the cocktails and bar snacks are well worth a try. We kicked off with a Plumdog Millionaire (£10) which uses spiced plum syrup created using fruit from a family friend along with Diplomatico and elderflower liqueur and the Orange Is The New Black (£9).

You mentioned bar snacks?

Yes, and you might as well start with these. We had some absolutely cracking ham and cheese croquettes (£5) with a superb béchamel that would compete on equal standing with many of London's finest Spanish establishments. And then there were these:

gyozaVenison gyoza (£5) - made using braised off-cuts from the whole animal (that they butcher on site) from HG Walter Butchers and about as amazing as they sound.

So what else is on the menu?

It's blessedly old-school with a shortish list of starters, salads, mains and sides - no sharing plates here. Here's what we tried:

eggCrispy egg with smoked cod's roe (£10) - we haven't had a crispy egg since Tom Kerridge's homage to Daniel Clifford at Kerridge's Bar & Grill. Here it's served up with lovely, creamy whipped cod's roe and mashed potato.

scalopScallop St Jacques (£12) - we didn't get so much of a forkful of this scallop gratin, cooked in a Picpoul and cream sauce with shallots with parsley and garlic breadcrumbs, but our dining companion assured us it was fabulous.

duckDuck a l'orange with cavolo nero (£22) - a million miles from the 1970s horror dish, this was served with slices of orange and - best bit - cavolo nero with bits of crispy confit duck glazed in blood orange syrup tucked into it.

venisonHaunch of venison with parsnips and roast onion (£21) - served up with an unbilled, but very welcome helping of braised venison too. Winter on a plate.

For desserts we'd peaked a little too early, so although we wanted the rhubarb trifle we knew we just wouldn't have room for it. So instead we had a scoop of wonderful brown bread ice-cream and this:

possetBlood orange posset (£8) served up with homemade biscuits which also tasted as though they had orange zest in them. Light and just the thing we wanted after a blowout meal.

What about vegetarians?

Every course had a vegetarian option, all of which sounded really good - from the roast onion consomme with crepes and chives to start, to the polenta with cavolo nero and fresh ricotta for the main.

And to drink?

The wine list seemed pretty good value for this neck of the woods, starting at £6 for a 175lm glass and £21 with a top price of £60 (£14) for the Jean-Pierre Guyon Pinot Noir which went very well with the duck. There's also a mystery wine for £7 (get it for free if you guess what it is).

Overall thoughts:

This hidden gem is way too good to be left to the lawyers. The cooking is clear and confident and - most importantly - creates dishes that are a joy to eat. From the looks of the restaurant's Instagram feed, the menu changes regularly making it worth repeated visits. A really good start to 2019's eating out.


More about Clifford's

Where is it? 140 Fetter Lane London, EC4A 1BT

How to book : Book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @cliffordsrestaurant


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