The 18th century inspired British tavern is like a little time and travel capsule. Located down a little laneway off Clarence Street (the Baxter Inn is opposite), it's like going through a tunnel and emerging in England. Liverpudlian owner Mikey Enright, who also owns the Barber Shop gin bar next door, missed classic British Pubs so much that he decided to build his own complete with 18th century based cocktails and British food to match.
Forget large pubs, the Duke of Clarence is intimate and atmospheric and the pick of the seats are the cosy booths or when winter makes its presence known, on a velvet and leather lined couch by the fireplace. I first visited for a function hosted by Visit Britain the day before the royal wedding and loved the atmosphere so much that I had to return with Mr NQN, Ivy and Ryan a few days later.
Mikey loved the look of the pubs but wanted to create something unique, "I looked at the old pubs that had karaoke, gaming machines and vodka Red Bull but they had beautiful interiors. We did the stats and it was something like 27 pubs close in a week in the UK, something ridiculous like that." But this actually allowed them to pick up finds from auction houses to recreate their own, authentic and already aged interior.
Mikey explains, "We had a stylist that was based in the UK and she worked on The Barber Shop originally. We wanted to make it look as authentic as possible and not to look like a theme pub and to look slightly aged. We had all the upholstery done in the UK pictures, wallpaper and lampshades. It was about 70% that we did in the UK in the end."
We find ourselves sitting in front of the fireplace under the portrait of King William IV who would later become the Duke of Clarence who reigned as the king of England from 1830 until his death in 1837. He had 10 illegitimate children with Dorothea Jordan, an actress who was his de facto for 20 years. In fact Clarence street which is where the pub lies, is named after him.
The tunes are British and the libations are plenty and mostly focus on whiskies (5 pages), gins and a page of Pimms for Pimms lovers. For Mikey there were two books that were key: "Great pubs of London" by George Dailey and "Convivial Dickens" by Edward Hewett. The latter had 18th century cocktail recipes which the cocktails were based around but were modernised and improved for taste. I try a Bittered Rum Sling with Bacardi rum, yellow Chartreuse, gum arabic, orange bitters, grapefruit tincture, angostura bitters and soda while Mr NQN has a Celery and Nettle Fizz with Rutte celery gin, nettle distillate, citric acid, gum arabic, celery juice, whites, soda & black pepper.
The food is also very British done by English chef David Penistone and on Sundays they also have Sunday roasts. I tried the roast beef at the Visit Britain event. The British beef is superbly tender and served with roasted Dutch carrots, beef fat roasted potatoes, broccolini, peas, a puffy Yorkshire pudding and a little jug of fantastic gravy that I dip my potatoes in. They also offer a mix of mustards to go with the beef. I'm convinced there's nowhere better to be in winter than eating this in front of a fireplace.
The lunch menu is actually more extensive than the dinner menu because they want the evening to be more social with drinks being the focus with some snacks. I'm slightly gutted that I can't have the gammon or fish and chips from the lunch menu. There is table service for food and drink and the waiter is stony faced but polite.
There were some items recommended to me and that included the Scotch egg. It's a breadcrumb coated free range egg covered with pork and veal mince, fennel, chilli and served with a hot English mustard aioli. It's delicious especially with the luscious yolk and creamy, mustardy aioli.
I do love fish fingers and these are wonderful versions with crumbed blue eye cod fillets on soft white bread, watercress and a boiled egg tartare. I loved the combination especially with the boiled egg tartare sauce.
The hand made chipolatas come six to a serve and are made with pork, black pudding, apple cider. They're hot and juicy and perfect for a cold evening.
We all picked at the Ploughman's platter. There's a bit of everything from smoked cheese, a wedge of pork pie, two slices of ham, pickled onions, cornichons, Branston pickle and two slices of grilled sourdough. I'd happily eat this for lunch by myself.
"Pudding" aka dessert is available during Sundays with the roast and they're all an appealing them of boozy. The warm sticky toffee pudding has a crisp top but lots of plump dried fruit inside and is served with vanilla ice-cream and a heavenly Dewar's Whisky butterscotch sauce. Just peel me off the lounge when you're ready to go...
So tell me Dear Reader, are you a eat on a lounge and fireplace person or would you sit at a proper table? Did you watch the royal wedding and what did you think?
The main meal was independently paid for. The roast and pudding was at a Visit Britain function.
The Duke of Clarence
152/156 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000
Monday to Saturday – 12pm until 2am
Sunday 12pm – 8pm
Bookings for Sunday roast only