When is a pub a good pub? When it’s The Clifton, St John’s Wood

18 Nov 2017

It’s no hidden fact that I’m a nincompoop at the best of times but being punctual is a characteristic upon which I pride myself. As per, my alarm farts its piercing shrill, I roll over and gaze at a fluorescent green 10.27am, a sight that scorches my retinas. Christ, I’m supposed to be somewhere at 11.00am.

The Clifton is located slap bang between Queen’s Park, Maida Vale and South Hampstead, making it an idyllic pit-stop on any Sunday stroll. As the crow flies it’s not far from my humble abode in Shepherd’s Bush but it is however rather tricky on public transport. I sprayed on my Lycra and hopped on my roadster and peddled like the clappers.

I parked up and threaded a thick chain through my tire hub, nursing a slight bead on my brow (I’m a ferocious peddler, you see). A quick glance at my watch settled my nerves; thankfully I had arrived in good time. I was promptly escorted to my table and seated, after which I proceeded to set up camp by wiggling my bottom into the chair to the tune of a Bloody Mary. Ooh, matron.

Brunch: what an incredible invention, the cure to many a hangover, it’s a friend of us all. I read the menu and was greeted with the classics: their eggs benedict (Dingley Dell Smoked Streaky Bacon, Poached Egg, Muffin, Hollandaise) and their version of the omnipresent avo toast (Avocado, Chilli, Coriander, Eggs, Toast), at £9.50 and £8.50 respectively, were about as tempting as a giant red ‘Do Not Touch’ button.

The Clifton represents everything I love about gastro pubs: whether heaven decides to release its bladder or the sun chooses to cast a smile from above, there’s a warm cubbyhole or a garden bench on which you can settle down for a cheeky session accompanied by hearty, top quality grub.

After a lengthy perusal of the menu, the only food to dovetail my Bloody Mary was oysters – three, tantalisingly fresh Mersea Rock oysters, to be specific. With my ‘starter’ inhaled, it was on to the main: Whole Smoked Hake, Poached Egg, Chive Butter – so simple, so classic, so tasty. I love it when the main ingredient is allowed to take the spotlight and to sing, it sends shivers down my spine. To round off my elongated brunch, desert: Waffle, Sumemr Berries, Whipped Yoghurt, Bee Pollen. A meal in itself at £8.50, this was the icing on a very large, overindulgent cake.

Biking home was quite literally a breeze, I think I suffered windburn. NW London to Shepherd’s Bush is mostly downhill and, given the added weight I was carrying, the act of pedalling was rendered entirely defunct as I reached top speeds of 89mph. Jokes aside, I struggle to think of a more idyllic venue for a lazy brunch on a Sunday morning; the only issue being that you’ll want to order the whole menu like I pretty much did. When will I learn?

Xander

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