THE LORD CLYDE: GETTING THE PUB BASICS RIGHT
A few years ago, when I had a real job and worked just off the Essex Road, I used to occasionally take the long route home to get an added bit of exercise. My walk would take me towards the Balls Pond Road and past what always looked to me like one of the roughest boozers in London, Kendrick’s. It was the sort of place where they think you are slightly suspect if you have your own teeth. I actually popped in once out of curiosity. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t made particularly welcome and slunk back out again after finishing half a pint of gassy, bad beer.
Once I departed publishing (three years ago at the beginning of March if can you believe it) my commute shortened from a mile or so to the time it took to walk from the bedroom to my sofa. I had no reason to ever pass the pub again since I left the office for the last time and had not given it a second thought in the intervening years.
It was HP who first informed me that things had changed since my last visit. Our current pub of choice, The Old Fountain, is unfortunately one of those that is closed at the weekend and, one evening, when we were both desperate for a Saturday evening pint, he recalled that a local pub, The Lord Clyde had just been awarded “Best Overall Pub” by that excellent website Fancy A Pint
It was not until we turned the corner onto the Essex Road that I realised the pub was actually Kendrick’s refurbished and re-badged. The new owners had not done a bad job either obviously spending at a lot of time, in the two or so years they had owned the place, quietly getting the basics right rather than trumpeting themselves as the second coming of British cuisine like so many of the new generation of gastropubs. Although they served food, The Lord Clyde (run in conjunction with Enterprise Inns, who also work with The Harwood Arms) still felt like a real pub rather than a restaurant with a small bar area.
We had two pints each of very well kept real ale and almost inevitably a scotch egg and bowl of pork scratchings to go with them. There was enough about the beer, the friendly service and the bar snacks to make us note down The Lord Clyde as a pub for further DH attention. When I had the sort of gap in my stomach yesterday that could only be filled with a decent pint and a pub lunch, I decided to walk up and give them another try.
The bar is sizable and, but for the fact it is filled with comfortable chairs and the glow from a real fireplace, could look a little austere. The landlord being a Sussex boy, told me, that he always makes sure they have Harvey’s as one of their real ales and he slowly dispensed the perfect, full pint for me. Unlike HP who dislikes jugs (no sniggering at the back) I am ambivalent about what receptacle pubs serve my beer in, it is usually gone quickly enough for the glass shape not to matter. This pint certainly went down well enough vanishing almost before I had moved to a table to wait for my food.
The menu at The Lord Clyde is pleasingly short and very well priced focusing on “pub grub’ staples that can be done quickly and well to help punters soak up good beer rather than trying to be a fine dining experience. It’s a smart move, one more pubs could follow and a short while after I sat down with my paper, my lunch was popped in front of me.
Even though I am still digesting a whole heap of dead cow from Monday’s Blokes Eat Beef event I was tempted by the hamburger. It arrived with an accompanying bowl of chips and a side order of onion rings. The hamburger was not bad at all. Made with good beef, given a char from the grill and served on a decent bun, which soaked up the juices, which dribbled from the patty.
The owners of The Lord Clyde are obviously not interested in the current “Best Burger in London” conversation and, as with the beer, are just concentrating on getting the basics right. On the whole they achieve their aim, even putting aside my own bugbear wanting my food served on a plate rather than on a plank of wood. The advertised slice of Cheddar was a bit on the miserly side and the chips, despite being of the ubiquitous “tripled-cooked” variety were soft and floury and, obviously way, way too fat.
It is the onion rings however, which should be singled out for real praise. These are some of the best I have eaten, well just about anywhere. Grease free crunchy batter (made with Harvey’s Bitter and cold soda water) gave way to soft, sweet onions in a display of perfect deep frying that would make me want to head back to The Lord Clyde just to order a plate of these to go with my beer.
As it is, I am sure I shall be making the effort to walk up to The Lord Clyde again soon. There are all too few pubs in London offering a full pint of great beer along with a short food menu of competently prepared standards. Other pubs which aim higher with considerably more hubris would do well to take note.