43 Clerkenwell Green, Clerkenwell, London, Greater London, EC1R 0EG www.thecrowntavernec1.co.uk
Denied a roast, as demand has outstripped supply, Mike and family still find much to munch at this classic pub in a pretty location.
Back in the day, Clerkenwell was outside the jurisdiction of the puritanical City fathers beyond the confines of the London Wall, so inns, alehouses, taverns, disorderly houses and brothels sprang up in abundance making it, obviously, an infinitely more fun part of town with a reputation as a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœresort’ where you could spend a fraction of your city money, and all that only a short walk away from where you stole it, sorry, traded it.
A tavern called the Crown has stood on or near the north east corner of Clerkenwell Green since the 1720s or earlier. This chilly Sunday evening we approach the present one en famille, anticipating our teenage daughter’s birthday meal. It’s a big handsome London pub building currently festooned with seasonal lighting a bit like an impressively built transvestite guy wearing costume jewellery and a tiara, but somehow pulling it off.
The Xmas lighting continues internally, icicle lights hang from every ceiling throughout the main bar areas. It’s inviting, full of warm wood and nicely busy with groups of low-key hipsters enjoying the diverse range of beers. Some have clearly been boozing since a hearty Sunday roast but their volume only adds to the convivial atmosphere. Our drinks are served by friendly bar staff wearing elf hats and I sense instinctively the hats are not in response to a corporate email Ã¢â‚¬â€œ they mean it. The staff here are clearly taking xmas extremely seriously with more L.E.D’s on display than a branch of Maplins.
Even brighter tresses adorn the backroom dining area, but deciding not to eat there (as it’s just a tad too bright) we troop upstairs to discover the “Apollo Lounge” a large but cosy room once used for shows and concerts, now coated in heavy embossed golden wallpaper and lit by Sputnik shaped art deco light fittings, an impressive permanent alternative to those hanging downstairs.
Apologetically, Jay the upstairs barman lets us know their popular roasts have all been shovelled away, which is understandable on a Sunday evening and even somewhat encouraging. The menu is shortish but has all we need. The kids want mains and dessert while we prefer starters and mains. After two seconds flat of menu reading they both choose burgers while I’m still choosing wine. Not so much unadventurous as keen youthful experience telling them that in a decent calibre pub such as this you’ll get a burger several cuts above.
Sandbox Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich intense South African red with berries and pepper slips down well. My wife’s sweet chilli glazed squid arrives and she reports with relief that it’s tender inside its light batter. As possibly only a woman can be, she is at the same time slightly disappointed that the promised joy of Kale salad turns out to be lettuce, possibly due to the Sunday night shortages. However, its well balanced dressing of sesame, citrus and chilli make up for the change.
I only order’BBQ chicken lollipops’ for the novelty comedy value so after finding out they’ve also run out, my sautÃƒÂ©ed juicy mushrooms bathed in Dolcelatte on crisp-but-chewy toasted sourdough give me no regrets apart from not being able to tick’meat lollipop’ off my bucket list.
The kids sip their drinks refusing to try mushrooms but are tempted by battered anything to sample the squid. Their burgers follow swiftly and duel demolition starts and finishes so fast I don’t get a sniff never mind a nibble. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Burgers good then?Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yeah, bacon, cheese, burger, bun, fries Ã¢â‚¬Â¦great.Ã¢â‚¬Â
My wife enjoys her Nut Roast (it being the only one left, natch), only remarking that the gravy on her otherwise nicely cooked veg is slightly too sweet for her taste Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which is stridently anti sugar anywhere other than in a dessert.
The staff are friendly and we chat to Matt the manager about the 12ft genuine Norway Spruce newly adorned in festiveness, it’s crowning star an inch from the ceiling. He tells us that it only just fit into the room at all after a struggle by all of the Crown’s’team Christmas’. The tree is echoed by the large sprig of thyme protruding vertically out of the top of my slow cooked’trio of British Isles beef’ pie as it is set before me.
I’d normally scoff at a pie with no base but I’m corrected by my teens who firmly inform me it is called a’pot pie’ and as such is’totes legit’. As it has bacon on top I’m prepared to forgive it anyway, but am thrilled to discover the pastry lid is in a different league to those chain-pub beige cash’n’ carry ovals. It has that particularly perfect home made gooey underside and golden crispy flaky shiny surface that enables men of a certain age to achieve states of mindfulness only possible through years of devotion.
To finish there is only carrot cake cheesecake left but once again after initial adolescent prejudice it doesn’t matter. Super moist with real silky sweet carrot shreds, two kids are happily satiated half way through their generous slices. They are immediately tempted back for more, unable to resist sharing a cheese board I’ve snuck in and my son now having a deli Saturday job informs us we are nibbling at a gentle blue, a mild goats and a cheddar with cranberry that his boss would apparently consider a fruit-in-cheese no-no. We take great pleasure in all of them until the board is bare.
Birthday girl forbids us from singing Happy Birthday, as any self respecting 15 year old would, so we leave quietly, happy and full. Once outside, I look back towards the twinkling faÃƒÂ§ade and wonder if manager Matt’s house has an 8ft flashing Santa on the roof and an 8ft electricity bill to match?