Today it’s time for that wonderful British tradition – a pub lunch. And where could be more British to go than Whitehall? Whitehall is the heart of the British government – it runs from Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. If you meander down this busy road you’ll spot Downing Street running off it, heavily guarded and blocked to the public by its large iron gates.
It’s also where you’ll find Horseguards Parade which is used for Royal parades and ceremonies.You can watch the Changing of the Guard here every morning and the annual Trooping the Colour, when the troops are presented to the Queen. It’s a must-visit spot for that classic tourist photo.
Sightseeing is thirsty work, so where better to head after taking in this historical area of London than the local pub. The Clarence is so close to Downing Street it should be the Prime Minister’s local. No sign of her while we were there, though.
It’s a pub of many rooms and areas, large and rambling yet intimate at the same time because of the clever way its divided. The main bar runs through the downstairs area, while upstairs high ceilings and huge windows make for elegant, light-filled rooms. Like the Tin Belly Dining Room where we had lunch.
There’s a menu full of classics like fish pie, cod and chips or sausages with bubble and squeak. Or you can eat from the Belly Carving Trolley which offers 28-day aged British sirloin served with all the trimmings (naturally). And there are specials.
We picked two delightful starters from the menu and our mains from the Specials Board.
The garlic buttered wild mushrooms on toast were creamy and tasty without being too rich or heavy (or too garlicky), topped with a perfectly cooked soft poached egg.
The salad of heritage tomatoes, smoked olives, Westcombe ricotta and apple balsamic was a zesty plate of summer. How I love heritage tomatoes in all their brilliant shades and they were a great match for the saltiness of the olives and soft creaminess of the ricotta.
The Gressingham duck breast came with bubble and squeak, tenderstem broccoli and a cherry jus. Slightly rare duck with a healthy portion of fortifying bubble and squeak. The different colours made for an attractive plate.
I couldn’t resist the herring dish listed as one of the specials. I’ve developed a real taste for herrings on trips to Scandinavia so was excited to see them on the menu here. The sweet cured herrings came with mixed leaves, baby potatoes, cucumber and chicory with a dip of sour cream and chives on the side. Deliciously sweet fish with a plate of crunch and that classic sour cream accompaniment.
Portions are generous and all the dishes made good use of seasonal British ingredients, well I guess it would be totally wrong to do anything else in this historic part of London Town.
Today’s price point
A two course lunch for two cost £40.90 without wine
A bottle of Pinot Grigio Rose costs £23
The Clarence is at 53 Whitehall, a short walk from Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square.