I’ve been exceedingly aware of The Lord Clifden’s reputation for good food for many years, way before the onset of sharp-witted food bloggers and self proclaimed foodologists to the second city. Alas, until last weekend I had merely been a Guinness-guzzling music-moocher at events such as The Great Outdoors and UAB Collective, and happy with that I was too!
All things change and I decided to finally try out one of these highly acclaimed Sunday Roasts. Here is the review of that experience for Grapevine Brum:
For those who have been living as troglodytes this past decade, The Lord Clifden is one of two Urban Art Bars situated in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and “winner of ‘Best Entertainment Pub’ in the UK for 2015, highlighted in both the CAMRA Good Beer Guide 2015 and the Good Pub Guide & Observer Food Award runners up in 2012 / 2013 / 2014 & 2015 for Best Sunday Lunch, Best Cheap Eats, Best Place To Drink’.”- High expectations then.
Upon entry the pub is a modern take on a traditional Victorian boozer, with an urban art adornment, showcasing various artists, most notably Banksy and Obey. It’s a cool urban vibe alright, but it still has enough to keep the traditionalist CAMRA flat cap beard scratchers swinging their jugs after a few real (or is it craft these days?) ales.
The bar offers various ales and continental lagers on tap, as well as some choice wines, ciders and of course a perfect pint of Guinness, which is what I opted for – Cheers Grandad Mackey.
Something you notice with The Lord Clifden is the local buzz about the place (and no I don’t mean the 101 to Handsworth). I don’t think I have ever seen it quiet, from the pub quiz on a Thursday to mid week drinks, and weekend DJ nights. I wondered how easy it would be to find a seat. This wasn’t a problem though, a table became free by the time I had ordered my drink and I quickly claimed it.
The other aspect of this pub is its popularity with sports fans, and you don’t get any bigger than Liverpool v Man City. However, there are enough screens showing the game in the beer garden and snug to keep the sport very much in the background on a Sunday. The pub has a strict policy of smart casual dress in the lounge area with no work/site clothes, hats/caps, tracksuits or football colours in the lounge area – Sorted then!
There is enough atmosphere here to start life on Mars. A DJ played chilled out soul, funk and reggae in a down-tempo fashion which didn’t seem to bother the diners, in fact, I noted many happy smiling rosy faces with forks and knives clinking, accompanied by the guzzling of wine and ale. You find a pleasant mix of beef chomping, carrot crunching, gravy slurpers here, what I imagine to be young professionals and locals out for the afternoon dropping by to sample The Clifden’s plates of wonder. Who knows, they all seemed cheerful and content anyway.
As a side note, I did notice that the man who had been served till he had passed out at a table in nearby pub, was refused entry to The Lord Clifden as I was ordering my drink. The policy on behavior here is taken seriously which I think is commendable, they don’t want your money at any cost, it’s more about the overall experience, and that’s a refreshing change.
I am never a fan of huge plates, where the food is piled high, as I often find myself struggling to polish it off, and feel guilty as a result. So I saved my belly for the main event. For those who like their starters, I did notice a special board which offered homemade soup & bread, classic prawn cocktail and sauteed wild mushrooms with garlic & stilton on toast.
It’s worth noting that Roasts are served from Midday to 9pm, so you have plenty of time to dither about, it is Sunday after all!
The main menu explains you can try:
Top side of British beef
Braised lamb shoulder
Half roast chicken
Roast beef & lamb combo
Slow roast pork belly
Vegetarian roast dinner (V)
Double meat roast for the hungry
Smaller roast dinner
All served with roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, mashed potato,
Yorkshire pudding & proper gravy!
The Lord Clifden cook to order using fresh seasonal produce and as a result, you won’t hear any microwave pings. This fact, combined with the popularity of the food does mean there can be a small wait for your order. On this occasion I was advised a maximum 45 min wait, and to be fair, looking at the quality of the plates being waitered out of the kitchen I didn’t mind at all.
So, after this build up.. I ordered the smaller roast dinner with chicken, and as it happened, I didn’t have to wait 45 minutes. The food arrived piping hot at my table within 20 minutes.
I noticed full sized roasts emerging from the kitchen, and, as was the roast laid before me, they appeared to be masterpieces of cuisine. Delivered to tables where wide eyed, salivating diners had been small-talking in anticipation.
The chicken was crispy and flavoursome on the outside, a nice crunch as it entered the mouth, only to reveal the softer chicken soaked in hot gravy beneath. I felt the combination of crunchy skin and soft chicken complimented each other perfectly. I can be a bit fussy eating chicken off the bone, but this required both hands and a neanderthal style approach such was the explosion of taste. Quite simply the best roast chicken in any pub, ever. Seriously wicked.
As gravy goes, this also was memorable, not too thick or gloopy as you sometimes find, but not too thin and watery which again can let down even the finest Sunday Roasts. A great consistency and it acted as a nice soup for all the ingredients to bathe in innocently before being stabbed with my fork “sorry Mr Roast Potato, nothing’s gonna save you now.. your numbers up!” CHOMP!
Every good roast has peas and parsnips etc, vegetables are important for nutrition, yeah sure, but if cooked right can set the scene for the main event, erm, well.. There were actually two main events here, the chicken and the Yorkshire pudding. Anyway, the veg was cooked just right for me, roasted to perfection with a soft inner which didn’t lie heavily.
My slight concern here is there was both a huge roast potato, but also a large dollop of mash, as I’ve already stated I’m not a massive eater and this was supposed to be a small? I needn’t have worried, the roast potato was divine, the skin wasn’t too hard roasted, and inside it was light and fluffy which melted into the gravy beneath. Two mouth-fulls and it was gone. The mash was also extremely light, and buttery, perfect for mopping up the peas and gravy. Potato perfection!
I’ve already mentioned the Yorkshire Pudding, but oh man, it was enormous. The chef could have worn it as a hat.. it could have fed Yorkshire for a week. Well actually, it was soon cut up into squares and was used to mop up the final traces of gravy and peas and polished off with a good swig of Guinness.
Quite honestly, I will be back at some point this year and I want the exact same thing again, served by the same friendly staff. I am a firm believer that if you find something you love, in a particular restaurant or bar, what’s the point in straying. You work hard all week, and you get that little window, to bathe yourself in happiness at a table, so keep it simple, sit back, let someone else take the strain and let the food do the talking, and this meal said “Nick.. I’m all yours mate”.
A gentleman sat next to me and commented on how delicious my dinner looked as he had ordered after me, apparently a very fussy and critical eater, his comments really reflected my own and gave an overall high score too.
Here’s a link to the Sunday menu.
If you fancy an alternative to the Sunday Roast:
Braised Lashfords faggots, hand cut chips, mushy peas & gravy
Three Lashfords Cumberland sausages, mash, vegetables & gravy
Homemade vegetarian shepherd’s pie with seasonal vegetables (V)
12 piece whole breaded Whitby scampi, hand cut chips, homemade tartare sauce & mixed salad
Beer battered haddock, hand cut chips, mushy peas & tartare sauce
From the grill
120z gammon steak, fried egg, pineapple, garden peas & hand cut chips
Char grilled chicken breast with a choice of marinade (plain, cajun or jerk) with hand cut chips, coleslaw & mixed salad
10oz burgers are homemade & chicken burgers are pure breast
NEW YORKER. Beef topped with smoked bacon & cheddar, salad & relish
D*FACE. Beef topped with sauteed onions, melted cheddar & salad
BANKSY. Chicken topped with smoked bacon, cheddar, salad & coleslaw
SOMBRERO. Cajun chicken with coleslaw, cheddar, salad and salsa
SLOPPY JOE. Beef topped with chilli con carne & cheddar
TEMPER. Breaded cajun halloumi with rocket & roasted red peppers (V)
Hockley hog dog served with cajun fries Clifden Ketchup & Red Leicester