Review: The Clifton, St John’s Wood, London

The Clifton, St John’s Wood, London. Review, the clifton neighbourhood pub

Hidden down a side street in London’s leafy St John’s Wood, The Clifton is a friendly neighbourhood pub that offers all-day dining and cosy interiors

Once a historic pub, for several years the building that houses the newly-opened Clifton in London’s St John’s Wood stood empty. However, following a successful campaign by the local community, the pub was saved from the clutches of developers and the residents of Clifton Hill once again have a neighbourhood pub to be proud of.

The pub began life as a hunting lodge on the Eyre estate but apparently became a popular rendezvous spot for King Edward VII and his lover Lillie Langtry. So much so that the king supposedly had the name changed to The Clifton Hotel as royals were not allowed to frequent public houses.

Today its new owners, brothers Ben and Ed Robson (who between them have managed the Horseshoe Pub in Hampstead and set up the successful restaurant Boopshi’s in Fitzrovia) plan to celebrate the pub’s heritage, while creating a contemporary dining scene (look out for Edwardian-themed nights).

The Clifton, St John’s Wood, London, interior

The menu is typically gastropub and promises locally sourced ingredients (where possible) and you can choose between sitting in the small conservatory (particularly nice on summer evenings) or upstairs in the bar area, which still retains some period features.

But down to the food. To start, my companion opted for the beetroot, red chard, goats cheese and nut salad, while I chose the scallops, or to be more accurate, the scallop (for there was only one). It was the only minor disappointment in an otherwise very pleasant evening.

For the main we chose the mussels and the pork belly respectively, which were both delicious, but as the menus change regularly to allow for seasonal ingredients you might find your offerings differ slightly. What you can expect to find is a good mix of seafood and meat dishes, as well as some genuinely appealing vegetarian and vegan options, plus inventive sides.

If you’re not ravenous then the Drinking Menu includes some interesting light bites, such as haggis sausage rolls with homemade ketchup.

But for us, the pub’s biggest selling point is the service. The waiting and bar staff are all smiles and attentive (as you might expect) but there’s a genuine warmth underlying it that you don’t see everywhere.

At one point we saw a young man helping an elderly man down the step into the conservatory. It was done so gently and without rush that we presumed it was a grandson helping his grandfather but no, it was a member of staff and we got the sense that all customers are accorded this level of kindness.