Clerkenwell is a young, fashionable and desirable place to live. London’s so-called “gastropub capital”. Follow our Clerkenwell taxi driver’s guide and you’ll get the inside scoop on where all its best spots to eat, drink and relax in are.
Ask a Londoner just where Clerkenwell is and the response will often be riddled with “umm”s and “errr”s, until somebody eventually points a finger in the vague direction of central to east-ish London. One of the reasons for this slight knowledge gap seems to be down to the fact that Clerkenwell’s surrounded by slightly better known areas such as Farringdon (has a train station), Angel (has a tube station) and Old Street (is impossibly trendy).
But pay it a visit in its own right and you’ll soon see that Clerkenwell has just as much to shout about as its noted neighbours.
The first thing you’ll notice about Clerkenwell is just how pretty it is. A perfect corner of historic London complete with cobbled streets, slaloming alleyways and of course the Victorian Smithfield Markets.
The area was originally named after a local parish clerk’s well (makes sense, right?). But after years, the well was lost. It wasn’t until 1924 when construction work began on a local office that it was eventually rediscovered; perfectly preserved in a chamber under the building. Today the building bears a plaque to commemorate the eponymous water pit (you can find it at 14-16 Farringdon Road).
But there’s a lot more to Clerkenwell than just its history. As more and more creative and tech based offices moved into the area, so has the demand for quality places to eat, drink and socialise risen. In fact, in 1990 The Eagle pub on Farringdon Road became the site of London’s very first gastropub.
And as we all know, it wasn’t long until others followed suit. Which is why, today, Clerkenwell is often referred to as the ‘home of the gastropub’.
Addison Lee have been providing London with safe, comfortable and prompt Clerkenwell cabs since 1975. Which means we like to think we known a thing or two about the place. Follow our Clerkenwell area guide to uncover the best restaurants, pubs, gastropubs and bars the district has to offer.
Your Clerkenwell taxi doesn’t have to be a gamble. Addison Lee cabs are London’s safest and most reliable private hire car service. Let’s start your next journey together.
Where to drink
The Jerusalem Tavern
We’d call this one a local secret but it’s hard to keep a secret in a city of 8.5m people. That being said, you do get the impression everyone in the Jerusalem passes about quiet savvy nods of approval when you’re not looking. Described as a modern pub in a 1720s building, the Jerusalem has either been very carefully designed to look old, or they just never really changed anything much when they moved in. Making up the majority of the pub’s charm is the slightly knackered but gentle look of the place. So it’s not hard to see why people keep coming back to. That and the excellent beer. All of which comes from their host brewery St. Peter’s in Suffolk.
55 Britton St, EC1M 5UQ
The Three Kings
Quirky, unusual but completely absorbing. The Three Kings has been a Clerkenwell favourite for a number of years now. For anyone curious enough to ask, the Kings in question are Elvis, King Kong and Henry VIII. And they used to appear on the sign outdoors until it was sadly stolen. Inside, the pub is decorated with an eclectic mish-mash of rogue decor. With everything from a large Rhino’s head through to an epic jukebox taking pride of place around the carefully imagined room. The beer is great and they’ve recently branched out into making cocktails too. All of which go down very well with their sleight but handsome food menu.
7 Clerkenwell Cl, EC1R 0DY
When considering your average Clerkenwell pub, you have to bear in mind that the majority of their traffic comes from the local offices. Quite a few of the pubs and bars round here don’t even open at weekends. It’s for this reason that the Slaughtered Lamb might look a little empty at times. And then at others, be completely packed out. What’s nice about it though is that for a relatively large, open space it rarely feels vacuous. They serve a great range of beer, wine and spirits and the local office workers can frequently be found here enjoying burgers and other good pub fare both at lunchtime and after work (and everything in between). They also host live music and comedy events.
34-35 Great Sutton St, EC1V 0DX
Where to eat
No self-respecting Belgian restaurant can so much as flutter its eyelashes at its clientele without a substantial beer list at its back. The Dovetail claims to stock over 100. And while the food menu is quite easy to decipher and choose from, the beer menu will take you substantially longer to get through. The food is as you’d expect really. Moules marinieres, burgers par excellence as well as sausages by the bucketload. Our advice is to do as the Belgians do and indulge as much as you possibly can. Drink (responsibly) and eat as much as you can hold. Although do be wary as quite a few of the beers possess an above average ABV.
9-10 Jerusalem Passage, EC1V 4JP
More a place to go for a casual bite to eat than a fancy meal. The Gunmakers is the kind of place that prides itself on creating a desirable and alluring atmosphere above all else. And while the food is excellent, we can’t exactly pin down what it is all the time. As they tend to use a rotating guest kitchen throughout the year. If there was a central theme it seems to be embrace the current taste for fancy junk food or “dude food” as it’s known in some corners. Either way you can be guaranteed some good grub in a very relaxing environment no matter when you go. Also, the beer here is excellent.
13 Eyre St Hill, EC1R 5ET
With so many pubs these days claiming to make ‘the best Sunday roast in London’ – and so few actually managing it – it’s hard not to feel a little jaded by all the chatter. The Easton, we have to tell you, is no such prevaricator. Squirreled away on a back street behind Exmouth Market, the Easton not only make some of the best Sunday Roasts in the city, they also do it in an environment that’s so dressed down, simple and completely disarming that you’ll want to melt into your chair for the duration. Equally decent in the summer and the winter, there’s ample seating inside and out. They also serve wonderful food throughout the week as well as an excellent wine list to compliment it.
22 Easton St, WC1X 0DS
What to do
If you’re wondering why we’ve included two markets on this list then worry not as Exmouth Market isn’t a market in the traditional sense (although it does have one each week). Rather it’s a stretch of pedestrianised road that runs right along the edge of Clerkenwell and Finsbury. Along it you’ll find some great pubs, restaurants cafes and bars. All of which adhere to a certain fashionable aesthetic. Once a popular place for Italian restaurants and bistros (there are still a couple left), this place now plays host to trendy joints such as Caravan, Pizza Pilgrims and the Exmouth Arms. There are also shops aplenty. Including some excellent homeware and jewellery stores. It’s not the longest street in London but there is a lot on it so we recommend taking a couple of runs at it.
Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QL
Charles Dickens Museum
You’ll have noticed by now that Clerkenwell is a fairly picturesque spot. Especially given its relatively central location. So if at any stage you get the feeling you’re walking through a Charles Dicken’s novel, don’t panic. You are. Dickens not only lived in Clerkenwell, he also included a lot of it in his books. Which is why at 48 Doughty St (his old house) you can now visit a museum dedicated to one of the world’s greatest novelists. Inside you’ll find the “world’s finest and most comprehensive collection of material relating to Charles Dickens”. Including his personal belongings, manuscripts, paintings and prints. This place is a must-visit for fans of the writer.
48 Doughty St, WC1N 2LX
Officially known as “London Central Markets”, Smithfield is the UK’s largest wholesale meat market. Buyers from not just London but all across the south of England descend on this incredible and utterly vast display of meat of all kinds. Including the finest Britain’s farmers have to offer. Opening early, most restaurant’s kitchens will be down here at the crack of noon to ensure they get the best cuts. But for the rest of us, they’re open until 2pm Monday – Friday so we can have a wander through. It should be said that most of these guys only sell in bulk so unless you’re planning on buying a whole cow, it’s really more of a sightseeing stop off.
225, Central Markets, EC1A 9LH