london 10.520


Fitzrovia, W1

The very nature of subjectivity is such that agreement and dissent sit side by side. I’ve seen, as I’m sure you have, the work of an artist or a West End play described as both genius and dross by critics as qualified to comment as one another. In the case of Clipstone – the second, more recent offering of the team behind Portland – reviews by Jay Rayner and Fay Maschler were hagiographic. The magazine, GQ, garlanded the venue with the 2017 restaurant of the year award.

Guinea fowl

For my part, I can’t get on board with the praise. You remember the film, La La Land? With he of the chiselled jaw (to which, ironically enough, there was a mixed response). I could label Clipstone: “Mark Up Land”. Lord above. I paid £251 for three shared plates (two large and one small), two desserts, two half bottles of semi-decent wine and two coffees. I was metaphorically turned upside down; my week’s wages shaken from my pockets. To put the matter in perspective, the Monday just before I dined at Clipstone, I grabbed a last minute table at Lorne and spent £187 on six courses of food, a stunning bottle of 2011 Schioppettino from Friuli and two coffees.

Much worse than the cost was the noise: bass-heavy muzak that caused the voices of the many guests to rise and rise in a continually-growing cacophony. The situation was exacerbated by the crampedness of the tables. A good 30 covers were jammed into a space much more suitable to 20. The table of two next to my own was so close as to virtually form a table for four. It was almost comical.

Pancake roll of pig cheek with garnish

The three plates of food were well-conceived and tasty. They comprised medium-rare beef slices with some vegetables, a sumptuous plate of pheasant with crispy skin (the star of the show) and a fried roll of pig cheek. Given these dishes were shared, it was only part way towards a real feast. On the liquid front, the first half bottle of wine – Wild Boy by the infamous Jim Clenenden – was a real joy. The second – a pedestrian red Burdundy of minimal repute – would have come in at £84 for the whole bottle had I not ordered a half version. That’s some mark up.

My dining partner and I were fairly well-looked after the the mini team of staff in our section of the restaurant. It was occasionally hard to pin down a person to interact with but, when experiencing service, there was plenty of warmth and patience. And they were clearly working their socks off. One waitress looked supremely shattered (again: too many covers).

If I had to guess, I reckon that Jay took his meal at Clipstone during the day. I can picture lunch being a more mellow affair, with lighter background music and conversations held at sensible volumes.

Ending as I began, you could easily love or hate Clipstone. I was disappointed, not least for feeling cramped all evening. If you can’t handle close-knit seating, or have intentions towards cost control, I’d give it a miss.

Food & Drink46
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5 Clipstone Street


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