Roz Hanna checks out The Clerk & Well… a beautiful and quirky gastro-pub (pan-Asian cuisine) with private dining room and six double bedrooms… and she will be checking in soon!
“It’s just one of the many quirky interior touches at this cool and charming ‘pub with rooms’.” Mitch Tillman, whose company First Restaurant Group took it over in 2009, has pulled off the near impossible with his sister – by renovating the pub themselves. “We didn’t use a professional interior designer as we wanted to update it without putting off the old regulars,” he says.
And this is part of the charm of the Clerk & Well. Downstairs it has retained the feel of a proper ‘boozer’ – but the rough edges have gone and it is well appointed and managed – with the added bonus of a TV screen for sports and an excellent menu specialising in pan-Asian cuisine.
“We didn’t want to alienate the pub’s regular customers,” says Mitch “We wanted to retain that eclectic mix of clientele which makes a traditional British pub so appealing”. And he has pulled it off big time.
Upstairs, the private function room has all the modern technology required for a corporate event, while being stylish and homely enough to appeal to private individuals for family events.
The success of The Clerk & Well has got to be largely down to its extremely personable and friendly manager Steph Alban, whose comfortable charm and local insights make guests so keen to return to the rooms upstairs.(more of that later). “Personable but highly professional” is how Mitch describes his star employee.
On booking.com The Clerk & Well is getting rave reviews and scoring 9.1 on the ratings, so clearly the homely but fashionable feel and the personal service is going down a treat.
Based in the heart of Clerkenwell, the pub reflects the exciting and exhilarating mix of the area. “When we first took on the pub the area was still quite run down – there was no Sainsbury’s and none of the media, advertising and digital agencies which now inhabit Vine Hill – ‘Silicon Valley’ has come to the Smithfield hub, and we also have high fashion with Agent Provocateur and Ben Sherman head offices nearby.”
Big advertising agencies, banks, law firms – all manner of companies in the surrounding area – use the private function room for all day presentations or filming for advertising clients – and sometimes just to entertain their own staff at ‘pub quiz’ events.
And at weekends, the Italian nature of the area comes through strongly; being located next door to the Catholic Church brings in a steady trade of christening and wedding parties – even baby showers.
A REAL PUB WITH BEDROOMS
Since August last year when Mitch completed refurbishment of 6 rooms upstairs – and with the help of traditional ‘word of mouth’ advertising and social media spreading the word – they have been 90% occupied.
“We’ve ridden on the trend for rooms above pubs. People like to stay somewhere friendly and informal,” he explains. ‘There is no formal check in, people just go to the bar and Steph looks after them as if they were guests in her own home. It’s a good alternative to the generic hotel chains at one end of the scale or Air BnB at the other.”
So what’s the deal? You just pay for your room for the night. Perfect for London, as most visitors want to sample the latest bars, delis and restaurants locally and further afield – and Steph is there to give them advice and guidance on everything from where to get the best coffee to great shopping locations.
Mitch’s quirky style – for some reason there are a lot of ‘dog-themed’ art works – translates very well to the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Each of the 6 rooms has its own unique feel so that regular guests will actually ask for the ‘room with the books’ or whatever other feature they find appealing.
“The wonderful thing is that we have brought The Clerk & Well back to its original purpose, which gives us a kick,” says Mitch. “Built in the 1800s it was always a pub/inn which is exactly how we operate now.”
FASHIONABLE AND UBER-COOL
Guests vary from business people who enjoy being able to relax in the pub downstairs and because it’s a sports bar, there is no awkwardness in being on your own. It is prevented from being too male dominated by the excellent cocktails also available – so plenty of local businesswomen are just as likely to be there as men. In this uber-cool area, old sexist standards are nowhere to be found.
“Somehow we have become popular with the fashion crowd,” says Steph. “A Japanese fashionista stayed during London Fashion Week last September and tweeted about us – now London Fashion Week is one of our busiest periods – that crowd love our perfect position with its proximity to trendy East London one way and classically fashionable West End the other.”
Look out for Mitch’s new venture opening in Faringdon: The One Tun, which will have 8 bedrooms.
AREA GUIDE: INSIDER TIPS
So what are Steph and Mitch’s insider tips on the area? We asked them to share:
Mitch: Wagu Slider and Wasabi chips – Mitch’s own creation.
Steph: Smoked crispy chicken
Brad Sharp: (Mitch’s cousin, who works at Hatton Real Estate, just down the road in case you want to join the discerning group of residents now choosing to live in Clerkenwell): Phad Thai
Matt Cobb: (Brad’s colleague at Hatton Real Estate): Phad Thai
Best for Coffee:
All: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Leather Lane
Best for Breakfast:
Steph: Bill Grainger’s on Clerkenwell Green
Mitch: Italian Gastronomy Shop
Best for Lunch:
All: Try out the food stalls at Leather Lane Market (Monday to Friday) – many start-ups make a name for themselves here e.g. Daddy Donkey’s famous burritos
Where to escape for a sunny break:
Steph: Charterhouse Square
Where to Shop Locally:
Leather Lane Market – right opposite The Clerk & Well
Hatton Garden for jewellery
Shoreditch for small independents and young fashion
Borough Market – great for foodies
Brick Lane – get the curry experience
International Magic Shop – attracts people from all over the world – and they can often be found in The Clerk & Well later doing magic tricks!
Buying Property in Clerkenwell:
Contact: Hatton Real Estate on 020 7101 2020
6 rooms: rates vary between £145-£200 per night; breakfast can be delivered to your room with a morning newspaper
Rates vary according to function. Can hold 60-70 standing, 50 seated
Plasma screens for sporting events and presentations; Sky Sports, BT Sport, Wifi, Power Points
10 am to midnight (10.30pm Sundays). Later licenses can be applied for.
Address: 156 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5DU
Nearest Tube: Faringdon/Chancery Lane
Phone: 020 7837 8548