Raising the Bar: Clerkenwell, A Gastropub on the Lower East Side

In her column "Raising the Bar," Bionic Bites author Tia Kim will be checking out the grub at a different bar each week.


[Photos: Tia Kim]

I'm always on the look-out for good fish and chips, so for the past few months, I've been meaning to check out The Clerkenwell, the newish gastropub on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side. Named after the area in London where the first gastropub originated, Clerkenwell has a lot to live up to. A serious food-focused pub on the LES would be a welcome addition, especially one with great fish and chips. I was stoked.

However, when my plate of Clerkenwell Fish & Chips ($12) arrived, something went awry. The beer-battered crust didn't have a satisfying crunch, and although moist, the meat lacked the wonderful flaky texture of fried cod. It wasn't bad; it just didn't blow me away. In addition, the fish needed salt. Malt vinegar would have been nice, too. Anything for a little more flavor. The housemade tartar sauce was decent, if a little runny, but there only so much to go around. And only so many chips as well. My order came with a tiny bowl of fries, unsalted ones at that. It was cute, but not what I had in mind.

What redeemed the meal, after the jump.


The "Waldorf" ($9), was even less spectacular. The walnut-crusted chicken was indeed crunchy, but again, needed salt. And the wilted, bruised salad was hardly reminiscent of a Waldorf salad. Hazelnuts promised in the menu description were also missing.

20091210_cider.jpgThe cocktails at Clerkenwell looked great, but I was quickly swayed by the Strongbow Cider ($6) on tap. A light cider with smaller bubbles like champagne, the refreshing brew was the highlight of the entire meal.

As I was paying the bill, I overheard someone at the neighboring table making remarks about the decor. "It's sweet," I heard him say. Yes, sweet, just like the food—but sweet doesn't quite cut it at a gastropub.

The Clerkenwell

49 Clinton Street, New York NY 10002 (b/n Stanton & Rivington St; map) (212) 614-3234