We've all heard the lowing from our UK expatriate friends about the state of Sydney’s pubs. They're never old enough, cosy enough, or British enough for their liking (the Lord Dudley and the Lord Nelson get close). So what's a former Liverpool boy to do? Open a venue, that’s what, which is why Mikey Enright, gin maestro and owner of the Barber Shop, has extended his booze empire about 10 metres to the right with a proper British establishment named the Duke of Clarence.
Yes, it is the door directly opposite the one that leads you down to the whisky-powered Baxter Inn – things are getting very olde worlde in this neck of the woods. The Duke of Clarence feels like it was designed to bring George Orwell’s famous fantasy pub, the Moon under Water, to life. It boasts all the trappings of a 19th Century tavern, right down to the potted red geraniums above the door. They can pull you a perfect pint of Guinness, but really, this is a bar in pub’s clothing: a slender, licensed slice of the city designed to transport you to a different time and place. The sincerity (and decorating budget) elevates it above a themed bar – everything looks, feels and smells expensive, from the floorboards imported from the UK to the bubbled glass dividers, framed lithographs and the gin-scented handwash in the bathrooms.
In happy news for anyone who manages to squeeze in and find a seat, they do table service so that you don’t have to shoehorn yourself in and out every time you need a fresh, burnt caramel hit from a half pint of Speckled Hen ale.
For something as stiff and clean as ceremonial naval whites order the Clarence House Gibson. It tastes like a Martini made for Davy Jones’ locker, spiked with dry sherry, rosemary smoked salt and extra brine for that real Cliffs of Dover taste. They’re also not letting standards drop with the Bittered Rum Sling, which reins in the sweetness of Bacardi rum with the deft application of two kinds of bitters, a grapefruit tincture and a herbal lug of yellow Chartreuse.
The accent doesn’t stop at the vast list of British spirits: the food menu is enough to make Dad’s Army break into a stirring rendition of ‘Rule, Britannia’. A serve of chipolatas delivers no less than five smooth pork sausages spiked with fennel, ready to be swiped through a mild mustard. You could order the fried pork rinds if you want to do something with your hands without any nutritional merit, but the complimentary smoked almonds on your table do a better job. Save yourself for a plate of three dark, golden brown fish fingers with a glut of creamy tartare and a spring of cress under a blanket of compressed white bread with the crusts cut off. Now that’s how you do a fish butty.
Put down those visa applications, because we finally have the best bits of British drinking culture right here, including UB40 and the Stranglers on the stereo and gin in pretty much everything. Wotcha.
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