Things were not looking good for the Coach & Horses, a tucked away pub in the back streets of Clerkenwell. The exterior is careworn at best, the wood-panelled interior nice but lacking shine, a lone cider on tap (Strongbow) and not a soul in the place.
Things began to improve once the autumn dark drew in, the place began to fill with a cosy hum and we were settled with the menu. Suddenly I was signalling for the waitress with the determination of a person about to over order.
Shockingly, I've only ever eaten crayfish in the form of a Pret salad, so this was my first time cracking the scarlett beauties apart and sucking out the insides. Blimey. Fresh, sweet meat dunked in tartare sauce did a little song in my mouth.
Again, an eye opener (previous experience of cockles being the cold ones you get at the seaside, of which I am no fan). Replacing mussels in the most classic of soup/shellfish marriages, worked like a charm. The intensely fishy broth silky with cream, the frilled shells infinitely prettier than their dark cousins of the sea.
Alioli whipped the just okay chips into shape with a tangy slap of garlic. Whhhhoooooopppa.
Grey Mullet with Chickpeas, Heritage Tomatoes and Razor Clams - 'looked and tasted fine, but I'm still hungry' (from my father, who doesn't really understand fish unless its battered, deep fried and served in gargantuan portions).
At around £6 for a starter and £12 for a main, the prices are roughly London pub average and, for the quality of the food, this is good value (particularly the weekday set lunch menu). However, with the bar for eating in Clerkenwell set so high (St John, Caravan, Moro, Morito, The Modern Pantry to name a few...), C&H's taps need a bit of polish. That said, the temperature is dropping by the hour, our minds are turning to warming grub in snug pubs and, in a new winter coat, the Coach & Horses could be just the place to spend a frosty afternoon...
Coach & Horses
26-28 Ray Street