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Friday, 23 March 2012

The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker, Clerkenwell


Named after an old Jake Thackray ditty (ask your grandad), what was formerly the Queen Boadicea gets one of its two stars for ‘exquisitely lovely golden ale’ Thwaites Wainwright - one of four on tap - as well as fair everyday-drinking plonk, a dozen malt whiskies including various Dalmore, quality gins and a passable stab at currently modish retro home-made pub grub. Thumbs up for quail egg encased in moist black pudding, macaroni cheese, and a rogerable rabbit ‘pie’ (a pasty, actually) with buttered greens (£8.50). Thumbs down for a limp burger bun on the wrong side of fresh. The reinvented Clerkenwell boozer owes its second star to the English rose who serves us. Charm personified, the Goldsmith’s art student is the girlfriend of one of owners, it transpires - more of a toffeemaker than a blacksmith judging by her fella’s gangly physique, I'd say. Beyond this, I struggle to feel the love - much as I want to, if only for her sake.  But the decor! To original Edwardian cough lozenge brown glazed tiles, add phlegm grey paint, grim grubby utilitarian 1950s furnishings, banquette that looks to have been savaged from the canteen in On The Buses, random tat, a dull poster showing the bar's location that's slipped in its frame and Ceausescu-era wallpaper at 3 Romanian leu the lot. Taken together, I'm reminded of the sort of ten grand Bucharest bungalows featured on the one episode of the property show that does not make you long for A Place In The Sun. Maybe Rom-commie chic is big at Goldsmith’s this year? Maybe Friday’s ‘Glue’ DJ sessions, when the place is ‘buzzing with journalism and music students’, will inject some oomph? Maybe.
 294 John Street EC1V 4A theblacksmithandthetoffeemaker.co.uk