Comfortable and relaxing down to the most minor detail, this modern bar and eatery is a quirky yet endearing Clerkenwell establishment.
The Artisan can be found in a corner of St John's Square, a cobbled courtyard off Clerkenwell Road not far from Farringdon and Barbican stations. A large outside area consisting of wooden benches and customised gazebos is sheltered from passing cars by a number of plants and ferns, while the cavernous interior is suggestive of a converted warehouse, done up in a quirky yet likeable mish-mash of styles. The inviting plate glass façade gives way to rough wooden floorboards and wine barrels, which in turn lead on to clinical tiled walls and columns, display crates and a capacious all-brick bar. Seating comes in the form of tables, stools, booths and armchairs littered around the high-ceilinged space, with character added by exposed ducts, mirrors and a warm colour scheme. Towards the back there is additional seating space, with a sofa-strewn mezzanine level doubling capacity without compromising comfort, as well as alcoves for table football and suspended antique bicycles, among other things. Inspired details abound, including a drinks cooler doubling as a fishtank on the bar surface, and newsprint wallpaper which brightens up the basement bathrooms.
The customer base at the Artisan is largely made up of office workers and errant visitors from the nearby Clerkenwell area. As per the establishment’s stated modus operandi, the atmosphere is relaxed and carefree, an eccentric yet pleasant place to while away the hours after work. The venue is only open on weekdays, although exceptions can be made for private parties at weekends. Décor is well thought-out and provokes conversation, the music is second to none and the staff are friendly enough – all you could ask for from a getaway in the heart of the capital, really.
Appropriately enough for a bar so near the hallowed Smithfield meat market, the Artisan serves up a wide variety of carnivore-friendly UK cuisine. Among the most popular permutations are the “British tapas” and sharing platters (£16-20 for two): customized assortments of potted duck, ham hock terrine, Welsh rarebit, crusty bread, soup... the list goes on! Simple, no-fuss mains (£8-13) are also widely available, including pies, burgers, steaks and exquisite fish dishes, while vegetarians are dutifully acknowledged with “veg wellingtons” and some delectable salads (£7-8).
The bar boasts a fine selection of wines from around the world, for roughly £4-5 per glass, as well as a great variety of bottled and draught beers – Palm, Budvar and Meantime among them (approximately £4 a pint). Cava and champagne are on hand for £23 and £33-60 respectively, and there is a comprehensive list of spirits and mixers to cater to your specific tipple.
The Last Word
Quirky, thoughtfully run and blessed with a great menu, The Artisan of Clerkenwell is an inspired venue for after work relaxation and conversation.