This handsome old pub near Carnaby Street is now a Nicholson’s, happily widening the beer choice in a previously badly-served area of Soho.
Kingly Street runs north-south in the block between two of London’s best known shopping arteries. Carnaby Street has been welcoming the world since the Swinging Sixties with its youth fashions and other specialist shops, while Regent Street’s glitzy stores add a more traditional shopping experience. Good old-fashioned pubs are hard to find round here but the Clachan in its current guise as a Mitchells and Butlers Nicholson’s house is worth knowing about. Built in 1898 in the grand style of the era and originally known as The Bricklayers, it was once owned by the Liberty Department store across the road. Heritage features include a textured red Lyncrusta ceiling, a bulky carved wooden bar back commanding an island bar, and wooden partitions dividing it into front and rear sections. At a side entrance onto Little Marlborough Street there’s an original floor mosaic that has sadly been partially obscured by the clumsy repositioning of a door. Upstairs is a very elegant, though, with a recently fitted dining room offering table service.
‘Clachan’ is the Gaelic word for a small settlement based on a church, which is just about appropriate for the slightly village-y feel of this corner of the biggest settlement in the country! The pub draws a mixed crowd – shoppers, people from local businesses, and drinkers drawn by the beer. It does lack a little intimacy and character though, a combination of the Victorian grandeur, the transient element of the clientele and the slightly corporate feel of a managed pub in a busy area.
The pub offers decent pub grub that’s standard in Nicholsons houses, at prices a little higher than some. A full cooked breakfast is £6.95 with both standard and vegetarian options and main courses might include grilled sea bass fillets (£12.95), half a roast duck (£12.95), vege or meat sausages and mash (£8.45) or a choice of three pies and mash (from £9.25). During the day there’s sandwiches (£6-£7 including chips or salad) and light lunches like pressed pork and sage terrine or a warm halloumi salad (both £7.95).
The real ale range is impressive here, with up to 12 handpumps in operation at once. Regulars Fuller’s London Pride, Sharp’s Doom Bar and St Austell Tribute are supplemented by a selection from Nicholson’s seasonally changing guest ale list which stretches to microbrewers like Acorn, Cropton, Itchen Valley, Moor, RCH, Roosters, Stonehenge and White Horse, at around £3.60 a pint. British-brewed premium lager Suffolk Blonde adds interest to more familiar keg offerings, and they also have Duvel and Leffe Blonde in the fridge. You might also catch an occasional Meet the Brewer event. Over 25 wines are on offer, including many by the glass (175ml £3.75-£5.25), mainly from the new world but with the odd traditional European.
The Last Word
A much better option than most others nearby, it can’t be faulted for its support of good beer, a high quality of service and attractive heritage features.