Right. The tram from Manchester to Bury goes straight to Bury town centre. It takes around 30 minutes. Easy. You have no excuses. End of. Good? Okay. Let’s begin.
Built in 1905, The Clarence in the heart of Bury has been restyled and overhauled, and it’s simply beautiful. What began four years ago as a renovation project turned into a major restoration job costing hundreds of thousands of pounds. It’s been money well spent. Within a few months of opening, The Clarence won Best Dining Pub in North Manchester at the 2015 Eat Sleep Drink Awards and, later this year, is up for Best Pub and Best Food Pub at the prestigious Manchester Food & Drink Festival.
In the venue itself, every detail has been thought of, from the hand-cranked original dumb waiter taking dishes down to the bar, to the recycled lab-top tables. The restaurant upstairs is light and airy, with vibey music loud enough to drown out fellow diners but not your own conversation. A big tick there. Oh, and the tiles in the top floor toilets (next to the Fallen Angel, a cocktail lounge hideaway) have to be seen to be believed. Then again, it’s hardly surprising that the owners have produced such an appealing place in Bury; Lee Hollinworth also runs sister venue, Automatic, a hugely popular café and bar just round the corner.
A brewery in The Clarence’s basement provides beer for both the pub and Automatic, not to mention the annual Ramsbottom Festival. On the day I visited The Clarence, I thought it’d be rude not to try some of Silver Street Brewing Co’s fare during my meal. I wasn’t disappointed. They do thirds of pints served on a board of three and they were all superb.
Standout brew for me was the Fire Island, an iron-y ale which ideally complimented my starter of milk poached veal rump. Accompanied by an anchovy aioli, caper berries and olives this plate would have been far too piquant for my buds were it not for the Parmesan crisps. As it turned out, these gave the dish real balance, with pea shoots providing much needed sweetness. The veal was perfectly cooked and my wife had to prevent me from licking the plate. Her Cornish mackerel tartare with quails’ eggs was sublime, with the thinnest bacon I’ve ever seen. The rashers had the look of fruit leathers, were as brittle as sheets of ice and almost melted the moment they hit the tongue. I asked my Coll (Collette is my wife – reviewer pseudonyms and euphemisms like partner or suchlike won’t wash here) if she’d like to try the anchovy aioli but she declined. “I’ll have to wait until my mouth’s stopped dancing.”
Next up, Yorkshire pork belly and loin with wholegrain mustard potatoes, charred spring onions and black pudding. Where to start? There were basically six different elements to this dish, too many to fit on one forkful. So, I dipped into each element, mixing and matching, and each worked perfectly with the others. The crackling on the belly was, well, cracking. The mustard through the mash lifted the black pudding, the loin by the spring onion. I found myself thinking: “Right, this mouthful will be mash and belly, but the next MUST include black pudding and loin. But loin and mash! Ooh. Try that in the bite after next.” Before I knew it, the plate was empty and all permutations exhausted. But I’d have liked more apple and cider sauce – not because the portion was too small, just so I could eat a bowl on its own, like soup. Divine.
I didn’t get a taste of Coll’s roast rump of spring lamb, or the accompanying crushed Jersey Royals, courgette purée, broad beans, sun-dried tomatoes and basil oil, which looked a riot on the plate. I’m told it was absolutely wonderful.
By the time the dessert course came along, I was eating out of pure greed. For an à la carte menu, the portions were substantial without being overwhelming. Coll’s Chocolate and Lime – a chocolate ganache, lime brûlée and mousse with mint – was deep, rich and intensely flavoured. I could only manage the sorbet – one scoop of raspberry and two of mango with passion fruit, both packed with flavour. However, I still scoffed the lot – a fresh and zingy end to a wonderful three courses.
Special mention must go to our waiter, Dec. Just 17-years-old, he was both knowledgeable and attentive, without being annoying. A fine balancing act pulled off with aplomb.
While we went for the à la carte option, there’s also an extensive Kitchen menu available in the pub as well as the restaurant, ranging from dry-aged burgers to home-smoked free-range Caesar salads, pea and broad bean gnocchi to piri-piri squid – all dishes at prices you’d rub your eyes at, especially if you compare them with equivalent places in the big smoke.
You know where it is now. Go.
By Chris Payne
What: The Clarence
Where: Silver Street, Bury
When: Monday to Saturday: 11am – 11pm; Sunday: 12pm – 11pm
More info: www.theclarence.co.uk