Latest posts by Jonathan R Jones (see all)
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There’s a new slice of preppy Americana in London’s Covent Garden – and New York style pizza to die for.
Earlham Street Clubhouse
Earlham Street Clubhouse takes its cultural cues from 1990s American college fraternity houses and East Coast beach clubs. If that’s too obscure or specific an aesthetic for you to grasp, allow me to set the scene… the dark, subterranean space has low ceilings and vaulted brick alcoves. The walls are plastered with beer mirrors and distressed vintage metal advertising and road signs. Mismatching battered leather Chesterfield sofas jostle for space amongst the banquette seating and swivel chairs. A tired-looking ‘shots girl’ replete with USA-flag leggings underneath her hot pants and leather holster completes the ironic retro-Americana feel.
Food and drink
The pizzas are, quite simply, fantastic. They are named according to the 90s theme and we opt for an ‘American Beauty’ and a ‘Vincent Vega’ The former is a vegetarian concoction featuring grilled aubergine, courgette, roasted peppers and onion. ‘Vincent’ offers spicy sausage, black olives and fresh basil. Both include a good balance of tomato sauce and cheese and are crispy yet moist.
The pizzas are designed for sharing and served on wooden boards with paper plates (cutlery strictly optional). They come in two sizes: we share two 12” pizzas but hungry souls or a group – and it’s a venue tailored for groups – will want to check out the mighty 20” variant. Priced at £10 or £18, according to size, they are good value and you can watch them being made in the small open kitchen, complete with retro units and pizza oven.
To drink we start with a Beetlejuice, a refreshing Tanqueray-based cocktail with earthy notes of basil and cucumber and an Axel Foley, a grapefruit-infused take on the Marguerita. Although there are sharing pitchers of cocktails a-plenty courtesy of mixologists Soulshakers, it was disappointing that Cors Light was the only beer available on tap when we visited. Blue Moon is also usually available (served in ‘schooners’ rather than pints) and there is a small selection of just five bottled beers, and four wines, all available by the glass or bottle. Londoners expect a lot more choice than this – and thirteen options does not constitute an ‘extensive cocktail list’, which the website promises.
Look and vibe
Free wi-fi and big-screen TV sport (we visited during the World Cup) will appeal to some, but the frat-house vibe won’t be for everyone. There are other gimmicks too: you can choose songs from the Clubhouse’s jukebox using the Secret DJ app on your smartphone, which when we visited meant an eclectic mix of R&B, old school pop and reggae. And the music is seriously loud – if catching up with friends, be prepared to shout as there’s no such thing as a quiet area in this basement.
The rusty road signs and advertising memorabilia – and even a vintage filling station pump – have a certain shabby-chic that works with the concept of the place but it’s not rocket science in interior terms. Exposed filament light bulbs – which seem to be spreading like a virus across the mock-industrial interiors of London restaurants – feature prominently, as they do on the Clubhouse’s website.
There’s a mainly straight male clientele dominated by after work groups and the focus is more on drinking than eating. It would make a great party venue (it’s available exclusively for private hire on Sundays).
Two cocktails, two beers and two 12” pizzas, around £23 per person (excluding service).
The bottom line
The pizzas graduate with honours at this bustling US-fraternity-style basement bar, but there’s an undergraduate feel to the limited drinks list.
Find our more at esclubhouse.com.
Images courtesy of Jamie Smith.