What to do in Clerkenwell when you're busy?
June 3, 2007 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Things to do in Clerkenwell, London for an afternoon and perhaps an evening.

I'm going to London next Sunday for a four-day business trip and will be staying in Clerkenwell. I expect to be busy with work and/or work-related lunches and dinner most days but I know I'll have at least one afternoon to myself. I've read a bunch of the London threads but wanted to get a bit more information about the particular area I'm staying in.

I'm interested in food and wine, books, architecture, and anything the locals believe unmissable. I live in NYC and have a bunch of experience visiting France and Italy, but this is my first time in the UK.

Bonus points for tips on how to dress for a pretty standard corporate client (I would guess it would be "business casual" like here).
posted by lackutrol to Travel & Transportation around London, England (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, Clerkenwell is absolutely lovely - good choice!

Restaurant top picks in the area:

- St John (the original Smithfield site will probably be closest to you) - Proper British fare that you'll struggle to find anywhere else: faggots, offal, eel, and real puddings... fabulous stuff.

- Cafe du Marche (sorry, too lazy to put in all the accents) - Great french food with a lovely atmosphere. For some bizarre reason (as you'll read in the link), you can only get their amazing pommes frites upstairs - worth booking.

Neither of these are particularly cheap, but both unique experiences and well worth checking out if you can.

Moving down your list to books & architecture...

I can't honestly think of a book shop nearby, however you're only a short walk from the Tate Modern, which has an ace gift shop full of coffee table art books.

Architecture: Charterhouse Square is just beautiful. There is a gatehouse with a little man who may try and stop you. Just tell him you're visiting Unicorn and he'll let you through (but don't tell anyone I told you that). Tate Modern is thoroughly impressive (inside & out). You're also pretty close to St Paul's Cathedral - crawling with tourists but a majestic building (particularly if you're feeling energetic and go up to the whispering gallery and beyond). Smithfield Market was renovated about 10/15 years ago to its former glory as a grand Victorian wrought iron palace to commerce. It is still a fully functioning meat market (unfortunately they won't let you unless you happen to have packed your white overalls, hat and wellies) and a strange quirk in the Corporation of London licensing laws means that a few of the local pubs open at 7am in order that the traders can have a hearty breakfast washed down with a pint or two.

And for my extra bonus points.

Well, here's the strange thing. In my (limited) experience US conservative is generally a lot more conservative than the UK version (for example, we don't tend to go for those navy blue/red tie, white shirt combos). It will obviously depend on the company you're meeting, but if your meeting's in the square mile may I suggest: a well-cut, dark, single-breasted suit, a plain/subtle check shirt and a matching tie? And for goodness sake wear black shoes - remember "Never brown in town". If, on the other hand, you're visiting one of the many artsy places in the area - anything (within reason) goes.

Have fun!
posted by dogsbody at 5:45 PM on June 3, 2007

First time in London? Just walk around. The fancy parts are easy to find on the tube and the Wikipedia page for Clerkenwell certain provides and afternoon's worth of ideas.

My experience with the UK is that they tend to be a tick more formal in their businesswear. At any rate, if you overdress you'll just make them feel a little more important. They love that stuff!
posted by rhizome at 5:47 PM on June 3, 2007

Clerkenwell is just north of Smithfield meat market, which has some fantastic restaurants around it--I particularly recommend St John which pioneered 'nose-to-tail eating' and where one can order a whole roast sucking pig.

Otherwise Clerkenwell is comparatively central. Jump on a bus or hail a cab and go and visit the British Museum or the National Gallery, or see the sights.
posted by Hogshead at 5:52 PM on June 3, 2007

St Peter's Italian Church is nice, if you like architecture / art / churches.- There's a bar up-stairs above the church (I'm not sure about opening times, most evenings though)where they do sandwiches and proper coffee.

At the bottom of Back Hill was a nice pub (Coach & Horses?) and, at the other end of Hatton Garden just about here
is a hidden (down an alleyway you can easily miss) old pub (The Mitre?) lots of History.
posted by Dub at 6:02 PM on June 3, 2007

Almost forgot!

Just off Smithfield is St Bartholomew the Great church, which was used for the final wedding in 'Four Weddings' - really pretty and secluded. Just next door is the Rising Sun pub, in which I've spent many a happy evening. It doesn't quite have sawdust on the floor, but it's pretty close to an old-fashioned real 'local'.
posted by dogsbody at 6:31 PM on June 3, 2007

Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I'll mark a best answer, or several, after I get back, so don't think I'm being churlish in the meantime.
posted by lackutrol at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2007

Jerusalem Tavern. Tiny, St Peter's beers on tap and in bottle.

What to wear? Probably not hyper-formal City suit & boots, going by your website -- that's more for when lawyers meet bankers or similar. I'd say dogsbody's on track. Just don't wear khakis, or you'll be treated as an American cliché from first glance.
posted by holgate at 10:16 PM on June 3, 2007

Have a wander through Exmouth Market. Besides the street market there's a Spanish restaurant (Moro), an independent bookshop and an imposing Anglo-Catholic church. Nearby across Farringdon Road is the Eagle, best known as London's first gastro-pub.
posted by amestoy at 12:37 AM on June 4, 2007

Seconding the suggestions of the Jerusalem Tavern, Exmouth Market and the Eagle. The Jerusalem Tavern, in particular, is a must.

I work just round the corner from Clerkenwell, so if you need a guide for the Monday or the Tuesday evening, my email's in my profile.
posted by MrMustard at 2:34 AM on June 4, 2007

Free mp3 walking tour of the area. The area has a fascinating history, I don't think you'll be stuck for places to see.
posted by amestoy at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2007

Holgate, I've had a couple of St. Peter's beers here. Apparently they export to NYC at least. Nifty.
posted by lackutrol at 6:18 PM on June 4, 2007

posted by MrMustard at 5:47 AM on June 6, 2007

St Peter's exports fairly widely across the US, and the success caused them a bit of trouble scaling to meet the demand. The brewery/hall is also very excellent -- but not particularly accessible to the London visitor, since it's way out in Suffolk.
posted by holgate at 4:33 PM on June 6, 2007

OK, thanks again folks. Here's the summary, if anyone's interested. I obviously managed to make it to the Jerusalem Tavern (inexcusably late), where we had our meetup.

Food: I ate once with colleagues at the Easton, where I had some excellent duck, a couple of pints, and some decent wine. Another night I tried out the Coach and Horses for good chips, salad with duck egg, and good roast chicken. The last day for lunch I had some good sausages and a pint at the Priory in St. John's square (however, the decor was a bit much).

Touristy stuff: I did a lot of walking around in the area, partially because I kept getting lost. I glanced in at St. Bartholomews and walked through Smithfield Market. On my afternoon off I went to the Tate Modern and thoroughly enjoyed it.

NB: there is a place in Exmouth Market where the sandwiches looked good but were in fact terrible. I can't remember the name of it.
posted by lackutrol at 4:32 PM on June 15, 2007

I forgot to mention an old (and apparently very haunted) jail near by (never been, but saw it on TV once)
posted by Dub at 7:41 AM on June 18, 2007

Here're some other links that sprang to mind
Wiki- Clerkenwell,

An MP3 Tour of the area (The sites include lots of other walks around London)

A friend's-friend's site covers places Worldwide
posted by Dub at 6:10 AM on June 25, 2007

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