Charles Campion enjoys unfussy pub food... but £5 for bread?

When venturing into the unknown it is always best to ask someone who knows, which is why I find myself hitting the email to my Friends in the North. There are some outstanding gastropubs to the North of Manchester and their publicity machine is relentless. The Freemasons at Wiswell fires clouds of emails from a HQ in the Ribble Valley; while the papers are full of the Eagle and Child in Ramsbottom where they have just won a national gong. But after hearing me bleating about beer the Friends put down a marker for the Clarence in Bury and I find myself in the black pudding capital of Britain.

This pub is large and the décor doesn’t stray far from the 1905 original. To straight-laced Victorians the Edwardian decade must have seemed like a breath of fresh air. Plenty of style but a perfect match with what we want in a pub today. Old wood floors. An imposing bar. An elegant dining room on the first floor. All this and an on-site brewery. The Silver Street Brewing Company offers a decent line-up of beers including a stonking American style I.P.A. (5.7%), lots of hops, clear, rich and delicious. Perfect with food and plenty of competition for the unaggressive wine list.

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The Clarence was constructed in 1905
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Rack of lamb - pricey at £22

The Clarence does a good job of including everyone. There’s an appetising veggie menu; a competitive lunch menu at £12.75; and a Sunday roast. The only place things falter is when it comes to the main menu pricing. For decades I have been banging on about the “wrongness” of charging for bread and here a basket of five small rolls costs £5 – that’s too much. Much too much. Bread should be offered as a matter of course. 

Some of chef Liam Rutherford’s smarter dishes are also on the pricey side – a decent sized rack of lamb tops the menu at £22. Accurately cooked and well-presented, but that’s over £5 a chop. Having got these gripes out of the system it’s worth noting that the standard of cooking is generally good and the presentation is appetising without being fussy.

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The Clarence: dark wood and a gentle ambience
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Poulet noir - an excellent bird

The black pudding croquettes are well made and are good to eat but you do find yourself yearning for a chunk of Bury’s finest that hasn’t been fiddled with. The ham hock and cider terrine displays good charcuterie skills and crops up on both the lunch menu and the main menu. The “hot dog” is cracking. A good sausage, good bun, great coleslaw and a gentle price tag.

Chef Rutherford is to be congratulated on sourcing French Blackleg chickens. The “Poulet Noir” is an excellent bird and it makes perfect sense to roast the supremes and cook the legs separately. All too often the “sides” on the menu disappoint but not here – “swede and carrot” is a lurid buttery mash and the buttered cabbage has some crunch left in it. By the time you get to the desserts you’ve probably taken the sting out of your appetite but the chocolate brownie is worth trying – choco addicts would approve.

Look around the ground floor where the bar dominates the room. Dark wood. Gentle ambience. Eat here rather than the posh dining room. The service is very crisp and friendly. If you are wealthy enough to ignore the prices you will be happy here, it’s enough to make you into an Edwardian.

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Silver Street - the on-site micro brewery

The Clarence, 2 Silver Street, Bury BL9 0EX - Tel: 0161 464 7404 - Opening 11am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, Sunday 12 to 2.30pm.

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

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  • Food 7/10

    (Black pudding croquettes 6.5, ham hock terrine 6, hot dog 7.5, rack of lamb 7, black leg chicken 8, carrot and swede side 6, chocolate brownie 6)

  • Service 4/5

    crisp and friendly

  • Ambience 4/5

    Gentle, wood, pub