The Duke of Clarence

Take a time hop at this 1800s-inspired English tavern with over 500 spirits, cask ales and a gastropub menu heroing classic British cuisine.
Kara Jensen-Mackinnon and Maxim Boon
Published on March 14, 2018
Updated on June 03, 2024

Overview

It pays to be curious on Clarence Street. By heading down a seemingly unremarkable laneway, you'll arrive in a courtyard where some of Sydney's best drinking can be found. Yet another surprise awaits through an unmarked backdoor and down a nondescript stairwell, where the jazzy, low-lit The Baxter Inn resides. There's also the understated rear entrance of the gin-soaked speakeasy, The Barber Shop.

However, the third venue to call this courtyard home has nothing to hide. Named after the fellow who would go on to become King William IV, The Duke of Clarence wears its mock-Tudor heart on its sleeve. Styled as a ye olde British tavern, it's the kind of boozer where Charles Dickens might have penned Great Expectations over a couple of ales and a pork pie.

The fit-out is not merely theatrical — it's also authentic. Everything from the floorboards to the leather couches and bar stools have been handpicked and shipped over from pubs and churches in the UK. The result is a cosy drinking den, complete with a library and a roaring fireplace, that feels like you're stepping back in time.

Behind the bar you'll find cask ales, an extensive whiskey offering, over 500 spirits, numerous imported and local wines, and (in a rare deviation from the otherwise consummate pub-ness) a list of innovative signature cocktails.

Like any gastropub worth its salt, the dining is as impressive as the drinking, with a food offering that is unmistakably British, yet elevated. The fish finger sandwich is a drastic improvement on the stodgy Birds Eye original, with fresh fish in a crisp batter coated in a light tartare sauce and served between pillowy fingers of white bread, crusts removed. Another Blighty classic, the scotch egg, retains a deliciously oozy centre, wrapped in a generous casing of pork and veal mince, spiked with fennel, chilli and punchy English mustard. Coming to The Duke of Clarence and not having the roast dinner with all the trimmings is a crime, especially as it's available every day and slathered in a lip-smacking slick of house-made gravy. Only have time for a quick bite? The ploughman's lunch — a board topped with vintage cheddar, a pork pie, freshly sliced leg ham, grilled bread, crackers and pickles — is a choose-your-own-adventure feed that is as quick as it is tasty.

Image credit: Kitti Gould

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