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The Duke of Clarence

An 1800s-inspired pub with over 500 spirits and a solid menu.
By Kara Jensen-Mackinnon
March 14, 2018
By Kara Jensen-Mackinnon
March 14, 2018

Those brave enough to mosey down the darkened alleyway that is Clarence Street in search of a stiff drink will be rewarded. The unassuming courtyard you arrive in — that already plays host to drinking meccas at The Baxter Inn and The Barber Shop — has an impressive venue. Named after the fellow who would go on to become King William IV, The Duke of Clarence is a particularly ambitious venture — it's an 1800s-style British tavern, somewhere Charles Dickens might have penned Great Expectations over a couple of ales and a pork pie.

A pub is supposed to be the sort of place where you can sit with a pint with some mates and watch the world go by. Thankfully, The Duke of Clarence is a pub that fits into that category without the 21st-century clickbait.

And the fit-out is meticulous. Everything from the floorboards to the leather couches and bar stools has been handpicked and shipped over from pubs and churches in the UK. The result is a cosy cavern, complete with nooks and comfy places to sit, that feels truly authentic.

Ye olde tavern seems to have become a high-powered magnet for suit-donning city bros who make up roughly 80% of the clientele, their needs met by the bar's heavy focus on cask ales and extensive whiskey offering (not to say city bros don't like Pimm's cups or rosé, The Duke of Clarence have those too). But given that there are over 500 spirits, numerous imported and local wines and an interesting list of innovative cocktails there really is something for everyone no matter what your preference.

The food on offer is unmistakably British, a tasty nod to the morsels popularised by the drinking quarters of Northern England. The menu has a distinctly carnivorous vibe, however, so if you're after something a little less meaty this might not be the place for you.

The favourite is a fish finger sandwich — a drastic improvement on the stodgy Birds Eye original — with fresh fish in a crisp batter coated in a light tartare sauce and served in cloud-like fingers of white bread. Classic Sunday roasts are available every day plus the scotch egg and Ploughman's lunch — a board topped with a hunk of vintage cheddar, a portly pork pie, grilled bread and pickles.

The Duke of Clarence is all class and a real testament to what a bar can be when it's not based purely on Instagram trends. After a few hours spent in a snug little nook knocking back brews, it's strangely easy to forget which century you're in — if it weren't for the fact that everyone was wearing suits and equipped with an iPhone, you'd be forgiven for thinking you had travelled back in time.

Image: KItti Smallbone.

Updated April 28, 2023.

Image credit: Kitti Gould

Appears in: 

The Best Pubs in Sydney

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