The Clerkenwell Kitchen

Perched at a counter in The Clerkenwell Kitchen and tucking into a ploughman’s lunch my experience was admittedly a far cry from the origins of the dish. Traditionally a ploughman’s lunch contained cheese, bread and pickles and was prepared in winter time by a ploughman’s wife or mother. My ploughman’s did contain the same basic ingredients as the traditional version and it was suitably rustic in serving size and appearance however I think any comparisons can end there. I doubt the poor ploughman ever saw tomatoes as ripe as the ruby red beauties perched on my plate and surely there ham was nothing like The Clerkenwell Kitchen’s ham which came in thick slabs cut off the bone of the quality that you only usually see at Christmas time. This was a ploughman’s lunch fit for a princess.

The ploughman’s


The top quality ingredients of my ploughman’s lunch presented in a down to earth fashion are emblematic of the approach taken at The Clerkenwell Kitchen. It may be housed in a trendy warehouse space with polished concrete floors, exposed brickwork and designer furniture but the food is decidedly unfussy. After all, The Clerkenwell Kitchen was awarded Time Out’s award for best Sustainable Restaurant in 2008. The head chef is Emma Miles who previously worked with Hugh Fearnely- Whittingstall at River Cottage and appears to be putting some of his principles into practice in the big smoke. It has an admirable commitment to fair and sustainable trade with a focus on local, seasonal, organic and free range cooking. This extends to using biodegradable packaging and recycling all waste glass, paper, cardboard, cans and plastic bottles. The Clerkenwell Kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch during the week and for some reason that I do not quite understand only open for evening meals on Thursdays. The menu is chalked up on a blackboard and changes daily. It always includes six lunch dishes and two puddings along with a selection of sandwiches and other goodies that can be taken away for around £3.50 a pop. On the day of my visit the menu ranged from pea and mint soup to mackerel served with beetroot and horseradish.

Chocolate brownie

Even though the weather was stultifying warm the lamb chops were flying out of the kitchen. Two large chops were served in all their glory with a thick roll of fat hanging off them on top of a plate of white beans doused with salse verde and two slow roasted tomato halves. The chops were tender and blush pink inside yielding their juices to mix with beans.

Since it was just a light lunch I was after I thought I could get away without a pudding but was unable to resist the temptation of a pyramid of chocolate brownies stacked on top of the counter to the open plan kitchen. The brownie did not disappoint in a so good it must be so bad for you type of way with a fudgy interior and slightly crisp top.

While I sipped on an (organic) lemonade The Clerkenwell Kitchen also offers a choice of wines and beers. Service is very friendly to the extent that a lot of the customers were on first name terms with the staff and must work nearby and use The Clerkenwell Kitchen as a ritzy and ethically sound work cafeteria. However, I am tipping they are mainly architects and Clerkenwell media types rather than ploughmen.

Details: 27-31 Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell EC1R OAT (Ph 0207 101 9959)
Damage: Reasonable

If you liked reading about eating lunch with a touch of ethics and local produce thrown in you might be intersted in the Farm Collective in nearby Smithfield. Or if that photo of a brownie has made you hungry try this recipe for chocolate brownies with walnuts. Clerkenwell Kitchens on Urbanspoon


  1. Hello, I have been wanting to check out Clerkenwell Kitchen for ages, but the only one night a week thing limits my chances! I think I will request a visit for a Birthday ,the food sounds right up my alley!

    Thanks for the review, I am convinced, and now craving a ploughman’s lunch!

    Caitlin – Vinoteca

  2. That looks a great ploughman’s. Such a simple dish, its just all about good ingredients. London’s pubs should take note!

  3. oh, could definitely use a brownie right now.

    glad I stumbled across your blog! I’m such a foodie. 🙂

  4. “Traditionally a ploughman’s lunch contained cheese, bread and pickles and was prepared in winter time by a ploughman’s wife or mother”

    So not the invention of marketing teams who developed the term to sell more cheese to UK pubs in the 1960’s then?

  5. Nice to hear about another place with a sustainable food philsophy.

  6. That ploughman’s lunch looks amazing- you’re right about those tomatoes, they’re beautiful. And I like that they’re generous with the cheese 😀 Sounds like a really nice place.

  7. This looks great, I love the summer months and the inevitable appearance of the ploughmans but all too often it’s uninspiring and poorly executed. This looks like a fine version, I must check this place out.

  8. Vinoteca – think this place would be perfect for your birthday and not too far to walk from Vinoteca

    Ramsay’s – you are so right it is all about the ingredients

    Jessie – good to hear from you. I have checked out your blog as well and it looks good.

    Anon – I have heard that theory before. Apparently though the cheese marketers did bring the dish to wide spread prominence but theare are records of ploughman’s lunch before all of the marketers got their hands on it.

    A Girl Has to Eat – you get to feel a little bit virtuous eating there

    Laura – the more I reflect on my lunch there the more I think it was just about perfect.

    Boo – I agree it is a dish that can be done very well or very poorly.

  9. wow, sounds like a great place to eat. the brownie alone has me salivating! thanks for the recommendation re: Olive magazine. I will check it out!

  10. I’ve heard really good thingds about the Clerkenwell Kitchen. After looking at your photos I think I’m definitely going 🙂

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