IT’S National Pie Week, so we go and sample quality sandwiches. What an awkward squad we are at Taste of Manchester, but when The Clarence promised they were elevating the humble butty we couldn’t resist hopping on the Metrolink to Bury.
The town centre pub’s reputation was the clincher. Open in its present smart manifestation less than four years, it has twice won Best Food Pub in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards (in 2015 and 2017).
Immense credit goes to head chef Liam Rutherford, who came back from London after years as sidekick to Gary Rhodes with a template of unfussy fine dining that has worked consistently since, making the pub’s upstairs dining room a special occasion destination. Pub staples were never ignored downstairs (yes, pies), but somehow sandwiches never featured. Until the new spring menu and we settle down by the fire in the Snug to test how upper crust they are.
Liam (below) has told us: “A sandwich is probably the first thing anyone learns to make as a kid, but we’re showing the same attention to detail and consideration to these sandwiches as we do with our main menu. I’m really excited about the quality of ingredients and the flavour combinations we’ve put together for this new menu.”
Owner Lee Hollinworth, who spent two years renovating the neglected Victorian property, said “The Clarence has quite rightly become known for some exceptional food and the quality of service. The sandwich is a really good way for people to get a taste of the quality of the ingredients we use and to appreciate the skill in the kitchen, in a fast, filling, affordable lunch. We think these could be the best sandwiches in Greater Manchester.”
Correct? Places like the Chop Houses might contest the honours. The Clarence mirrors theirs with some seriously ample fillings and seriously chunky bread. You have a choice of white or wholemeal thick-cut bloomer. None of those anaemic crusts-cut-off triangles that make up the sarnie component of afternoon tea.
There are five sets of fillings, prices veering between £7 and £8.50 (for a Cornish crab and prawn number we didn’t try), fries extra, presentation in charming wooden boxes. Naturally, we each had our own favourite sandwich. Surprisingly not the blockbuster C.L.A.R.E.N.C.E,acrostically consisting of Chicken, Lettuce, Avocado, Ranch dressing, Egg, Nachos and Cherry Tomatoes.
It trails a very special medium rare Roast Beef sarnie with pickled daikon, horseradish salad cream and watercress (enthused we ordered extra horseradish on the side) and Marmalade Glazed Ham advertised with cucumber relish and oak leaf salad, but surely piccalilli was in there too?
The veggie alternative was also hugely admired, eclectically matching avocado and tomato with crumbled feta, dukkah and chimichurri sauce.
This sandwich range is available between 12pm and 5pm every day, the perfect accompaniment The Clarence’s own Silver Street Ales, though the Boutinot-sourced wine list is a temptation, too.
Alternatively check out mains on the new menu, which includes duck breast with boulangère potatoes, duck leg spring roll, carrot and anise purée (£15) and chalk stream river trout with peas, clams and linguini (£14).
The Clarence, 2 Silver Street, Bury BL9 0EX. 0161 464 7404.