It seems as though every pub rushed to capitalise on the gastropub trend, and is now struggling to fill seats when people go out for a quick drink rather than a meal of any description. In this particular annex dining room, the muted drapes of material hang across the ceiling and cleverly strung lights bear no obvious hint to the weatherboard walls and plastic roofing that they mask. When the lights are turned down at around 8pm it’s even quite atmospheric.
This would make a great, undisturbed venue for a private dinner party. There’s also a lovely little pocket of outdoor tables beyond the dining room. Having a private party might solve the main concern we had with the menu: its brevity. I’m sure the team here would be delighted to work through a menu with you in advance; the passion and knowledge for seasonal British food radiates from the menu and the staff.
It’s been a long time since I’ve found it so easy to select from a menu, but with five starters, four mains and a handful of pub snacks and sharing plates, it took only moments. It wasn’t enough for one couple, who after sitting for a few minutes made their exit, stating that there wasn’t anything on the menu that suited them tonight. The positives of such a short menu are that it changes often for those seeking variety and spontaneity, and it is full of seasonal ingredients selected fresh daily.
Smoked haddock fish cakes from the snack menu were soft and fluffy inside their crisp coating, served with lashings of lemon mayonnaise. The haddock and clam chowder was seasoned well, but came more as a stack of beautifully cooked potato, fish and clams tossed with finely chopped parsley and kernels of juicy sweet corn sitting atop a milky broth. Not clam chowder as you would usually know it, but a welcome variation.
Peppered fillet of beef came as a plate full of rare-cooked quality meat accompanied by large, buttery, perfectly seasoned runner beans and a big helping of sharp, coarse and creamy horseradish. The steak was a definite winner and tasted as though it had been slapped onto a plate straight from a posh barbeque. The roast mackerel was not so impressive. The fish just didn’t deliver on flavour and the accompaniments of warm tomato wedges and small black olives only served to add to the blandness and pungency respectively. All was redeemed with our final course. My perfectly created apple tart came with a delightful butterscotch sauce and thick cream. So simple, but so well executed.
It can be so frustrating when a gastropub hikes up prices and trims down its portion sizes. Not so with the cheese board here, as three huge chunks of local cheeses appeared, served with crackers, chutney and, of course, grapes. This cheese plate for one could easily serve two (or one very happy cheese-lover). The food is reasonably priced for the serving sizes and overall quality at the Coach and Horses. There’s also a real sense that the chef and staff care about the food. If you are looking for a venue for a private party, or want a quiet, simple meal in the city or even a beer in a friendly pub, it’s worth stopping by the Coach and Horses.
The Coach and Horses: 26-28 Ray Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1 3DJ.
Tel: 020 7278 8990.
Reviewer: Jennifer Earle