If I’m totally honest, having been disappointed by places with a bit of a gimmick, or several, I arrived at Earlham Street Clubhouse very skeptical.
It was described as ’90s American pop culture (think Clueless, Fugees) meets East Coast chic (preppy, tartan shirts, slacks, pleated skirts à la Upper East Side school girl intertwined with Abercrombie). The decor features an eclectic (‘you plug your box in the wall and you get power, stupid.’ ‘Not electric, eclectic. Stupid.’) mix of reclaimed wood panelling contributing to beachside Hamptons boardwalk glamour, vintage tin signs, high school yearbook photos of celebs and imported Coney Island fairground lights crossed with battered suede seating. There’s a main area, styled with exposed brick, framed varsity flags, a jukebox, a beautiful copper topped Victorian mahogany long bar and a wonderfully open kitchen, which features a wood-fired stone pizza oven.At the back and the side there are secret passages down to cave like booths that seem a bit edgier than the main restaurant, oozing cool to make you really feel part of the A group. Cher and Dionne have gone to get your ‘Rolling With The Homies’ cocktail and the nostalgia provided by great song after great song will keep the excitement coming. How other places have picked car crash prap from the CD pile, so you cringe while you chew, these guys have taken the very best the ’90s had to offer. There doesn’t need to be any irony, as it’s still the music you listen to and if you don’t, you should be. Listening to The Score is something that never gets old.There are a few other novelties. For example, drinks menus are attached to pulleys on the ceiling, thus canceling out damp menus and not enough at the bar. A brilliant idea. You can request songs via an app. I spotted a Hamburger phone, which just reminded me of The Diner in Home & Away and some of the booths even have taps where you can pour ice-cold beer straight at your table. They also have Coors Light…on tap!Knowing most of this before I arrived, I thought this was too much. Too many thoughts, too much to execute in one place. After all, they are just doing pizza. New York pizza. I practically spat in my smug ‘I know New York pizza and the Brits can’t do it’ way that makes me extremely unattractive. Homeslice, just round the corner from here had tried it the simple way. Pizza, no frills, which I found so foul, I couldn’t even waste time writing a post on it, as it would have simply said ‘Don’t go.’ With this though, I was totally wrong. It has been executed immaculately. Every detail, every thought has really been carried through, without seeming like they were trying too hard. I’m amazed. It’s just brilliant. The feel of the place takes you to a realm you would have died for aged fifteen, wanting this to be the place you would hang out at, come adulthood. Imagine the essence of The Diner, The Coffee Shop, Bayside Diner, The Moon Beach Cafe to name a few (props if you get where the last one is from) and take these, turn them into something grown up, keeping the skeleton, and that is a meeting place. Somewhere that doesn’t feel like you’ve got to dine and dash, somewhere that although the food is great, you can catch up with people whilst not having to worry about ‘small sharing plates’ or the queue of people forming around you.
Now don’t think I’ve got caught up in all the hullabaloo and forgotten what this blog is about. I know why I was there and that was the menu. The pizza was thin, crispy and boy did it deliver (no pun intended). I tried three different pizzas.
1) The Plain Jane – Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella, Fresh Basil & Olive Oil.
Each had its own unique strengths but all were equally as good. ‘Screech’ was really spicy, but in a way that just made you want more (funnily enough, nothing like the real Screech). The Plain Jane, just good old cheese and tomato, which is the one I always go for, by the slice, in NY, hit me big time! I was bowled over. It reminded me of times I would stroll back after a long day at work (man the Yanks work hard) and stop off for a dollar slice at The Crispy Pizza Cafe on 14th. The Fresh Prince was delicious, with garlic coming through, it was mouth-wateringly good. You can have them by the slice or in 12″ and 20″ sized pies.For me this place encapsulates my childhood, my passion, the music I grew up on as a ’90s child, great food and beyond awesome cocktails. They even have red cups and a cocktail called Dawson’s Creek.As an extra (like these guys needed anything else) they have a food residency, yup, they’ve caught on quick and added the mother of all street food vendors. None other than Anna Mae’s. I wrote about her Mac ‘n’ Cheese earlier in the summer when I went to Truck Stop. It’s a very clever addition. It’s simple, American cool. The food you always wanted, but knew you shouldn’t, but when you did it just tasted so good! Needless to say I tucked into a Kanye Western, it’s served with barbecue sauce, chopped up Frankfurter and crispy onions. Herman would be proud.If you want somewhere to go, with excellent food, a chilled out place that still feels like there’s an exclusivity to it, then please go here. It’s great for just a drink (or 6) as the cocktails are a steal (starting at £7) and there’s a lot to choose from. I tried a few (ahem). A couple of them were:
The Clubhouse Lagerita – El Jimador blanco, agave syrup and fresh lime, served frozen, topped with beer.
Rolling With The Homies – Ketel 1 Vodka, peach and strawberry puree, fresh lemon and sugar, served long, topped with fizz (my favourite).
I also spotted a flavoured Ketel 1 square of shooters in different colours, designed to look like a game of Twister, complete with the arrowboard and everything.The only complaint I have is make the slices bigger. If you want to do this like a real New Yorker you need to be able to fold that slice in half. If that’s my only piece of criticism, then you know we’re onto something.
Trust me when I say you need to join the club. I’ll see you there.
The Earlham Street Clubhouse
35 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LD
020 7240 5142