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Dovetail, Clerkenwell

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user reviews of the Dovetail, Clerkenwell

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Have been twice recently and had two completely different experiences, which may explain the mixed reviews here.

Once midweek - excellent service, knowledgeable and friendly staff and yummy food. Couldn't fault it. However...

Last night (a Saturday) - disinterested and aloof barmaid who, when asked which fruit beer she'd recommend - "I hate fruit beers" (!), then went on to mention another beer on tap "but it's only 5%". Really no interest or knowledge of Belgian beer and looked at me like I had two heads whenever I went to the bar. No table service at all, even though it wasn't busy.

Then, after last orders, standing at deserted bar to close tab and make payment - "The bar's closed" bellowed across the pub from a table of staff obviously wanting to knock off early. No apology when I explained I was waiting to pay, and surely they should have been doing the final rounds themselves instead of sitting chatting at a table? Really unprofessional.

A real shame - I doubt we'll go back, at least not at a weekend.

jhclare - 6 May 2012 15:20
Really surprised to read such negative comments about this lovely little place. I have been going in a few times a month over the last couple of years . My only gripe is that it is sometimes difficult to find somewhere to sit but the food is good and reasonably priced, the beer list is amazing!!!. The staff know about the beers they sell and are happy to give you a sample. My advice try it for yourself
flashabout - 26 Apr 2012 09:44
I'd always assumed this place was something special, given how packed it usually is. Went here for our work Christmas party, and was pretty disappointed. The food, at £25 per head for the set menu, was desperately poor: roast beef left under lights for so long it was essentially leather, desserts that weren't what they said, and had clearly been bought (some of them still had bits of foil wrap glued to them). Waitress was nice enough about it, but the manager denied there was any problem, saying "no-one else has complained".

Not been in here for non-Christmas food, so maybe they just think this is a good season to fleece people by serving them prefab rubbish at a steep markup. I'm not going back to find out, though.
DeadBadger - 16 Dec 2011 10:58
We were shushed as well, when our group momentarily had the temerity to laugh together. A nice little place, in a nice little pocket of London, ruined by absolutely ridiculous staff. Don't bother,
Lemon61 - 11 Oct 2011 11:50
I'm no expert on Belgian beer, but I do know that the food was overpriced and the atmosphere unremarkable.
rob1981 - 28 Feb 2011 23:14
I do not agree the staff are rude - quite the opposite. I ordered Leffe Brune which was unavailable and barman instantly filled two shot glasses with alternatives for me to taste and choose. Only slight issue is that 90% of the tables were "reserved" making it hard to find anywhere to sit down.
seagullfan - 15 Dec 2010 08:01
Awfully rude staff, awful food. This pub thinks it is trendy because it serves chips in a Hoegaarden glass... My friends and I were also told to be quiet, I have never been to a pub to enjoy a few beers and laughter only to be told to be quiet. It seems from the comments below that this is a commonly encountered problem. DO NOT GO HERE IF YOU ENJOY BEER AND BANTER, there are plenty of other pubs in London which sell a wide range of Belgian beers (which are actually available) and at the same time appreciate the value of merriment.
Geoff89 - 4 Dec 2010 12:58
This used to be one of my favourite bars in the area with a good selection of belgian beers and excellent food. However, I visited in November and, maybe they were just having an off night, but it seems to have gone downhill. Despite having to leave a £10 deposit just so one of our party to drink his Kwak from an authentic glass (apparently people walk off with them!), the food which was coming out looked like standard pub grub with none of the usual rag-rolled suet puddings, moules or waterzooi to be seen anywhere on the menu. Alot of the beers that we wished to try from their extensive list weren't available and the usually knowledgeable bar staff didn't seem to have much of a clue about the beers that they did have. Very disappointing, I hope it was an off night.
firsttimewalker - 28 Jan 2010 14:22
We visited this pub last night, beer was very good although I would not recommend drinking in this place with a large group.

The staff certainly fought hard to maintain the authentic Belgian experience to the point where we thrown out for being too loud (threatening to call the police as we stood outside waiting for our friend in the toilet was a little militant). I will therefore always remember this place as being the first pub I have ever been thrown out of.

jimbob82 - 3 Oct 2009 12:43
Be careful if you are ordering food in a large group here. We ordered 8 meals - and only six arrived (all were paid for before ordering)

Staff were very unhelpful claiming that others in the party 'must have eaten' the two missing meals, and refused to offer and refund or replacement meals.
alexreeves - 25 Jul 2009 18:44
Lovely lovely beers STILL all good - burgers are decent enough and ef needed after the room-spinning lovely beers....lievly not rowdy....a taste of the Benelux in Farringdon....
paulio1966 - 3 May 2009 23:56
One of Londons hidden secrets this place.

Never seen so many different Belgium bottles beers in my life time.

Well worth seeking out if your in London
superseagulls - 6 Apr 2009 18:47
Beer - Loads of it. Yes they do Artois but no Stella - good. I had Delerium, Boon and Leffe Braun and all reliable foamy glasses of flavour and joy. I'm moving to Belgium.

Food - Variations on Belgian cuisine plus some bar snacks. Reports are favourable so I will give it a try next time.

Atmosphere - Quiet at 5pm but by 6pm full of local suits and affecianados. The less brave chose the draught Cristal lager beer - each to his own but the bottles in the fridge are more exciting. Music was unobtrusive.

Service - Friendly and well-informed. The barman warned me about the gueuze beer that I ordered stating that some punters have said it was off (due to its tart taste). I already know gueuze beer from La Mort Subite in Brussels but it was good of him to check first.

Overall - Reminiscent of bars in Ghent and Brussels but with minimal table service when busy. I like this place - anywhere that doesn't pander to fighting juice or nerdy ale-heads is alright with me. Ilove real ale AND Belgian beers and Clerkenwell/Farringdon has enough great boozers to cater for both sets of affeciandos.
paulio1966 - 8 Oct 2008 16:38
This is a great pub, always busy and brilliant atmosphere, if you have been to belgium and experienced the bars in bruge or ghent this will be almost like de ja vu!! The range of belgium bottled beers is very good and they always have 1 or 2 on tap as well, food is wonderful especially the sausage and mash.
floreffe - 31 Jul 2008 19:40
Firstly don't expect a cheap belgian bar, as you are buying a premium product not a pint of swill.
Good continental cafe feel with a great selection of beers and the wildboar sausage is fabulous

Badger350 - 29 Jun 2008 16:16
Visited for a quick one on Thursday night. Large selection of Belgian beers although unspectacular. Pretty much all the Trappists and the main contenders from the various styles. Zot was the best of the draught beers.

Worth a go.
GuideDogSaint - 24 May 2008 19:45
This pub provides a very good option in the teeth of tough competition in the Clerkenwell Green area. The Belgian beers are superb and a very wide range is provided. They have two Kwak glasses (chemistry sets) and the range of beers on tap has been enlarged in recent years. Good continental food and burgers with the classic Belgian frites complete the experience. Knowledgeable bar staff are also on hand to recommend different brews. I think the Dovetail is inferior to its Hackney sibling but is still excellent.
BoehmBawerk - 16 Apr 2008 14:41
Discovered this pub for the first time last night - by complete accident while taking a stroll through clerkenwell having arrived early to meet a friend.

Seemed fine inside with a pleasant homely continental decor. I had a half of De Koonink which was fine, and found the staff to be very friendly. It is well worth another visit when time allows, to make a more comprehensive review.

Food generally smelled good, and what portions I did see on people's plates did not look all that small.
lad_newton - 6 Mar 2008 17:50
When planning a reunion with old school friends from Brussels who all happen to live over here now, the Dovetail seemed like the perfect choice. I'd been once before and had a great time, but I had forgotten how loud the place gets when it's crowded (the tiled walls I guess), making conversation very shouty and repetitive.

The staff were lovely and very attentive, and we enjoyed the great selection of decent beers.
On the food front however, it felt as if the chef had gone on holiday and put the least capable person in charge. The 'specials' we had - which seemed straightforward enough for anyone to cook well - absolutely disappointed: the cajun chicken was dry and bland and the advertised vegetable 'jambalaya' laughable, the burger - positively humungous at sister pub the Dove and described as such by the staff here too - so tiny my (petite) friend had to order extra chips.
The mussels the rest of us went for tasted absolutely delicious, but I've just checked with the other two and we're all still recovering from the food poisoning we came away with. (We only met for this one meal and then everyone went back to their own part of the country where we all got sick at around the same time, ie the culprit is obvious!)

I work close to the Dove on Broadway Mkt and will keep going there for drinks as I cannot resist Kriek from the tap, but I won't be taking anyone to the Dovetail again.
steph_vr - 11 Feb 2008 10:18
Having been recently disappointed by its sister pub in Hackney we dropped in here for some refreshment.We live in Belgium and are quite au fait with the beer selection but the whole ambience left us feeling empty.Wallets and stomachs included.Far too pricey and food not too warm.Someone has seriously taken their eye off the ball.Standards have dropped here as well of late.Shame.Cest la vie.
livelyjoe - 11 Dec 2007 03:32
I work round the corner and love this place. Yes its sometimes busy and hard to get a table if you dont book, but the selection of beer is fab and I agree about the burgers. You are guaranteed a great night in this lovely part of town. Avoid Friday evenings if you dont like crowd. Staff sometimes overworked but I havea always found polite. Cant always blame place if you dont have a good time ?
anonymous - 14 Nov 2007 11:15
Good food and beer here. The burgers are excellent.

Let down by lack of air con and ventilation. It is always stuffy in there no matter what time of the year.
riddz - 11 Nov 2007 12:08
Work there do we, randomination?
LemonGrass - 19 Oct 2007 18:05
None of the comments here about staff being rude ring true; they were all extremely polite and helpful when we went for a birthday party. The pints of frites are also excellent.
randomination - 9 Sep 2007 11:55
A few friends and I went to the Dovetail on a Thursday night whilst the selection of beers does from the outset seem quite appealing I do have to say it is a venue I will not be rushing to visit in the future.

The staff have to be some of the rudest and unwelcoming bar staff I have ever come across during my time in London. We felt like we were back at school being told not talk too loudly and where we couldnít sit (its a bar not a classroom!!!!!). The manageress of the bar had taken it upon herself to go to all the customers in the bar and remind them to keep the noise down and not to sit in certain areas of the bar! Whilst leaving the bar unattended leaving a handful of very thirsty and disgruntled customers who decided they had enough and left.

The bar itself is very dark and dingy with little or no ventilation so guys make sure you have a t shirt on under that shirt as those sweat patches is not the most appealing site.

I donít normally write comments on bars but the fact that your paying £3 - £4 for a beer with such awful service promoted me to take action!!!

So my advice is spend your money elsewhere! If you do decide to visit then make sure sit up straight in an orderly fashion and do as youíre told when being spoken to by the staff or youíll get detention!!!!!!

Harman - 25 Jun 2007 13:09
The beers are brilliant of course and one could spend a few days on a virtual tour of Belgium's finest. The Florisgaarden Passion is a remarkable fruit beer and there are all the super favourites.

This pub could achieve greatness but lets itself down through a) not being a patch on its sibling in Hackney and b) allowing almost all the tables to be reserved of a Friday night - message to the owners: it's a pub, not a restaurant.
BoehmBawerk - 1 Jun 2007 13:15
great choice of beers but pricey, piped Brazilian music doesnt exactly add to any authenticity
moclips2002 - 26 May 2007 20:12
Certainly a great menu of Belgian beers at not-too-bad prices, helpfully sub-divided into easy to understand sections on the menu.

Not a great place to drink them though, inside is pretty dreary, the tiling reminded me of a public convenience and the furniture is uncomfortable cafe-street style (which isn't so bad when outside on a hot summers day, but not inside on a drab Friday in February).

Worth a brief stop, but Quinn's up in Camden also has an extensive range of Low Country beers in a far more comfortable session setting.
Quinno - 25 Feb 2007 18:39
Always justifiably packed when I've been there. Stupendous range of beers, whether you're go for the fruity brews or not - if you're with anyone who says they can't find anything they like the sound of, you're better off politely asking them to leave and find themselves the nearest All Bar One while you sit back and enjoy Belgium's finest.
Surpasses its Broadway Market big brother in many ways now, service being most obvious one - friendly yet brisk (not brusque). Food I've had has been decent too, thought they ran out of mushy peas on my last visit, so the fish & chips came with salad - yes, salad - instead. The thought was there, but that's just plain wrong. Otherwise, the Dovetail's a winner.
TheHofBear - 8 Nov 2006 14:08
Brilliant little bar, with a huge range of Belgian beer. Easily the best Belgian experience in London. Bar staff are very knowledgeable about the beer, and will provide recommendations. Excellent food too - try the wild boar burgers.
Crow_Valley - 29 Oct 2006 18:33
Tucked away to the extent where it's almost hidden.

Outstanding array of Belgian beers/trappist ales but some of them do a mischeif and make you fall over.

Food is decent enough.
Only down side is the crowd of braying suits you get in there after work.

Having said that, worth going out of your way for.
terenced - 21 Aug 2006 15:39
It is closed on Sundays. It is open all day Mon - Sat.
anonymous - 2 Jun 2006 16:04
Excellent pub, with a massive selection of Belgian beers and great food of the burger and sausage variety. Despite being supposedly open 7 days a week from 11am-3pm and then from 6pm, is sometimes mysteriously closed.
Veester - 2 Jun 2006 16:01
Brilliant pub, and an amazing selection of beer. This has to be one of my favourite places now, tucked away down a little side street with welcoming staff, fantastic food, and a cosy feel. The only gripe I have about it is that the cosy feel can quickly become a crowded one, as The Dovetail is quite small, and the decor is fairly unimaginitive. But as the other reviews say, a few Gulden Draaks or Lucifers later and you won't even care...

bazco101 - 9 May 2006 14:11
Is it a bar, is it a pub, who knows? Don't care after a few lethal belgian beers.
The staff I spoke to were helpful with the beer selection too!
Just a pity it isn't open all weekend!!
Badger350 - 5 May 2006 22:22
Dead nice food and decent prices, beers excellent tho would be nice to see a few more on draft as well as all the bottles. Try the Dentergems. Feels a bit more like a restaurant than a pub, friendly service.
OldRogue - 20 Mar 2006 13:42
Excellent little pub!! I was really impressed with their range of beers (gorgeous Kriek on draught!) and their food was absolutely devine. It was a bit chilly in there though - is this the new London idea to get us to drink more or something as I've noticed boozers dont have that cozy feel anymore! Chillyness aside a great pub and I'll definately be back again!
ickleprincess - 18 Mar 2006 18:52
The choice and quality of beer is fantastic but do watch the strength of these. I've been there umpteen times but can't recall ever leaving.
Pedders - 17 Mar 2006 16:46
Bierodrome? Pah! The Dovetail wins hands down. Simply the best place to sample Belgian beer - with probably the largest range to pick from.

Relaxed and chilled, I always seem to get a seat. I can't recommend it enough - nothing better than having two or three strong beers and letting the haze gradually set in. Ahhhhh...
TeamSambo - 26 Jan 2006 12:34
Great place to spend an evening working your way through the extensive beer menu.

Food is good too ... with exotic burgers and the chips 'n mayo sideline.

Always spend an evening here when down on business and it never disappoints.
nebel - 3 Jan 2006 11:47
Wonderful place. Totally unique in London. Gets very busy and a little bit too packed sometimes. When there aren't many people around and they put on some nice chilled jazz in the background its perfect though. Depends when you go.

The food is VERY good and good value. The service is unsmiling but technically good.

The beers - amazing. I went for a weekend in Bruges recently and the best bars there weren't really much better than this in terms of beer selection.

You have to try it, but not on a Friday night!
anonymous - 16 Dec 2005 13:06
Very odd Belgium-orientated bar. Dark, snug room with posters of Tintin on the walls. Get here early if you want a seat. Love trying the different beers in lots of odd-shaped glasses but it can be a drain on the wallet. And yes, the staff can be a little - erm - unsmiling but me and my girlfriend found that more amusing than offensive.
gjc - 1 Aug 2005 13:40
I've been here about once a week for 3 years. I love Belgian beer - lots of practice in Belgium ;o)

I've never found the staff or service to be anything but friendly (they're even urbane when asking people to leave - on the few occasions I've seen it done).

They carry a good, and slowly changing, range of over 100 Belgian beers, at reasonable prices (for Belgian beer in the UK), and any member of staff who's been there longer than a week knows the range well and how to serve it.

Their food is always excellent, for carnivores or vegetarians, and good value.

The decor is eclectic (which is very trad. Belgian) - although I'm not sure the latest bout of tiling was an improvement. I usually hate music in bars but not here.
JollyGreenGiant - 15 Jul 2005 14:17
I went here when I was already pretty drunk and I must say the bar staff were very tolerant. Served me a couple of fine beers and were very knowledgeable. They didn't even mind me slurring my words when trying to order. I'll go back again when I'm sober to give it a proper review.
Ketsbaia - 27 Jun 2005 14:55
I love this bar.
Yes the beer is expensive, but it is not much cheaper in Brussels especially after our Government has added on tax .
The fruit beers are wonderful and they have the finest collection in London.
Staff know their beers and how to serve it.
The food is perfect for the place and the chips are great.
Ok it could do with a lick of paint, but that is half the attraction of the place.
Oh and you get 250ml drinks because that the correct measure to serve the beer in.

Martin B - 31 Oct 2004 18:44
Wonderful little Belgium Bar in Clerkenwell. Well worth stepping off the beaten track for an evening of indulgence. If your time is limited make sure you try at least a champagne beer and a wild boar burger whilst relaxing in this fantastic Bohemian retreat. Will be spending more time there next week as they have over 100 Belgium Beers on the Menu.
Gavin AIken - [email protected] - 4 Oct 2004 14:25
Belgian bars, and Belgian beer, are expensive, just take a look at Lowlander or where ever, or any pub that sells a decent beer from the Low countires. Dammit, there's a poxy Slug & Lettuce on the riverfront in Richmond that charged me £3.20 for a pint of wife-beater a couple of years back which is worth moaning about.

I enjoyed my trip, had a few 'Strong Henry's' and chilled out. The staff seemed alright to me and Iiked the look of the room at the far-end with the flock-wallpaper. That looked like Trad Belgian to me.

MrScott - 20 Sep 2004 11:08
Good selection of beers, but I have to agree with the 'expensive' rating, and to be honest the service could not be more surly, rude and damn right unfriendly if they tried.
andy - 6 Sep 2004 17:09
A really nice bar, especially when it's quiet - it's even got Tintin pictures on the wall, which is a sign of a groovy place in my book.

Some of the beers are expensive, but wouldn't you rather pay a bit more to go somewhere that's more interesting than another All Bar One, Pitcher & Piano, Wetherspoons, O'Neills ... ?
Alan D - 20 Aug 2004 13:01
I lived around the corner from this lovely bar during my year stay in london. It may be expensive, but I cannot speak highly enough of it. It is a friendly atmosphere with a good soundtrack when they remember to put on a CD. Not to mention the chips are to die for.

Oh lord do I miss this cozy place I came to call a second home.

Go visit and have a Kriek for me!
Kim - 16 Aug 2004 07:14
used to live above this fine pub -god damn, do i miss it.

highly recommend the guillotine...oh and the food....
mWa - 13 Aug 2004 01:03
i would usually cherish any pub with such a wide variety of fine (especially fruit!) beers, and such a yummy sounding menu - but they are atrociously expensive, which ruins everything.
yes, clerkenwell is a nice area but drinking in the company of this more-money-than-sense clientele really sullies the environment.
if you're a normal human being, you feel wasteful and guilty at paying such silly money for beer, not to mention rather uncomfortable and on edge. it's a belgian beer pub! it should be down-to-earth, unpretentious and quietly proud -not like some hideous yuppie wine bar.
another irritation is that they only sell the interesting draught beers in half-pint (£2.50) or 2-pint jug sizes (£10.00), which puts your nose out of joint somewhat when what you want is a PINT...
if you fancy trying a particular beer and you're in the area, by all means drop in; but unless it's deathy quiet, sample once and move on.
in conclusion - definitely not a place to make a pilgrimage to, especially in the midst of the weekend crowd.
Felicity Knife - 12 Jun 2004 14:23
It is not really a pub but a kind of Belgian thing
Maria Calo - 10 May 2004 16:59
Hard to find but definitely worth it. The mussels are excellent and everyone enjoyed trying the fruit beers.
Karen - 18 Oct 2003 20:15
Great little Belgian pub that's quite hard to find so it's always quiet enough to get a seat. They've got loads of extremely potent Belgian beer. They serve great food there too and you can reserve the big table at the back. Great for get togethers of more around 15 people
Neil - 19 Jun 2003 18:37
wide variety of excellent belgium beers
Claire Davies - 30 May 2003 14:13

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