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Let's Do Lunch: Royal Clayton's

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There are some great lunches to be had in this town, and we want to celebrate the midday meal. So, let's do lunch, shall we?

The Arts District is slowly becoming a destination for dining and drinking. While this section of Downtown is still a tad bit off the beaten path, if you've got access to wheels and have time for lunch in Downtown, the English gastropub Royal Clayton's has eats (and, shh, don't tell the boss) drinks that will keep you full until the end-of-day whistle blows.

Open inside a converted factory space since 2006, on a sunny day the atmosphere inside Royal Clayton's is light and upbeat, despite the heaviness of the decor that pays homage to British royalty over the centuries, and includes touches of the Gothic style. The menu is split between traditional British pub fare and more waistline friendly midday options like sandwiches and salads.

For this party of three, we went two for the traditional and one for their take on Mac and Cheese. A large portion of the latter, the entree was a veggie-centric version of the classic comfort food, creamy and rich with grilled veggies in the mix; think a hot, cheesier version of a macaroni salad.

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The pub grub on our order included a Shepherd's Pie, which came topped with the browned mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes blanketing a lush, meaty filling--almost cheeky to see it paired with a green salad.

We also had the Chicken and Dumplings, which is an almost daunting bowl of stew featuring bobbing orbs of dumplings, hunks of veggies, and chunks of grilled chicken. Perhaps the "sacrificial lamb" of the dish was the chicken, which was a bit too overdone and dry, despite its swim in the stew, which had us longing for the more supple poultry afforded by a braised or stewed method of preparation. The menu described cheddar cheese, but we didn't really notice it in the final product. That's okay though--the dish was fine without it.

A nice tall pour of Bass Ale, though, was a good foil for the richness of the fare. So rich, that we couldn't justify carrying on the sumptuousness into dessert. We also couldn't cajole our fellow diners into venturing into the drinks section of the menu, and Royal Clayton's has an intriguing set of specialty cocktails, as well as numerous beers, that merit exploration.

The downside to imbibing at Royal Clayton's or any bar or restaurant in the Arts District, is that chances are you're going to have to drive to drink, ergo drink and drive; for all its English charm it's a shame there's no tube or double decker bus to get the patrons safely home, alas. Not our worry on this visit, though--we came, we lunched, we went back into the day, full and happy.