I’ll admit, I was sceptical. I, along with many other local community members (that’s what I’ll call the rumour mill) had heard that the old Clapton Hart building, that crumbling boarded up edifice standing up until recently undecorously at the mouth of the Lea Bridge Roundabout, was going to be taken over by a pub franchise. And when you say pub franchise, I think ‘Wetherspoons’ and there is no quicker way to restore the rock-solid reputation of Murder Mile circa 2002
than to plop a chain pub like Wetherspoons
right at the roundabout. I lived across the street from the Wetherspoons on Roman Road Market in Bow
when I first moved to London. Looking out the window was better entertainment than any reality TV show any night. And on Saturday nights, it was like that old American fly-in-the-wall, or corner of the squad car as it were proto-reality TV show, Cops
, complete with drunken brawling, police vans with vested officers spilling out, pinning down drunken disorderly offenders on their stomachs, knees pressed to their backs, pressing a promise to be good out of each of the inebriated, cider-filled customers to frequent the establishment. Sans guns of course. This was the East End of London. The local gendarme are nothing if not a little civilized.
It is this term ‘franchise’ and my wife’s lukewarm review of the place on its opening night what made me apprehensive before my own visit with a couple of friends last Tuesday. Luckily, the new Clapton Hart could not be further from that cookie cutter chain pub that we have become accustomed to seeing on British high streets. Antic Ltd, who also run the Stokey favourite The White Hart, have taken over the decrepit building that used to house the pub of the same name with a notoriously dodgy past. They seem to have set out to restore the interior of the pub as sensitively as possible, bringing it right back to as close to vintage as possible, having taken the retro looking block capital sign from the outside of the building and brought it in.
The Hart has created a spacious and inviting atmosphere that manages to feel welcoming and contemporary while at the same time kindling a sense of old Hackney circa 1891
Somerset-based Blindman’s Buff
was a lighter, more seasonal beverage, ‘a proper bitter’ remarked my friend Dom upon tasting, but I was most impressed by the Jamboree ale, with hints of citrus and summer washing all the way down the palate. I was as impressed by its provenance as by its taste though. It seems very easy nowadays for a pub to put Meantime
or St. Peter’s
on tap and call themselves local and organic. I very much like Meantime and St. Peter’s, but the beer buyer at The Clapton Hart has clearly worked hard to find beers that we haven’t seen in all the other organic gastropubs popping up in Stokey or Islington or Hackney-Wick-Upon-The-Marsh. Jamboree Ale comes from the East London Brewery
just down a shot on the dastardly, daren’t-traverse-it-on-a-dark night, Lea Bridge Road and they’re producing sensational beer. Fair play to them and to the Clapton Hart on a great sourcing job. I am a bit surprised and frankly a bit disappointed in The Hackney Citizen
with finding fault for just this aspect of our new watering hole.
Clapton is a very different place even from what it was in 2008, when last this place shut its doors for business. We’re seeing more and more signs that we are closer and closer to that affluent and civilised merchants’ village of the 18th Century here where we can trust our neighbours and our neighbourhoods for our children to grow up in. May The Clapton Hart be a further sign of that restoration.
The Clapton Hart
is just at the top of Lower Clapton Road and can be reached via the 48, 55, 38, 254 or 106 and is well worth making time for.