Category Archives: Drinking in Hackney

Something for the weekend

Weekend post! Weekend roundup? Something for the weekend? It’s been a bit of an eventful week, so thank you for reading. I do feel like this thing has finally got some momentum going. Many thanks for all the tweets and for having a look and commenting. Whatever it’s supposed to be called, here are a few things to tide us all over and chew on for the next couple days.

We Americans also celebrated our 236th birthday as a country. I think we’re looking pretty good for it. To celebrate, I went out to the launch night of Islington’s newest chic bar, Rattlesnake, designed and owned by Paul Daly, who also did Zigfrid Von Underbelly in Hoxton Square. Rattlesnake is an American style bar with a difference. Check out my review of the place here at The Hackney Hive. Let me know what you think of the place if you happen to check it out. 
Congratulations to Madame Fromage, doyenne of the Philadelphian Artisan cheese scene, on completing her manuscript  for The Di Bruno Bros. Cheese Guide based on the delightful Di Bruno Bros. Cheese Cave, at which my brother, Paul Lawler, the former local cheese impressario of Philly, worked for quite a while. I can’t wait to read it. Makes me hungry for good-quality cheese. Time to hit Hackney Home-made or Chatsworth Road this weekend, me thinks. 
Photo copyright of Todd Stregiel 2012
Finally, a bit of London Street art. On my road. Clarence Road if you must know. Home of the 2011 London Riots. Yes, Hackney is that edgy and Bohemian. Every bit of MDF covering a building is a canvas for our locals. I really like the way a gaze is turned outwards. It subtly implies that there is something behind this face, which there is (a building being renovated, probably end up a chic flat at the end of it all) and turns its gaze on the passerby in the street.
If you do happen to pass through Clapton in Hackney on Saturday, check out Millfields Community School Summer Fete, where you can see and buy children’s art and where my beautiful and talented wife, who runs the Artbash blog, will be presiding over the display of student creations from Arts Week. Check out Artbash for the results. Really astounding what you can do with kids and creativity sometimes. 
Whatever you are doing, have an inspiring couple days and do stop by and let me know if you get up to anything wonderful. 

The Clapton Hart: Heralding an era of Restoration

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.
I digress.
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
And that’s to say nothing of it’s choice of beers. I was suitably impressed that they carried Tottenham-based Redemption Fellowship Porter, a fruity and smooth, but not overly sweet brew that I last had at the Pig’s Ear Beer and Cider Festival when it was in The Round Chapel

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 in Leyton 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.
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