Clapton. The new Dalston. The old Shoreditch. The next Hoxton. The ex-Hackney. The future of Not Yet There Walthamstow. Whatever Clapton really is, it's certainly having something of a 'moment' in the same way that Brixton and Peckham have had their renaissance in terms of eating and drinking. When a Turkish kebab joint gets re-imagined and re-styled, complete with craft beer, posh coffee, and smart modern branding, it's an indicator — something is happening...
The name 'Clapton' has its origins in Old English, derived from 'clop' (a lump or hill) and 'ton' (farm). The farm on the hill. Bucolic romance is hidden there in E5 if you dig deep enough. Estate Agents would do well to slip this into their patter as the area around Clapton Pond, said to have been dug as a village pond in the 1600's, continues its resurgence. The Bishops of London owned the land for centuries and by the late 18th century the area was populated by rich merchants, living in fine country houses, a fashionable set. Clapton's prosperity declined in the 1920's, although remnants of former affluence survive in the 17th-century Bishop Wood's Almhouses and 18th-century Pond House, the latter currently being punted out as luxury apartments, and townhouses 'from £745,000' in 'one of London's coolest locations' — ahhh, the spin, oh the spin...
Verden's opening is an interesting marker for the area. Ed Wyand and Tom Bell have taken over a former pub on Clarence Road which had a reputation as a well known haven for dark cards and crack dealers: 'coolest locations' still need their 'edge', and there we have it. That's edgy for you, right there. Head Chef Tom Fraser and Ed bring collective experience from Scott's in Mayfair, with Tom coming from a role at Ogilvy Public Relations to open their 'Wine bar and deli'.
Let's start with that wine list, straight in, head first: a chiselled supermodel of a list, sparking and gleaming in all the right places. A list with ooohs and ahhhs all over the shop. A sparkling wine list reveals a lot about a venue, the choices made here a clue to everything else that's going on, and this list is taut and finely tuned, no flab here, no showy flourishes or attention grabbing Grande Marques for gobby City boys wanting to drop three figures on a bottle. Agrapart Champagne on any list is a good sign and 'Les 7 Crus NV' is listed here at £60, alongside growers Dumangin and Cedric Bouchard. Strutting it by the glass is Savart's 'Louverture', a 100% Pinot Noir of great precision and laser-like focus: it will slice through any cheese or fatty salumi you may throw at it. The resurgent Lambrusco category gets an airing at the top of the list, the thirst quenching and absolutely dry 'Ferrando' from Quarticello, the Lambrusco di Salamino varietal slapping doubters in the face with a crunchy raspberry laden twang.
By the glass offerings are a vinous playground featuring Slovenian winery Kabaj, whose Lucozade coloured Pinot Gris sets off a warning flare for an imminent oxidised nightmare, yet delivers a muscular white with freshness, verve, and mouth cleansing clarity; the Merlot from the same winery is also worth a shout, also by the glass. Nebbiolo wizards AR.Pe.Pe are nestling amongst the reds, the excellent Bret Brothers are present with their Mâcon-Cruzille (rarely seen on restaurant/bar lists), and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that isn't snooze worthy, 'The Supernatural', boasting great texture and complexity from And Co., from Hawkes Bay.
I'm excited to see Californian 'new' gems Sandhi, Tatomer and The Scholium Project, alongside old school Joseph Swan's Pinot Noir, one of Sonoma's benchmark producers. South African trailblazer Eben Sadie, more worthy Californian from Hirsch and Lompoc Wine Co., Jamsheed Pinot Noir and Riesling from Victoria, 'The Spectre' Mosel Riesling from itinerant winemakers WMD (Wines of Momentary Destination), making one wine each year in a different region (winemakers Nick and Leah are currently behind the bar), and so it goes on....
Twenty-six wines by the glass, playtime starts now, come back when you hear the bell...
Enough wine. Food...
CLUB SANDWICH — A Club Sandwich with the kitchen sink thrown at it. Sourdough, Lardo di Colonnata, crisped pancetta, 26 month Comté, celeriac remoulade. That's a whole lot of sandwich. It's good.
SMOKED BATH CHAPS (Monmouthshire) — Pig cheeks. Subtle smoke, blushing rosy pink, wonderful morsels. Order these, absolutely. Twice.
MORCILLA IBERICO — Indecently moist slivers of scarlet pork and blood cured sausage, studded with creamy fat. A star of the charcuterie menu.
LARDO DI COLONNATA — Creamy, silky, fatty, herb infused pig fat. It's good for you.
SALSICCIA DEL VASTESE (Abruzzo) — Succulent little roundels of pork infused with sweet chilli and fennel seeds, these are fantastic. Hoovered up at a rate of knots, begging for a second round.
SOPPRESSATA CALABRESE (Calabria) — Subtle chilli heat, studded with black peppercorns.
PARMIGIANO REGGIANO (Emilia-Romagna) — The crumbliest, sweetest Parmesan in town (channelling the old Cadbury's flake advert). Almost certainly the best in London from the estimable Ham and Cheese Co., owned by the charming Elliott John and Alison Crouch, who supply some of the finest restaurants in London and beyond. If you locate a better Parmesan in the UK, well done.
'NDUJA SCRAMBLED EGGS — 'Nduja has overtaken chorizo as the de rigeur cured pork product. On a muffin. A bit more egg would have been welcome, was a bit muffin heavy. Weekend brunch menu only.
TARTIFLETTE — Enjoyed at lunch on a less than ideal blisteringly hot Saturday, this needed rain outside and thunderstorms for full appreciation. Even so, this was an oozy, lardon laced, reblochon cheese fuelled potato gratin of note. Wheel it out in December, and we're away...
Sourcing of the cured meats comes from some fine suppliers, small Spanish importer Santos and Santos, British charcuterie company Cannon and Cannon, and Ham and Cheese Co. We don't get stuck into the cheese on any visit, a list of eighteen including Montgomery's Cheddar, Berkswell, Wigmore and Foxwhelp, through to honking Burgundian Epoisses. All meats and cheese are served in 40g portions from £3.50-£15, topping out with top Jamón Ibérico 'Cinco Jotas' from Jabugo.
That's it. Wine bar gives good cheese and meat. Great wine list. The end.
Clapton is over. Finished. Peaked. It's so 2014. Quick, Tottenham is next. Or is it Walthamstow? One of them, anyway: The New Clapton.
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