When it comes to food and drink, Clapton is probably best known for being home to our favourite wine shop, restaurant, and pavement-drinking-spot hybrid, P. Franco. But, this big old straight line of an area has lots more to it than that. Things like dumplings, sourdough pizza, and piles of pancakes you’ll dream of for weeks. On top of that, they’re all just a hop and a skip away from each other, so a good option is never far away whether you’re in Upper Clapton, Lower Clapton, or somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes you walk into a restaurant and just think, “Yes. I am going to get very comfortable here. Almost definitely drink a bottle of wine. And also eat lots of lovely food. Yes.” P. Franco is one of those places. It’s an extremely cosy wine bar that’s basically a kitchen island, some racks of wine, and two induction hobs. The food is cooked by rotating chefs who change every few months, but regardless of who’s behind the counter, it tends to be excellent. Needless to say, the wine isn’t too shabby either. There aren’t many places in London to get a dinner like P. Franco serves: relaxed, delicious, intimate, and individual all at once.
There’s a shop in Clapton that bears an uncanny resemblance to a high street supermarket. Locals fondly refer to it as ‘Fake Sainsbury’s’. It’s a pillar of the Upper Clapton Road, and so is the pizza restaurant bang opposite it. The sourdough pizzas at Sodo Pizza are consistently up there with the best in London. They’re the kind with a crisp base, and crusts that taste of a lot more than dough. Plus the candlelit space itself is an extremely reliable (and cost efficient) casual date or dinner location.
Neden Urfa is a family-run kebab spot making east London’s finest lahmacun, amongst other things. Bread, as should always be the case, is key here. It’s rolled out fresh in front of you, verging on transparently thin, before being baked to a crispy but perfectly chewy consistency. Add the spicy mince of a lahmacun, or the juices of a kofte skewer, to the craters of this warm flatbread (plus a mix of deliciously tart, fresh salads) and you have something close to perfection.
Fun restaurants are hard to come by, but fun restaurants with good food are even more elusive. It’s an oh-so-rare combination that too often weighs more heavily on one side than the other. At Lucky and Joy it feels evens. Put it this way: if Indiana Jones came through the Lower Clapton Road and stopped by this neon-hued space, he’d soon be deftly swapping an ancient golden head for a hollowed out pineapple stuffed full of fried rice. This is a good time Chinese-influenced restaurant, and if you come in numbers on a Friday night, you’ll see in Saturday morning in the best possible way.
The Elderfield is one of those pubs that feels like it pops out of nowhere as you walk down the road. It’s five minutes from Lower Clapton or Chatsworth Road and it’s a spot to spend your entire Sunday afternoon in. The roasts are tasty and extremely good value - the roast chicken in particular is lovely - and the interior has got that wood-y and fire-y feel. A combination which is very homely when kept under control. Slump on a sofa after you’ve finished your last potato and get comfortable. It’s not hard to.
A biker cafe in Clapton sounds a bit dangerous, doesn’t it? Like that scene in True Detective. The one where Matthew McConaughey goes into a meth stash house undercover with lots of angry, hairy men. Well, Jim’s Cafe is nothing like that. Swap the meth for moreish brunch and burgers, and the anger for an extremely comfortable and diner-ish environment, and you’re more on the mark. Jim’s is one of Chatsworth Road’s most reliable hangouts. The coffee and breakfast is good, and the burger is, whisper it, one of London’s best.
The Tram Store joins the ever-growing list of converted east London warehouses you’d love to loathe, but, in fact, love to love because they’re great and what use was a tram depot anyway? There’s a carpenter who decides to become a botanist vibe going on in here, but, jokes aside, the brunch offerings are great. Portobello mushrooms in cashew (yes, cashew) cream on slabs of sourdough is delicious, plus you can add eggs. While ‘Clapton rarebit’ could be something to be scoffed at, but instead you’ll just scoff it.
If our neighbours were dumplings, we would eat them. We wouldn’t be able to resist. But that’s a conversation for our therapist. My Neighbour The Dumplings is a restaurant, and a bloody fine one at that. The har gau (prawn) and shu mai (prawn and pork) dumplings are the sort of things you could very easily eat on a daily basis. There’s a bar downstairs which means you can easily spend an evening here. And that sounds like a good idea to us.
If eating foods that are considerably bigger than your face is something that appeals, then you’re probably going to like Yard Sale. This pizza joint (it really is a joint, they’ve got plastic furniture and all) has only gotten bigger and better ever since it first opened. The pizzas (always get the 18 incher) are delicious, and good to share between three (or even better shared between between two). We’re big fans of the TSB and Cour Blimey, but pretty much everything is great. Just don’t forget to get the homemade chilli oil and garlic dip. Oh, and also their brownie is no joke.
Stand outside Café Miami and you’ll see a space that looks like it’s been designed by a person who permanently looks at the world through the filter of their baby blue transparent aviator lenses. If that puts you off, then chai not to read the puns on their board outside. Sorry. That said, there are some very decent breakfast and brunch options going on here. Fish finger tacos are big, homemade, guac and cabbage filled things, while their fried egg cooking (an underrated skill in our eyes) is very on point: perfectly crispy and yolky.
Uchi is a lowkey and stylish Japanese restaurant just off of the Lower Clapton Road. The menu is vaguely izakaya inspired: dotting around from sushi, to yakitori, to tempura, alongside pickles and whatnot. It is, by and large, all solid. The sashimi options are only salmon and tuna, but the yakitori goes from meat, to mackerel, to aubergine. And these guys are all excellent partners to an ice cold Asahi.
At Krapow, a Thai-inspired restaurant midway between Lower Clapton and Homerton, they make something called nam price ong. It’s essentially saucy pork mince in a bowl, with touches of chilli and tomato, served alongside big slices of cucumber and pork scratchings. Yes, pork scratchings. We aren’t sure if it’s quite as spicy as we thought it would be, but we are sure about one thing: it’s bloody delicious. Not everything here will blow you away, but nor will anything disappoint. And combined with the cosily intimate space, it makes for a neighbourhood restaurant anyone would want close by.