Incredible food in a former public toilet: Farmer Tom hits the Convenience in Clapton


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It all began one cold, Friday night in East London. I was kicking around the quiet, deserted streets of Clapton. The cruel Winter wind cut through my super-unattractive ‘weatherproof’ Uniqlo thermal under layers, freezing the hell out of my everything. All I wanted to do was go home and climb into bed with a Chow Mein Pot Noodle but I ploughed on regardless, based on the promise I’d been sold.

I’d been assured that I was about to experience the absolute epitome of a truly random, quirky evening. As someone who whiles away their time in haunts which fit that same description, I was skeptical as to whether this place would be up to scratch. Nothing seems to phase or shock me anymore -I’ve seen it all in this fair London Town.
That was until I found myself vacantly staring into the harsh blue light of my phone screen with Citymapper burning what were surely lies into my retinas. That throbbing little blue pin was telling me I had, in fact, arrived at my destination, yet looking up from my phone, I was firmly rooted to the spot in front of a public toilet.
More disconcertingly, it was the Men’s public toilet.

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I span to face the other way, but the directional compass arrow on my trusty app was arguing with me. Turn back, it was saying. Enter the Men’s and see what happens. So I did. Without much further persuasion. Which maybe I should be alarmed by.
It turns out, Citymapper was correct as always. I was to dine that evening at The Convenience in Clapton; an eatery which absolutely sums up the quintessence of weird, quirky London. As once it had been a little boy’s room, now it’s this ridiculously random restaurant where only the big boys of the culinary scene gather on a residency basis to occupy the kitchen for short stints of time. This means you can return again and again to this place – much like you would do to any other toilet, I’m sure – but the difference being, each visit to The Convenience will provide you with different dining affairs from your last.

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We immediately fell in love with this totally bonkers foodie establishment. When you find yourself sat opposite your loved one, asking them about their day and sipping on fine red wine …whilst sitting to the right hand side of a row of Victorian ceramic urinals, you know you’re not in for a run-of-the-mill night. We spent a good fifteen minutes skipping round the place taking more photos than any public men’s toilet has been subjected to, probably since the officials got involved with the George Michael fiasco. The issue was whether the food would deliver or whether this eatery would be all about the novelty.

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Enter Farmer Tom. He’s the chef who’s currently creating all kinds of tasty storms in the kitchen of The Convenience and my throat swells with undeniable emotion as I write that he’s only there for a matter of months. We were handed his menu and immediately felt relieved to be greeted by original offerings and exciting-sounding combinations. We started with the artichoke salad as well as the game terrine. Both dishes were sublimely tasty and led us to enthusiastically feed each other mouthfuls across the table, in what must surely have looked like the clumsiest, most awkward romcom ever, starring two hungry heathens.

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The starters set the standard for the equally enjoyable main courses which shortly followed. I say ‘equally enjoyable’ – my main course of choice was arguably (and I don’t say this lightly) the best steak I’ve eaten …ever. Before this meal, the best steak I’d eaten had been in an underground jazz club in Paris. Then, along came Farmer Tom with his meat and his medium rare and his men’s toilet and suddenly, the low-lit, smokey, cultured steak memory of-old had been crushed to smithereens. This steak was so juicy and tender, it was almost buttery. Cooked to perfection. Bursting with flavour. Accompanied by the perfect sauce to compliment it, plus well-salted home made chips. It was the dream. Unfortunately for the boyfriend, he didn’t get quite as many enthusiastic forkfuls of this meal thrust in his direction. I had been hushed to a humbled silence by this slab of meat. It was incredible. Luckily, the boyfriend was also merrily making his way through his meal with just as much enjoyment and gusto. His dish was a glorious lamb shepherds pie, with huge morsels of perfectly cooked meat in a thick, flavoursome gravy, topped with creamy, cheesy mashed potato. It really was as good as it sounds and the pair of us demanded to meet the man responsible for delivering all of these astounding foods to our table.

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Farmer Tom was everything we’d hoped he might be -and more. Polite, gracious, unassuming – plus, he had the beard of a Greek God. He stood and chatted with us about what we’d ordered and spoke at length about his background, his roots and anything else which contributed towards him creating foods of such a ridiculous standard.

 

“So, you’re interested in how the meat is farmed, are you, Farmer Tom? Do you carefully select the farmers yourself?” I asked, blindly.

 

I probably should have known from reading the sign above the restaurant door and putting two and two together, but the answer to this question still amazed me. Tom IS the farmer. Tom sees the entire process through, from birth to butchery to braising. It means he can ensure the meat he’s cooking is of the most superior quality and taste possible.

 

Whereas most cows are usually around the age of four when they’re slaughtered, Tom’s cows are sixteen and have lived a full, healthy life with a good, hearty diet. This doesn’t result in a chewy meat as I thought it might, but instead produces a steak which is like nothing I’ve ever tasted. He expressed his disinterest in dealing with veal, based on his personal adversity to butchering animals whilst they’re still so young. His knowledge and passion for his farming and cooking knew no bounds and we were hooked on every word he said as he told us about the food we’d just eaten.

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Eventually, we let him return back to his kitchen – but not without me asking for a photo first. I can’t really explain why. Except, maybe, to say that in such a short time, he’d left such an impression on the pair of us, not only with his food but with his personable meat-loving charm too. And his beard. Oh lord, that beard.

 

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to sort your lives out and go eat with Farmer Tom. He’s a culinary marvel. Definitely order the steak and expect to come away from the evening with change in your pocket because, believe it or not, the food happens to be incredibly affordable. Farmer Tom – we’ll be back.

 

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