Everyone’s got a favourite pub. Right? An easy-going second home you fall back on when you’ve just payed a massive gas bill or when you’ve been dumped by ‘the one’ after only having been on three dates or when you’ve just endured an agonising phone call from your boss who chewed your ear off for forty minutes about Linda in accounts. “To the pub”, we say. It’s our agony aunt, our best friend, our school nurse who assures us everything’s going to be fine whilst plying us with drink.
Your school nurse never did that? Seriously?
But whilst we all have a favourite pub, our reasons for falling in love with particular boozers are often really uninspiring. Last time I was out pubbing with my Brother, he proved this point for me whilst we ‘snacked’ on two large bowls of scampi in his preferred local. “I love this place. It’s the perfect pub. It’s really close to home, the beer’s cheap as chips, the chips are also coincidentally really cheap and it shows football round the clock.”
I thought about this list of qualities. They all seemed like really bland reasons to label a pub as his favourite. Are pubs really just there to tick incredibly dull boxes, then get us drunk?
No. No they’re not.
Cue the Clapton Hart; a pub like no other. Tom and I have scoured the entire capital of England, but this beautiful example of a public house is, by far, our favourite in London. The many reasons for this accolade will knock spots off footie screenings and oven chips.
The Clapton Hart started its life as an acorn in the 18th Century. That’s a metaphor, by the way, the whole ‘acorn’ thing, just in case you’re now picturing an alcoholic tree house in East London. It opened its doors as The White Hart – the original sign for which can still be seen on one corner of the building’s exterior. Then a few fires happened, which would usually be pretty depressing. It also spent several years as a nightclub too which, again, is usually deemed a travesty. But this potentially-sad past only adds to the feeling that this pub has an awesomely rich history.
The exterior and interiors are so beautiful, they’re enough to bring a tear of appreciation to the eye of even the chip-eating, football-prioritising pub-lover. The outside has huge, dominating arch windows, rubbed down wood panelled walls, years and years of various paint colours showing themselves in patches here and there and endless little details of carved wood and plaster which make the whole facade aesthetically stunning. Walking inside, you’re greeted by sanded-back floor boards which have been bleached by years of sunlight streaming through the giant windows. The layout is remarkably fuss-free, but it’s the attention to detail which makes this place like a treasure trove of well put-together antiques and nik-naks. Trinkets, if you will. There’s an incredible vintage wooden football table which may soon go missing and mysteriously appear in my flat, somehow. Old bunting in regency colours hang from the ceiling. A gargantuan gold gilded sign reading ‘HOTEL’ adorns one wall. Antlers cast shadows across the ceiling from the taxidermy Hart head they stretch out of. The walls are unpainted, untreated, sanded plaster which has become stained and watermarked over the years. Furniture is reclaimed and falling apart. Tables clash. If someone were to describe these interiors as a concept, they’d be laughed out of the room. But here, it more than works. It’s overwhelmingly cool.
So there’s one reason, but it doesn’t stop at that. The food at Clapton Hart is also well worth writing home about. The new chef in charge is Andrea, who’s become a bit of a mate of ours over our time of loyal re-visits. Andrea has Italian roots as well as Yorkshire blood. Surely the most perfect combinations of heritage you’ve ever heard of for a chef? Quite possibly. His passion for food is infectious. His execution of dishes is brilliant. The Clapton Hart‘s roasts have become somewhat infamous in the area, resulting in Andrea and his team serving up as many as 250 across one single Sunday. We’ve also made our way through several of his dishes before, including his awesome sausage and sweet potato mash with onion gravy, his pies, his fish and chips and his salmon with purple broccoli and cabbage mash which was cooked to perfection. Don’t even get me started on the freakin’ hand-made sausage rolls. They’re ridiculous. They involve amazing meat, herb and spice combinations as well as hand-rolled pastry. For the love of God, Andrea. One quick chat will have him telling you about his endless ideas for new dishes or different takes on classic ones. He clearly loves his role at Clapton Hart which results in awesome food turning up on your table.
A third reason? You want a third reason? Right, Ok. Well, Clapton Hart have a bar full of bright, shiny, brass beer pumps and at the end of those pumps are endless opportunities. Or, rather, craft beers a-plenty. Cask ales are sought from near and far, from East London to the rest of the world. Here’s a fourth reason; the staff are all super-friendly. A fifth reason? This place has hollow pianos everywhere, just cos. Number six: Check out their gargantuan beer garden in the summer. Seven: They have open fires for cold days and board games for bored days. Eight: It’s absolutely massive, so the likelihood of you getting a table is high. Nine: The Clapton Hart lot are event lovers and would love you to join them for their quiz nights, Burger Shed nights, film nights and beer festivals. Finally, number ten. Could this be seen as the ultimate reason to visit the Clapton Hart? Without doubt. They have the most exceptional brownie I’ve ever eaten in my life …on their menu. Freshly baked, warm, gooey, light, chocolately and drizzled in warm salted caramel sauce. It’s incredible. But from these lot, we wouldn’t expect anything less. We love you, CH.