We're used to being at the vanguard of 'stuff' in Hackney, but when I heard that a luxury mini-supermarket would be opening on Chatsworth Road, with a burger bar, modern British restaurant and fancy pop up flower shop imported from Broadway Market...well, I could hardly believe it.
But it's opened. Clapton has gone meta. Our fancypants supermarket with a burger bar is in a former cinema which later became a snooker hall. It is just down the road from the public toilets converted into a multi-generational social enterprise cafe-bar with roof terrace, a lifestyle flower boutique, four vintage furniture shops, two Italian restuarants, a creperie, a deli, a French bakery, a Swedish cafe, a cycle cafe, a fancy jam shop, and that's not even mentioning Lower Clapton Road.
In an interesting example of gentrification creeping inward, back to the places from which it originated. There is a net outward flow of middle incomes families from Clapton, moving to Walthamstow and Leyton as they struggle to afford the jump in price to a family size home from their starter flat. Walthamstow Village, a couple of miles down the road is home to Eat17 - the brand that brought you (and folk all around the world) bacon jam, but also a fancy Spar supermarket and upscale bistro. It's been such a success that they've rolled it out to Clapton.
As you might expect, it's a funny setting. There's no separation between burger bar and supermarket. From your table at the burger bar you can see people going about their evening's shopping, mulling over cheese, olives and beer, and getting their fags and lottery tickets. It's also cold. REAL cold. Because, of course, supermarkets are full of open fridges, and a lot of open fridges makes for cold air. I bumped into my neighbour on the way in: said exactly the same.
But that aside, it's a fun experience. You get a neat snapshot of who lives in this (estate agent language) vibrant, ever-changing neighbourhood, and what they're having for dinner. They also get a snapshot of who eats burgers in a supermarket *waves*. There's a decent playlist, which included Belle and Sebastian, Blur, The Police. And the food is really quite good.
The menu includes a beef burger, a buttermilk fried chicken burger, a pork and chorizo jam burger, panko crusted haloumi wrap, some suitably fried sides, Gelupo ice cream and a small selection of drinks, including Crate beers, Borough wines and a negroni. All very London mini-brand.
My beef burger (with added bacon) was sublime: quality beef, cooked perfectly medium rare, lathered with 'special sauce' (e.g. their own version of the Big Mac sauce), stuffed with salad and served in a glossy brioche bun. Just the right size for picking up in its Eat17 branded wrapper and fitting into your mouth...just.
The buttermilk chicken burger was tender and nicely coated, but it was all about the smoky chutney and almost rataouille-like sauce, which was full of punch.
Portions of chips were big, and the chips were chunky. We overestimated our hunger and ordered them plain and with truffle and goats cheese. I was expecting slithers of truffle and molten goats cheese, like an upscale chilli cheese fries. Alas, both came in a dusty form, applied to the chips before frying. I suppose that's what you expect for £3.90. They were nice, subtly flavoured, but I'd say charge a bit more and make them more of a blowout.
We also had tempura fried tender stem broccoli, which came doused in soy-tinged pomegranate molasses. These were good - nicely charred, still green and fresh tasting, and the molasses worked well.
The food was great and I'll be back. Notably, more people (men, mostly) were getting takeaways on their way home from work, and I suspect that may be more popular than eating in the bar itself unless they find a way of warming it up a bit. But if you're in the area, it's worth a punt for a slightly surreal and completely delicious, well-priced experience.
Eat17 will soon be opening a gastro British restaurant upstairs, under the arched roof of the former cinema. With 50+ covers, it could well be a bit of a game-changer for eating and evening entertainment on the road. I will report back once it's open.