Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Yard Sale Pizza, Lower Clapton Road, Hackney

In the aftermath of the Bonneville scandal, gentrification and the exclusivity of new Clapton businesses are the talk of the town. There have been few new businesses which really serve a wide range of Clapton residents - often because the kind of businesses that can function on high rents are those selling few high margin products, or lots of middle-low margin products .

So I've been asking myself: what kind of products*could* appeal to old and new, lower and higher income, and stack up financially? Well, erm, pizza.

Pizza is one of just a few high margin, quick shifting products that has a mass appeal (I'd also include good Turkish kebabs). Who doesn't love pizza? And who can be bothered to make pizza at home? I imagine the likes of Domino's or Pizza Express have some of the broadest customer bases in the country.

There's been an explosion of pizza joints in Clapton. In the last couple of years Sodo, VenerdiLatto Pizza, the Princess of Wales pub and now Yard Sale have joined old timers like Il Guscio, Pizza Man, Vesuvio and the Pembury Tavern in serving up pizza. And they're pretty much all busy.

Yard Sale, in a savvy move, offered 50 free pizzas a day for 6 days over their launch week, getting the word out around the neighbourhood. Queues were snaking down Lower Clapton Road before doors opened on the Friday of launch week, as Claptonites of all walks of life queued for free pizza. It was nice move that hopefully broke down the invisible barriers that many new businesses unwittingly put up - with on-trend fit-outs translating subconsciously (and through experience) to some as "not one for people like me". I hope the front-loaded generosity got the word out beyond twitter.

Their offer is simple: two sizes, five regular pizzas, a few well chosen sides, extras and drinks, delivered or for pick up. The toppings are all good quality, and combinations well-balanced.

The meat feast is their take on the classic pepperoni and has pepperoni, a spicy salami, and - sausage of the moment - nduja.  The full house is epic and nodding to those all out American style pizzas crumpling under the weight of their toppings - all mushrooms, ground beef, onions, olives and pepperoni. We had both, and were impressed by the discernible quality of the toppings, the chewiness of the base - which is thicker and keeps its texture better than a thin crust if you're transporting it.

We also had the TSB, yes, tender stem broccoli, which was our favourite of the three. Generously portioned with TSB (bloody hell) and then pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and then shavings of manchego, it was another perfect, fresh combination.

Alongside the five regular combinations there are sometime specials - a pulled pork, apple sauce and crackling pizza was on the menu, as was an intricate, not-for-delivery option of tuna, anchovy and caper paste. Both sound amazing.

So, Yard Sale has clearly upped the pizza stakes in Clapton. Sodo, the only real competitor, is more classic and understated than some of the more American flares here. And Sodo is more restaurant, whereas Yard Sale is more geared up for take away and delivery.

Will Yard Sale be one of the few new Clapton businesses that can appeal to a wider demographic whilst also affording the hefty rents? The prices (£7.50 - £11 for a 12" pizza) are in line with those of Pizza Express, cheaper than Domino's, but a good bit more expensive than my old favourite Pizza Man down the road (where you do see all walks of Clapton life, and especially those who like a good ol' greasy pizza).

With their early efforts to engage a wider slice of Clapton they may be in better stead than most new E5 businesses. The shop is welcoming and unpretentious, and the informal set up may make it more appealing than many others.

Only time will tell, but after the storm around the Bonneville, it's even more important for all new Clapton businesses to make a genuine effort to welcome everyone.

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