The first thing that strikes you about the Clapton Hart is its size. A grand, late-nineteenth-century pile, its huge picture windows bathe the front of the pub in natural light. The stripped-back façade fronts a lofty, square space, ranged around a central bar. There’s been a boozer here since 1722 (it was originally the White Hart Hotel), but the present building dates from around 1891, and much has been done (by owners Antic) to preserve the period features from this era.
Gorgeous stained glass, battered floorboards and detailed woodwork are married with a host of junk-shop-chic touches: a bird-caged chandelier, weathered bunting, apothecary bottles and vintage sewing machines. Fresh flowers in jam jars, mismatched furniture and a blend of rich colours pull together a homely yet hip aesthetic. Cosy niches (we settled into what looked like a ripped out cupboard) allow for privacy, if desired, in the rambling set of rooms, while large family groups, sleeping dogs, and tottering toddlers illustrate the beauty of the added elbowroom (including a sizable back garden), as well as the genial and relaxed atmosphere.
A recent change of chef – the team is now headed-up by Andrea Popolo Rubbio – has upped the kitchen’s game here with a weekly-changing seasonal selection of dishes incorporating Rubbio’s Korean, Italian and Middle Eastern influences on British classics.
Pulled pork in pale ale raises the bar on a standard pub roast but the menu caters equally well to pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans.
The beer range is carefully chosen – with eight hand-pulls, a variety of bottles and new options three times a week – and local producers, such as Five Points and Hackney Brewery, are well represented. Things can get lively – the pub hosts an eclectic series of events including quizzes, cult cinema, and the weekend’s Jook Joint and Saturday Sessions – but it really comes into its own on lazy, long, unplanned days off.