Tag Archives: Clapton

Tommy is Pacified

16 Dec

Big flavours mean big bubbles don’t spoil this laid-back little coffee place.

Tommy loves nothing better than a great cup of coffee and something delicious to go with it. If you’re that way inclined too and find yourself in that no-man’s land between Clapton and Hackney Central then Pacific Social Club is the place to go.

No stressing allowed. This place has an atmosphere as chilled as a sleepy sloth lazing on a lilo. Something about the layout, the furnishings, the bookcase and the music combine to hit all the right relax buttons.

They’re using a La Marzocco coffee machine and Climpson and Sons’ coffee, so they

Bubbly flat white

Bubbly flat white

care a lot about what they’re doing when it comes to coffee. Despite that my flat white was not exactly perfect when it arrived. The milk texturing seemed to have gone wrong and it was delivered with a head on it more like a pint of craft ale, the bubbles were way too big. However the problems were largely aesthetic as the coffee itself tasted good.

What also tasted good was the chipotle and apricot jam, with cream cheese, on toast. That was a taste explosion. Sweet, spicy, smoky and warming it is an unusual and memorably delicious plate of food. I understand that the jam was made by the proprietor and it has an artisan feel to it. Some mouthfuls are spicier than others and it all adds to the charm of the dish and of the place.

I also got a freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice which had big flavour too, sharp as a tack and an incredible pink colour. When they say pink they mean pink.

This is a top spot for a relaxed thoughtful approach to coffee and full-flavoured delicious snacks. A bit more attention to detail when making a coffee would be good, but on second thoughts maybe this is part of Pacific Social Club’s charm. They care, but they’re not stressed.

Pacific Social Club, 8 Clarence Road, London E5 8HB
Pacific Social Club

Pacific Social Club

Pig’s Ear of it

12 Dec
casks of ale
casks of real ale

My trip to the Pig’s Ear beer festival left me feeling a bit disappointed.

East London and City branch of CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale) held their annual beer festival for the 28th time this week. That’s a lot of beer. For nearly 30 years this event has resolutely upheld the traditions of British beer. Cask-conditioned real ale was unloved, anachronistic and in decline when CAMRA and it’s network of local branches started 40 years ago, but now thanks to their perseverance and foresight, interest in this unique, traditional craft product is once more on the rise. Nuff respec’.

As I’m a fairly recent convert to the delights of craft beer I haven’t attended many beer festivals. So I was excited about going. A chance to sample some rare and unusual brews, and to get to know more about the local beer scene. Hackney was without a local brewery until this year, now there are several and more are opening all the time. With the festival being held in Clapton, which is rapidly becoming the new Dalston, this event should be something special. A celebration of a burgeoning craft in a vibrant and exciting setting. Surely?….Not so much, no.

So what was wrong with the festival then? The venue is amazing, a beautiful grade II* listed building with plenty of space and a

view from balcony at festival

Drinkers at the Festival

very dramatic atmosphere of its own. You couldn’t find a better building to have a festival. Perhaps with some subtle lighting and decorative touches it could have been enhanced, but that is a minor gripe, because it is a stunning building. Paying £4 to get in (£2 to CAMRA members), is a bit steep, as this only buys you entry. You then have to hire a glass, which involves getting to the other side of the hall and another financial transaction. Why can’t the glass hire and entrance payment be done in one? Probably because a lot of casual visitors would baulk at the idea of handing over £7 just for the opportunity to buy a beer.

Once you have completed these formalities it is time to get a drink. Great, forget having just been fleeced for seven quid, we’re in now, lets relax and have a beer. But where do you start? How do you decide which of the impressive array of beers on offer to choose? You can look in the festival programme, but that doesn’t help much. The choice is dazzling and vast. I asked the barman for one of the brews from the new local breweries. He gave me a taster of one, brewed specially for the festival. It was warm and brown and dull. I asked if there was a different one, but there wasn’t. Only one cask of local ale on offer amongst all this beer seemed a strange situation.

So I thought I’d go completely the other way and try some of the Italian cask ales that the festival had specially imported. A very impressive array of Italian cask ale was lined up on the other side of the hall. This is something you don’t see everyday. I asked the barman here for  a recommendation. His ‘beer of the festival’ was a 9% Double IPA. I asked for a taster, but apparently they don’t do tasters (even though I’d had one on the other bar). So I took him up on his glowing recommendation and had a half. Big mistake. A beer of this strength and body should not be served warm, it was undrinkable. A schoolboy error on my part maybe, ordering such a strong beer, but the barman had done a fairly hard sell on it, saying it was great and there wasn’t much of it left.

I really wanted to like this festival. I love beer, and I love exciting food-related Hackney happenings, but this just didn’t do it for me. I could overlook the lack of ambience (would music distract too much from the drinking?), the lack of seating, the abscence of delicious tasty morsels. I could get over the fact that I was in a crowd of 96.7% males, I wasn’t on the pull. No, I was looking for extraordinary taste sensations, amazing beers delivered in peak condition, the ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ moment, where nothing else can slake the thirst but lovely beer. Unfortuantely this festival didn’t deliver. The main event; the beer, just wasn’t up to it. I don’t mean to imply that the beer should be served ice cold, but it should be served cool. Between 12 and 14 Celsius according to CAMRA’s website. The beers here were served warm in a warm room.

This is real ale at its most unreconstructed and rather than expand the audience for ale, I fear events like this will put the uninitiated off.