Last July the story was: "Here comes the Jackdaw jazz cafe." But the venture has lasted less than a year. This is a shame, just as the closure of Maeve's Kitchen is shame. Now there are two empty spaces where examples of local gentrification had been, once again raising questions about why some manifestations of the "new Clapton" have taken root and others haven't. The Jackdaw seemed nice enough, but did it over-estimate the Dalstonisation of this neck of the woods?
Once, long ago, I was walking north along the southern end of Lower Clapton Road when a man stepped from a shop and said to me: "Come inside and smell the leather." He wore a leather cowboy hat and leather boots. I know what (some of) you are thinking. You are wrong. "Come on in," he persisted. "Come in and smell that leather." I could, in fact, already smell it. Peering into the shop, I saw the bags, boots, coats and shoes that were emitting it.
I wasn't a devotee of Maeve's Kitchen but I'm still sad that it's closed down. What happened? Until someone out there tells me, I can only speculate. The restaurant's website and Facebook page say only that it has "decided to take a prolonged pause from trading." The freehold of the entire property, which includes two flats above the restaurant space, is for sale for £795,000. This could mean that Maeve's was doing OK as a business but that the owner, Maeve's erstwhile landlord, reckoned to make more money from the sale if the premises were sold empty. Or maybe Maeve's was closing anyway and the landlord has decided to cash out. Or it could mean something else.
Havana's cafe at 207 Lower Clapton Road was a long time closed and much missed, in my household at least. Finally, last autumn, it reopened as Ten Ten. The owners, who also run Dom's Place a few doors down, are the same but it is now a very different cup of tea.
The big telly has gone and so has the old menu, which was basically traditional English cafe fare with a few Turkish options too. The new one is more what some might call "new Clapton" and the premises is now licensed to sell alcohol. The refurbished interior, like the atmosphere as a whole, is quieter and there are now comfy window seats as well. As you'll see from the photo above the customers include truly lovely people, some with fabulous big hair, some with almost none.
When I went in the other day I tried their beef burger (with cheese, caramelised onions, tomatoes, lettuce and pickle in a rinkof brioche, to give it its full title) with a side salad and some fries. I'm pleased to report that it was delicious. These are still early days for Ten Ten and no doubt it will take a while for it and its potential punters to find each other. I recommend you give it a try.
There's been a bit of street corner hanging out by groups of lads around the Pond of late, some of it at lunchtimes, some of it in the early evenings after school. A few engage in flicking coins against a wall and seeing how they fall. Others exhale a sweet, intoxicating smell that isn't hard to identify.