Eating my way round Hackney: 79 Clapton Cafe Restaurant

Join Alex Nightingale, in her misson to eat her way across the borough. From North Hackney to South Hackney and inbetween, Alex will be sharing her vegetarian epicurean adventure here, in the Hive food section.

 

Upper Clapton’s finest poached eggs? Photo: Alex Nightingale

 

79 Clapton Cafe Restaurant – 79 Upper Clapton Road, E5 9BU

I might be mad, I probably am, but I appear to have offered myself up for the admittedly mammoth task of trying to eat my way around Hackney. Hackney has so many places to eat the choice can be overwhelming, so I’m on a mission to find some of the very best, however unassuming, that could be right on your doorstep. From Springfield at the northern point (Spark Cafe in Springfield Park make an awesome veggie breakfast, I’m surely due another soon!) right the way down to Haggerston at the south of the borough – well, that’s a whole lot of eating. Hackney’s diversity is celebrated in so many forms – and food is just one of these.

Considering this then, where on earth should I start? I chose one of my favourite and most frequently-visited haunts – 79 Clapton Cafe Restaurant on Upper Clapton Road (yes, that’s number 79!) They may not have the most imaginative name (well, you won’t forget where it is in a hurry!) but 79 Clapton is a gem of a place, serving good-quality classic ‘caff’ food and a range of specials. Some of the many reasons I always go back are the fantastic, fast service I receive without fail and the incredibly friendly staff who have a great rapport with the customers (pictured below on the only occasion they have ever been seen standing still at the same time!)

The staff at 79 Clapton Cafe Restaurant

The cafe’s proprietor Deniz tells me that there has been a cafe at 79 Upper Clapton Road for the past 180 years, showing me photos taken over the years from the Hackney archives. This stretch of road seems to have always had connections to food, housing an early Hovis bakery and the greengrocer two doors down – Charlton’s – where Alan Sugar began his career (allegedly boiling rather a lot of beetroot.) Today is no different and 79 Clapton is a welcome addition to the great Turkish shops found on the stretch and the greengrocer which is still there today.

 

79 Clapton serve all the ‘caff’ classics but stand out to me for using good quality fresh bread (none of the bagged sort Delia would turn her nose up at), great paninis, the incredibly generous portion sizes (the jacket potatoes, I’m sure, could win prizes!) and being great value for money. The cafe also serves the best poached eggs I’ve ever had – witnessed by the fact I once ate four in one sitting. I speak for the vegetarians but have it on good recommendation from friends of a more carnivorous persuasion that the ‘mixed grill’ (a particularly hearty meal) and the grilled chicken sandwiches should not be missed. Neither should Thursday and Friday’s fish specials, where you can get a fish the size of a small shark and hand-cut chips for much less than you would expect!

If these weren’t enough reasons to pop into 79 Clapton the next time you’re peckish in the area Deniz would also like to mention his excellent food hygiene rating – I’ve seen the certificates! The cafe is also incredibly child-friendly, with plenty of space for pushchairs and more often than not a Kit-Kat given on the sly to adventurous toddlers who approach the counter! The main reason Deniz thinks you should pay him a visit? “No one cooks fish like me!”

Proprietor Deniz with author, academic and 79 Clapton grilled chicken sandwich fan Mutlu Ergün.

If you would like to recommend where my next stop should be, on my attempt to eat my way around Hackney, join me in my adventures in food or if you would like me to write about your eatery, just drop me an email(Please bear in mind that I’m a) honest and b) a vegetarian too, and by that I don’t mean a pescetarian – thanks!)

And there you have it folks. Alex’s adventure began and ended at 79 Clapton Cafe. If you would like to take up where she left, contact us.

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