Restaurant review: The Crooked Billet, Clapton, E5
- Credit: Archant
»If you need a sign of Clapton’s rampant gentrification, the Crooked Billet is it.
Formerly a rather forbidding premises, it lurked with sinister intent on the side of Upper Clapton Road, conjuring images of late-night pub violence and generally encouraging a brisk walk past towards the more welcoming climes down by the pond. That’s all changed, however. The team behind the excellent Empress in Victoria Park village have got hold of it and given it a good shake.
The menacing dark brickwork has been painted cream, the beer garden is fantastic – heaters, table tennis, even darts are available out there – and the enormous car park, one of the most unlovely elements of the previous establishment, has been turned into a manicured grass lawn.
Inside, things are looking good too – a spacious central bar, open kitchen, antique leather chairs and pleasing adornments to the walls.
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Any self-respecting Hackney boozer these days has to stock a variety of local ales, and the Billet is no exception here, with offerings from the Hackney Brewery and 5 Points. The menu is simple, but effective – perfect grub for a no-nonsense boozer; pies, burgers, sausage and mash and so on.
But make no mistake, this is good quality stuff. The meat is from famous Ginger Pig butchers and the produce is local, sustainable, organic, or all three.
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The priciest thing on the menu, at £14 or so, is the hangar steak, which came pre-sliced, and wonderfully juicy – served just the right side of rare with a hint of a bitter chargrill.
The ribs were also good, smothered in barbecue glaze, the tender meat all but fell off the bone and served with a creamy coleslaw.
Alongside this we had probably their most exotic offering; salt and pepper squid with garlic alioli, also very palatable. It’s not cuisine to pull up any trees, but it’s not meant to be, and is simple, good quality fare at an attractive price.
The Billet seems to have found the knack of being new and trendy for the hipsters, without alienating the old-school regulars.