Cheese, wine and charcuterie in Clapton, without the usual charity shop mismatched cutlery and ceramics


A few years ago, there was little reason to venture to Clapton beyond reasonably priced East London housing (RIP) in close proximity to London Fields et al. Now it seems that every week brings a new bar or restaurant opening. The purposely roughly refurbished Clapton Hart (“a local pub for local people” – yeah, thanks for that, we bust a gut laughing) gave a hint of what was coming, and last year everyone fell in love with The Windsor Castle, a pub that put negronis on its chalkboard as a house special cocktail (remember when no one knew about the negroni but you?). This year, you’ve no doubt become familiar with The Bonneville, if not for the marvellous Erik Satie-soundtracked, dry ice-bedecked cobbled hallway that leads to the toilets, straight out of Edgar Allen Poe, then for the nonsense that transpired on opening night.

Our new favourite Clapton spot is Verden, which brings a Scandic look to the area with far more aplomb than Oslo in Hackney Central (and not “Mareditch” –which an Evening Standard journo made up on deadline last year, and which made us retch).

Verden represents yet another refit of an old East End boozer. The super stark, hard surfaced interior by OTHER WORKS seems a little unsettling upstairs – what’s beautiful in SoFo in Stockholm, or by the water in Copenhagen, jars a little on a corner of East London where rotund Romani ladies with voluminous head scarves and even more voluminous heavily draped midriffs are wont to wander in with clutches of cheap roses to sell. But it’s still a very handsome room.

Verden, Clapton

Verden, Clapton

Downstairs is absolutely gorgeous – we are looking forward to winter, so we can hunker down in a booth for six. You know how much we love a booth. And these booths are big.

As well as the main interior refit – which would look slick in Mayfair or the Meatpacking as much as E5 – there are other lovely touches. Jonathan Leech’s lighting, Billy Lloyd’s ceramics and Samuel Muir’s typography all go into the mix to create something that doesn’t look like anything else in East London.

There are some wild card wines – including a surprisingly subtle orange Pinot Gris (the skins are left on during vinification) from Slovenia – and a good, broad range of reds and whites by the glass (8 reds, 10 white). Crucially, the food is really fantastic. There’s enough on the charcuterie menu to keep you happy if you’re being paleo, while a short, ever changing daily menu demonstrates some killer technique in the kitchen – you could get through bowls of croquettes by the dozen, while a plate of cod cheeks is as good as you’ll have in any of the toniest seafood restaurants in London. Better, even, than at Scott’s (where Verden’s chef Tom Frasier hails from).

Verden has aesthetics to burn. And, crucially, it doesn’t look like absolutely everywhere else – there’s no mismatched charity shop plates and cutlery. But what’s most significant about is that it brings a great wine list and a very reasonably priced and excellent menu with it. Wine start at £3.50 a glass, while a quick skim of the main list shows most bottles in the £30 or under range. Main courses – actual proper full sized plates – are £13. Hurrah. We are just so done with those arrogant neighbourhood caffs that think they’re restaurants because they have some Byzantine (or non-existent) reservation systems, and flog a 99p collection of ingredients for over £10. You can con all of the people for the first few weeks you’re open, and, seemingly, all of the food bloggers all of the time – but for us that jig is absolutely up. Maybe Verden is a sign that things are changing for the better. Actual restaurateurs are getting involved in the casual dining scene. Whatever next? C


Verden, 181 Clarence Road, London E5
020-8986 4723;