With these top bars, Clapton surely deserves a round of applause.
With a veritable smorgasbord of interesting watering holes, Clapton has become a great destination for an alternative night out. Check out our guide to figure out where you’ll be spending your hard-earned this weekend! (See also: the best pubs in Hackney.)
1. Biddle Bros
If it’s atmosphere you’re looking for, this is Lower Clapton Road’s best offer. This local haunt has kept its original frontage from the previous incumbents, the Biddle Bros builders merchants. With a relaxed vibe, friendly clientele and no-frills attitude, this bar makes for a great authentic night out. The bar area offers comfy sofas, whilst the back room, with its skylights, piano and glass wall, is host to jam nights, live acoustic sessions and monthly DJ sets from local record slingers. On Fridays and Saturdays, come here to dance the night away, make new friends and sing your heart out. 88 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 0QR. More here.
2. Matilda’s Sake Bar
Beneath delicious dim sum eatery My Neighbours the Dumplings, you’ll find Matilda’s Sake Bar. A basement delight you might miss from the outside, Matilda’s interior will transport you to a Shanghai dive bar. Out of the darkness shines neon lighting, warm candlelight, and stylised decor that pairs perfectly with the bar’s intoxicating offerings. If you want to get to know sake, this is the place to do it. They stock sake selections from five Japanese breweries that you can order by the taster, the carafe or by the bottle. The menu changes weekly, so it’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit again and again. The venue welcomes intimate live music from world artists, as well as the odd DJ set thrown in for good measure. To the rear of the restaurant, you’ll find the ‘Hanging Garden’ complete with colourful lanterns and trailing plants – an atmospheric place to share dishes from the menu and and sip on a sake cocktail. 165 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 8EQ. More details here.
3. Pacific Social Club
Just on the Lower Clapton-Hackney border on Clarence Road, the Pacific Social Club has a real sense of fun. It’s small and cash-only – you have been warned – but remains a complete gem, serving moreish and reasonably priced vegan Japanese street food and great coffee. The alcohol selection is modest but, by crikey, do they know how to put together a cocktail – check out the hibiscus margarita. Don’t think, just do it. The decor is as eclectic and eccentric as their social media presence – the Pacific Social Clubbers have an irreverent sense of humour. If you like your music on the experimental side, you’ll like it here. Keep an eye on their social for events info, as you’ll find local DJs and musicians visiting throughout the week. 8 Clarence Rd, E5 8HB. More info here.
4. Blondies Bar
Formerly an alleyway opposite Clapton Pond, Blondies, named after its flaxen-haired owners, is raucous, loud, and exactly what your Friday night needs. On offer is cheap booze (brewed in-house of course) and strong, tasty cocktails at tastier prices – try out their dirty martini. Expect guitars, good times and rock and roll. Unpretentious and wild, Blondies hosts a selection of local bands, vegan barbecues, and promoters, including Hackney Road record shop metal specialists, the Crypt of the Wizard. Don’t forget your earplugs! 205A Lower Clapton Rd, E5 8EG. More info.
You may be familiar with Del74’s Dalston restaurant, but their original Clapton residence is smaller and more intimate. Here, you’ll find a small but perfectly formed selection of drinks, and a finely crafted dinner menu featuring tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, nachos and wings. For your margaritas, you get the choice of mezcal or tequila, and your choice of ingredients and garnish: mouth-watering cucumber, watermelon, or lime. Get ’em at the very reasonable price of five pounds on Taco Tuesdays Happy Hour, and we’ll forgive you for trying all variations. Meanwhile, their frozen margaritas are a godsend this summer. Del74 is great for relaxed dates, but don’t be surprised if the fun-loving bar staff start handing out the shots… 87 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 0RN. Find out more.
6. The Elephant’s Head
Formerly the Bonneville, The Elephant’s Head has been restored to its former glory – its name coming from the carved stonework on the top of the building. It’s a great place for those who love a classy cocktail and appreciate a good wine list. The mixologists skilfully prepare your drinks at a bar bedecked with taxidermy and kooky vintage decor, and their hearty food menu will please those with even the largest of appetites. It’s a perfect Sunday spot for a roast, particularly since they have a bottomless offering! If that wasn’t enough to excite you, even the loos in this place are an experience. As you descend the stairs, dry ice rises from somewhere below, letting you glide spookily into their grand vintage Thomas Crapper style lavatories. What’s not to love? 43 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 0NS. More info here.
Featured image: @mjainscough