It was one of those London days when the weather looked like it would rain on our parade and probably repeatedly. Thick clouds hung low overhead. There was great anticipation for precipitation. Rather than getting soaked like a junkyard dog, we took refuge in the dry, homey confines of the Clapton Hart.
It bills itself as a local pub for local people. The Hart is full of used furniture, bare-brick walls, and 20-foot high ceilings. This watering hole is enormous with various rooms to fit all needs. Want a dark, discreet, quiet corner to sip an ale? Slip into one of the small rooms with deep red walls and low lighting. Need to seat a huge crowd? The spacious back room has long tables and sports a truck-sized skylight that gives a soft glow to everything below. Further out back is a spacious beer garden for better weather days.
This pub started as the White Hart Hotel back in 1722. In the late 1990s, it became the Chimes Bar, a music venue known more for its street side killings than an entertainment destination. These were the days of Hackney’s infamous Murder Mile, a stretch of road known for it gangland savagery and brutal murders. But those days seem to be gone now. Hackney is changing and one of those changes is the Clapton Hart. The pub specializes in serving microbrewery beers and hardy food.
Since our visit was on a Sunday afternoon, much of the clientele came for the Sunday roast, a traditional British meal of roasted meats, mashed potatoes and great sides like Yorkshire pudding, vegetables and gravy. Young families with children camped out to feast the day away. Others gathered over bountiful Bloody Marys or pints of dark ale. One old man, propped up in a lone chair in the middle of the great room, swilled a bottled beer and tipped his captain’s hat to every young lady that sauntered by.
We dined on salt and black pepper potato chips and drank British ales. We spent hours talking while kids raced around the cavernous pub and the stereo played Bowie, the Kinks and some modern British rock. It never did rain that day, but what a nice way to while a way a Sunday afternoon. At the Clapton Hart, of course.