NFT London Hackney Downs / Lower Clapton

Hackney Downs / Lower Clapton

A few years ago you couldn't move for house gigs and secret raves around the Downs, but these days the area is devolving into the moody gangland it used to be whilst breeding the rioters of tomorrow. Lower Clapton, on the other hand, is ever on the up. Shop at Umit's for rare films and sweets. Food and coffee can be found at vegan punk paradise Pogo or Pacific Social Club.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Viktor Wynd's Little Shop of Horrors
In October 2009 there were strange goings-on at 11 Mare Street. Deliveries of body parts, jars containing foetuses, stuffed animals and other curiosities were being deposited at the front door at an alarming rate. Indeed this was the opening of Viktor Wynd's Shop of Horrors, a destination that has attracted attention from the London news, fashion bible ELLE, and the esteemed New York Times. Three years in the making, this lovingly created museum of the macabre seemed like a shaky venture back  then--a whim of the owner, gimmicky even, but the shop-cum-gallery has displayed the work of respected artists and welcomed many a visitor both celebrated and pedestrian. The interior was even used as the set for a video shoot recently, and continues to lure passer-bys with its unusual shop frontage located in the strange No Man's Land of Cambridge Heath. It is amusing to hear that locals find it a little unnerving--especially the taxidermy--in a part of London where once domestic cats were skinned alive for their pelts. If you happen to catch Wynd in his shop he will no doubt beguile you with tales of his finds.



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  Michael Kasparis

Umit & Son
When I first met him, Umit seemed like a loveable rogue, a warrior champion of traditional cinematic values who was just a little touched in the head. After receiving a half-hour lecture on the evils of digital film he sold me an 8mm film of Chalie Chaplin a DVD of a Kurdish superhero flick called 'Kilink.' Like Umit himself, Kilink is a mixed up man--a bizarre melange of Superman, Spiderman and The Punisher. Umit, on the other hand, is a wired, crazed local Turkish guy who enthuses about sweets, Kung Fu, and the occasional 'under-the-counter' number. His werido little shop has become the stuff of legend. A museum to analogue culture, you can't move for old projectors, reel-to-reel films, memorabilia and the usual sweets and drinks with which he stays financially afloat. He runs a 35mm film club and there's even a documentary (shot on glorious digital film) about him circulating somewhere. He cuts a rather Chaplinesque figure in Clapton; a moustachioed loner who takes his work very seriously but is not afraid to play for laughs.



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  Michael Kasparis

The Pet Shop
Hold on a minute. Firstly, I rescued my cats on Gumtree and so haven't contributed to the evil trade in pets that buoys places like this. Secondly, and most importantly, I'm only writing about this place to share the heartbreaking, poor quality photo of a wittle kitten I took while buying pet food. Now I don't want to get all preachy, but the outrageously camp shark that runs The Pet Shop was selling these wittle guys for mega bucks while I was there. He spent our transaction on the phone to various buyers, giving it the 'Only got one left and a woman already left a deposit but if you want it...' sales chat. For what it's worth, The Pet Shop is a brilliant local pet shop. It's got snakes, mammals, lizards, exotic birds, all organic pet food and a baffling array of pet toys. The aforementioned shark clearly knows what he's doing. But look at the kitten in the photo. Look at his little face. His paw on the window begging you to take him with you. You can't resist can you? That'll be 300 quid please, you mug.



Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Christina Theisen

Pages of Hackney
All independent bookshops are dead. Smashed by Waterstones, beaten by Amazons, ignored by you and me. All independent bookshops? No, dear friend, once in a while--and, yes, we know it's quite a leap of faith--someone is even brave enough to open a new one. Crazy? Maybe--but how absolutely wonderful. Step forward, the enthusiastic book believers behind Pages of Hackney, who, in September, did just that. Between the greasy chicken wings, scary barber knifes and smelly car tyres of Lower Clapton Road, you’ll now find this perfectly sized shop (it's just you and some hundred books); simple black shelves are stacked with a careful selection that travels from the very local all the way to the very global. You can browse and read and talk and meet (there's a growing programme of books and arts events for their downstairs) and just feel great about this little beauty, long may it last. You still don’t believe us, after all those details AND a picture? Go and see for yourself then, infidel.



Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Christina Theisen

The Pembury Tavern
Here's the first thing you notice: From outside, the Pembury Tavern looks like high street bank. Here's the second: From inside, the Pembury Tavern looks like the waiting room of a train station. And if that wasn't enough, a walk to the loo feels like descending the staircase to the grotty basement gym of your secondary school. You get the point: if you care for looks, don't come here. But who does? And who does, in particular, if there's a collection of sixteen different (and always changing) hand pumped ales, at least one real cider and a great selection of German and Belgian bottle beers? And lots and lots of space. And about twenty different board games. And no mind-numbing elevator music. And tables big enough to spread out a super-sized foreign newspaper in full. And handcut chips. Exactly, looks don't matter. It's what's inside... well, you know the cliche. Did we mention their malt whiskey offering?



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  Michael Kasparis

Salvation Army Clapton
I don't know where I'm going when I die, but the folks at the Salvation Army know where they're going, and it ain't down. This is not because they're devout Christians, which they are, but more because they're the nicest humans on Earth. Every time I'm sniffing around their bargain records (30p for little ones and 50p for big ones), or trying on some stupendously underpriced leather boots I get The Guilt. Especially when the lovely old lady behind the counter is flabbergasted when I spend £5, overjoyed at seeing so much money. The Guilt is one of the central complexes for us bargain hunters. Should I really be paying £2 for this designer jacket? Or 10p for this empty clay jar of Pork Dripping? In the midst of this Credit Crunch ™ dilemma, I notice the regulars who turn up just to have a cup of tea from the little canteen, some elderlies who just want to talk about the weather. Feeling like Satan incarnate, I resolve to bring a big bag o' crap the next time I'm coming down to clean them out of anything of value.




Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Mess Café
Breakfast is without a doubt, the new lunch. The only problem is, in England, the fried breakfast is king--not such good news for faddy dieters; hold the oil, no bread, cut the fat off the bacon. Puh-lease. Mess, however, does such a good job of the Full Monty (please don't pick me up on the criteria for a real Full Monty, you English breakfastophiles) that you don't feel naughty indulging in a cooked breakfast any day of the week. The bacon is crisp (cooked in butter we hear) rather than greasy and limp (as it so often and disappointingly is), the mushrooms not too watery, egg yolk runny, tomatoes ripe, all good. But my favourite is the American Breakfast: Ham, eggs, French toast, hash browns, mushrooms and orange juice (which I substitute for a good cuppa cwaffee). Quite why it is an American Breakfast escapes me--French toast? Freedom toast surely? But seriously, why not Dr Seuss' Breakfast? For your vegetarian friends (and to be honest, why do you keep friends who are veggie?) there are Pesto Mushrooms, mushrooms served on toast with pesto and gruyère. And if you're still hungry? They do burgers and shakes!




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