Monday, 22 December 2014

The Adam and Eve pub, Homerton High Street

It's easy to overstate how yuppified Clapton and Homerton have become. All you have to do is take a trip down to Angel or Clerkenwell, or even hang around Dalston Junction, and you can see how easy they are for people with little intrigue or wanderlust to discover. It makes me feel at ease about the pace of change in my own neighbourhood, because I know that those most boring professional types who get freaked out looking for Tonkotsu in Haggerston are going to get freaked out on Lower Clapton Road or Homerton High Street, delaying the Borings for a few more years.

Homerton High Street is legitimately hard to love: the thick traffic and crumby crossings make it seem impenetrable; a place nobody wants to spend too long giving it a transient feel. But it's home to a couple of great pubs - the Plough (which does superb Americana-tinged bar food and excellent Sunday roasts, great cocktails and enviable selection of craft beers and ciders on tap), and the Adam and Eve, which is today's subject.

The Adam and Eve is an Edwardian pub, grand with double height ceilings, multiple seating areas, stained glass. It got redid this summer after being taken over by the Field Day crew who own the Shacklewell Arms over in Dalston. There was some nervousness as details emerged - one of the last ungentrified pubs in the area was going to be selling lobsters! A 50% off fortnight saw the place rammed, and I steered clear, as people griped on twitter about £10 lobsters not being available. Best to wait until a new opening settles into its form.

I've been a number of times since, and the Adam and Eve has become one of my favourite pubs in the area.It feels less poncey than some of those up Lower Clapton Road. It attracts a genuinely broad clientèle - on a recent Saturday night there were fashion kids, older couples having a quiet drink, multi-generation Hackney families of wearing their finest garms, old men nursing pints while watching the darts, birthdays, after work doctors and nurses from the Homerton Hospital.

You get the picture. They've made it work for everyone who like going to pubs. And they've also managed to do high quality gastropub food and make it unpretentious and accessible. The food at the The A&E is provided by The Cornwall Project, which is a partnership between producers and fishermen in Cornwall and chefs up in London. This involves bringing beef, mutton, fish and gorgeous heirloom organic veg up from Cornwall, and cooking much of it over a lovely smoky grill.

Sometimes mid week you'll find a shorter menu: burgers, fish and chips, and their regular sides and puddings. Simple is good, when the ingredients are good and well put together. The burger is hefty, proper chuck mince, and full of flavour. Frozen pub burger this ain't; nor is it of the dirty variety. It comes with Cornish yarg cheese, a mulling spice flavoured chutney, cured jowl in the place of bacon - a gamier spin on bacon, little bits of cured beetroot. Sounds fancy, and I'm sure it changes seasonally, but there's no pretension or purple prose, just neat combinations of well sourced ingredients.

On nights with a fuller menu, you'll often find fresh fish, aged mutton, perhaps rib eye or shepherd's pie to share. There's no standard menu, all chalkboard specials on the night, which are sometimes posted on social media. One night I had mutton chop on pearl barley and cracked wheat - the mutton was full of flavour, smoky from the grill and nicely pink inside. Served with a smear of broccoli purée, and some heritage carrots, the dish was an uncomplicated set of flavours that spoke for themselves.

We enjoyed a chicken liver parfait from the daily special's board - served with eggy, sweet brioche, a great big knob of salty butter and a complex, rich persimmon jam, this is *exactly* what I imagine Henry VIII was eating as his gout set in.

But when the more interesting dishes don't seem to be on, their regular sides and snacks will keep you satisfied, You would be foolish not to try their award-winning scotch egg - an oaty crumb on the outside, a soft lightly herby deeply piggy meat layer and a perfectly softly yolked egg inside. Served in a little pool of brown sauce, it's worthy of its prize, and worthy of it's £4.50 price tag.

I also loved their coleslaw - the crisp vegetables have a gorgeous smoky taste from grilling, the dressing is light and dotted with crispy little capers. Just beautiful; I sometimes dream of it, and it's got my googling home-smoking equipment for the garden. Their chips are good - chunky and perfectly fluffy on the inside.

The Adam and Eve is not perfect: while the front rooms with the grand ceilings and stained glass carry a convivial atmosphere, the back room feels a bit unloved and dank. On one visit, bits of food and dirty napkins littered the carpet around a number of tables that had been vacant for some time. You might be disappointed to find only the clipped pub menu available, meaning less choice, even if everything you order is tasty. And on one Saturday we tried ordering their signature scotch egg at 7.30 to find that they'd all been sold.

But when you get a good table and get the full menu, you're in for the best pub food for some miles, and - despite an edible garden, a 'home brew depot' pop-up and charcuterie-making operation on site ticking all the hipster boxes - it doesn't reek of exclusive pretension when you're in there. Which is just what you want in a pub.

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