If you’ve had the chance to visit Druid Street Market – if you’re a frequent visit to Maltby Street Market then you’re missing a trick as it’s directly on the other side of the railway arches. I prefer Druid Street Market for a number of reasons – primarily that they frequently change the food and stall vendors up so that things are kept fresh – plus I can drop into Bottle Shop SE1 to try the dregs of the tap takeover that happens each Friday night.
But one of the things that had me visiting every weekend was to get a Blackbox coffee from the two lovely Aussies who have a coffee cart on wheels and pumping out some of London’s best coffee. I’d frequently be able to order a coffee and chat about the latest in food and drink happenings while customers came and went. Over the last few months they had been letting slip that they were on the lookout for a proper bricks and mortar where they could set up shop for good.
I tried to pretend that this wasn’t happening until this past weekend when I arrived at Druid Street to find a new coffee stall set up in Blackbox’s place. I hurried around the other stallholders to find out WTF happened until I was able to piece together that they guys had just opened up Bernsteins Bar in Clapton that same day for their first weekend trading.
Cogs in motion – we planned a visit for the very next day to see what the team had planned. Arriving in Clapton (with some great food and drink places to be tried and tested by the way) we scored a table on the corner of the staircase and ordered a tried and tested flat white. Bersteins Bar is a partnership between Blackbox Coffee and the guys behind What The Dickens – a street food troupe specialising in traditional and historical British food – how very Heston! One of the team has a Jewish heritage and he has brought his grandmother’s tried and tested Jewish recipes to the kitchen that perfectly pairs up with the coffee selection on offer.
Now I have been on the hunt for a good Jewish joint ever since Mishkins in Covent Garden closed down after a rent hike. Bernstein Bar has certainly come to the party with some amazing salt beef, real, honest chicken soup, bagels and cheesecake plus a few little twists of their own.
They’ve completely gutted the place and it became their second home while they put in the kitchen, bar, tables and chairs over a three month period. It’s light, airy and will attract a flop of locals – as it indeed did on their opening weekend. We kicked off with the smoked trout bagel (£6) with ….. The bagel was perfect and with a slice of pickle to top things off.
It was a similar deal with my salt beef sandwich on white sourdough with a schmere of mustard to add a bit of zing (£5). White not stupidly packed to the rafters like you get at Katz Deli in New York – this was much preferable to the cardboard tasting salt beef sandwiches at the much loved bagel joints on Brick Lane.
Continuing with the bargain pricings you’d be stupid not to try out a few sides. I’m the first two admit that I would new order a salad for brunch but when they’re being offered for £3 why not go a little crazy?!
Chickpeas, Turkish chilli, parsley and hawayej arrived and was more then enough to share between two people. Deliciously spiced – I’d even consider one of theses sides an an option for lunch.
Roasted butternut squash, za’atar and tahini dip with bread again was delicious and will be a worthwhile option if you’re stopping by for a few brews and want something to chew on. Again I’m being schooled in how good straight vegetarian dishes can be!
How can you go to a Jewish cafe and not order the cheesecake?! This one was an absolute stunner and it’s a recipe that can easily go wrong if you’re not an expert. Smooth, creamy and with a twist of lemon in the mix – I’ll be back for one of these with coffee, no doubt about it. I also spotted instead of a cheese platter – the novel idea of a chocolate platter. The couple in front of me were so impressed that they ordered another while halfway through the first!
I predict big things for the Bernsteins Bar guys up in this corner of the hood. Their bar comes into the fore in the evenings and worth hitting if not just for the Kernel beer on tap that they’ve been able to acquire for just £5 a pint. In the background I did spot cans of Beaverton’s Lulupoid IPA, Five Points and Fourpure as well. These weren’t on the menu so it may be a good little rotation of cans that they will continuously update whenever stocks get low.
While there area few things they still need to work while they find their feet – is it table service or pay at the counter, where at the counter do you order and where best to display pastries – these are all still things that can easily be ironed out. But know that if you have a hankering for some amazing old school Jewish staples then you *HAVE* to hit up Bernstein’s Bar in Clapton.
Contact: Bernsteins Bar – 72 Chatsworth Road, Hackney. Website.