Do you like coffee? Do you like hipsters? Wait, come back….
It was a few weeks ago now that the Lovely One and I headed up to Dalston to see the Jeweller for the Clapton Jumble Trail. Being busy little bees, we didn’t have a lot of time to stop and say hello, so ended up seeking shelter in a local caff for a pitstop and opportunity to get some work done.
Dalston and Hackney are very different places now. I remember being at uni in 2004 and hearing that a friend was moving to Dalston. “What is it like?” I asked, all country-air innocence and sweetness. My friend Jess, from Harrow, simply said, darkly, “it’s not a good place to be, sometimes.”
Even when I moved there in 2007, I remember the day of the terrible stabbing in the Kingsway shopping centre, and the shabby rows of shops leading up to the glories of Mangal Ocakbasi. I quickly grew to love it, and won’t pretend that the moving in of the party nights, the artisan cafes and the like wasn’t in fact rather nice. I’d never accidentally moved somewhere on the up before, and it was a satisfying feeling that this part of London, stretching from the Ball’s Pond Road up to Clapton, was my little secret and everyone else was discovering it.
That feeling quickly passed into concern, as the high streets I’d come to love (Chatsworth Road, mon amour) were first colonised by boutique cupcake shops and scandicaffs then taken over by self-consciously cool restaurants. The local people were first outbid and later outpriced and outnumbered by bearded hipsters who could no longer afford Islington. This hit its nadir last year when a new pub, the Bonneville, issued a series of staggeringly ill-judged tweets and then a rather sourpuss apology after moaning that their opening night was ruined by the rudeness of a kid who decided to take shelter there after being STABBED IN THE STOMACH. The streets of Hackney now teem with Mamas-and-Papas prams and designer shoes. But I’m not sure that leaves room for anyone else.
So it’s mixed feelings that I have about Cafe Route – I really, really wanted to like it. And I do! It’s just it makes me sad for a time which never really existed. I’m not about to say that I really enjoyed the grubby greasy spoons of yore (they have their place, but they’re not great for watching the world go by), but I’m sad they’re not thriving in Dalston.
Fortunately, Cafe Route is really easy to love.
Is it the great coffee, thick and dark and black and sweetly bitter? Or is it the great salads or amazingly friendly staff? I think it’s more to do with the fact that it manages to tread that line between hispterism and genuinely good stuff. Really tasty, really fresh food which doesn’t get in your face, isn’t overly fancy and is just really good grub on a busy saturday. We were left alone to get on with work for a new hours while the hours rolled by, and felt pretty damn good about it as well.
Overall conclusions? The old east end is dead and gone. And the new one isn’t that friendly. Thank goodness, then, for places like this, which just get on with doing what they do, very well indeed.
|Gaumont Tower, Dalston Square, London E8 3BQ
020 7249 6202