The Crooked Billet, Upper Clapton

The Crooked Billet pub signWho is behind the project?

It’s sort of been a self financing thing. All the money that we have made over the last two years at the Empress has been ploughed into this. We have been promised a rent rebate on some of the money that has been spent on the pub but that’s about it.

What are you changing about the Crooked Billet?

We just want to change it so that people come in! Since we’ve been open we have had literally hundreds of people telling us how they have lived in the area for years and never fancied going in until now. And that isn’t just young hipsters who have lived in Clapton for a year or two. I’m talking people in their 60s that have never ventured in either. I just think the pub catered for a really small minority but excluded many more.

The Crooked Billet garden

A lot of Pubs have been cropping up in Clapton this past year, what’s your view on that?

Pubs are one of the most accurate barometers for an area. A few pubs cropping up in Clapton in succession is no surprise when you see how quick the area is changing. I’ve seen loads of areas change in London over the years but none with the pace that Clapton seems to be going at. But if you see the crowd we are getting in at The Crooked Billet we really are getting a diverse mix of people and that’s a good thing. I don’t buy into the whole who are true locals thing. London has always been a city of immigrants and migrant workers – some people pass through and some stay – that’s just how it is.

The pub dates back to 1899 and on it’s current site since1950s, have you found any artefacts from it’s past?

Sadly there really wasn’t a lot of old artefacts of not in the pub when we took over. A crappy old 70s wine list in the cellar was about it. But I found a nice old Barbar jacket and a couple of unopened pot noodles upstairs if that counts.

What made you choose to open something in Hackney?

Well I don’t have a car and I live off Well Street. We wanted to open a drinking pub as opposed to an eating pub like the Empress so it we were kind of geographically restricted. Elliott, the chef, lives in Upper Clapton so it just made sense. I have known the Billet for years as I used to live on Mount Pleasant Lane (though I used to drink in the excellent Anchor and Hope when Les (RIP) was still behind the bar). Elliott and I actually met up in the Billet one night – it being the nearest pub to him – talking about how good it would be to have a place this size and with this outside space and we just thought ‘why not’. When we called Enterprise Inns the lease just happened to be up for grabs. These things just fall into place some times

The Crooked Billet outdoor bar

Tell us your plans for the car park

The car park has gone. We didn’t really see the point of a car park in a pub in London when you can’t drink and drive, I can’t remember the last time when I drove to a pub. Everyone I know in London either uses public transport or bikes. We have had to leave a drive way for the dray and deliveries but apart from that it’s all gone. When we were laying the lawn some kids looked through the fence and asked if we were building a new park!

We’ve put outdoor table tennis, table football and darts outiside and great little private booths with speakers and heaters in. We are now building an outdoor bar to cope with the numbers of people coming down to use the gardens. That should be finished in a week by which time it will probably piss down until next May.

We want to start doing truck food on Saturdays and we are talking to a few people that have great truck concepts and seeing how that could work out.

The Crooked Billet kitchen

Elliott Lidstone will be the chef as the Crooked Billet and is behind the successful kitchen at the empress of india, what is he planning for your menu?

The food is proper pub grub but done well. Elliott is using the same suppliers we use at the Empress but making simpler food that suits a few pints. Burgers, steak and ale pies, sausages (all using Ginger Pig meat), fish and chips, mac and cheese, all the stuff I want to eat after 3 pints of ale. We set out to not have a separate dining room as that can lead to a conflict of interest with a big noisy bar. Pub grub has become a term of abuse but we want to reclaim it. The Sunday roasts are going to be exactly like the ones we do at the Empress – just a bit bigger as we don’t expect people to have 3 courses like they do in Vicky Park.

The Crooked Billet is at 84 Upper Clapton Rd, E5

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  1. A really good new local, not too shabby and not too chic, great outdoors space and friendly staff. Haven’t tried the food yet but my experience of the Impress of India gives me confidence, and all I’m after in a pub is simple food done well. Looking forward to going back this week-end!

    • Here’s something to bring a chill.
      I met my future wife here. She was working behind the bar in 1968 – 1969 or thereabouts.
      The right hand bar is haunted. Absolutely definitely. Clearing away glasses one night when everyone had gone, something brushed past her with an icy chill.
      The landlady (name forgotten but her huge son was named Neville) commented in quite a matter of fact way that this was indeed the case. She had actually seen something from the corner of her eye, a sort of grey shadow, and often felt a presence in that same area. It usually occurred near the Ladies in the right hand bar as it was then. And it wasn’t a draught or an open window.

  2. I’ve had the chips, garlic bread and halloumi burger, all really good.

  3. Like!

  4. It’s called the ‘CrooKed billet’ E, not the cooked billet, even if yeah, f, they do cook food.
    And the chef’s name isn’t ‘Ellitott Lidstone’ but Elliott.
    Nice new eateries over Lr and Upper Clapton Rd, inc. Sourdough.
    Best, P.

    • Thanks for pointing out those two typos, I don’t have an editor so I sometimes miss them. I’ve corrected those.

  5. Actually visited the place one recent Sunday for lunch. Absolutely incredible.
    Great cooking, frendly staff. Took rather a long time to serve us but it was worth the wait.
    Good open-air area at the back too with table tennis.
    The only thing was that someone has painted the outside brickwork –Vandalism. It looks terrible.
    But nevertheless don’t let that put you off.

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