Once unlovingly nicknamed Murder Mile, Lower Clapton Road has since polished up its act, transforming into one of Hackney's most exciting neighbourhoods. Beginning at the ponds and ending around Mare Street, this winding road runs like honey, attracting independent businesses towards it. Natural-wine shops and boutique hair salons share the pavement with dumpling houses and converted church venues. Here, the establishments that are helping LCR maintain its now-sparkling reputation.

Le Merlin 

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Le Merlin performs wizardry of the finest, Frenchest sort. The menu is split into savory galettes (made with buckwheat flour, water and salt  nothing else) and sweet crepes. The traditional complète made with ham, Gruyère and egg plus a choice of spinach or mushrooms is a regional favourite, but Le Merlin also like to experiment with taste combos such as bacon, seared pears, goat cheese and maple syrup, or scallops with creamed leeks. Sweet options include flambéed pear with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream, and straight-up Nutella. Enjoy an early spring evening in the magical little garden with your treat and a glass of wine or Breton cider. 

Where: 78 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 0RN

When: Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-10 p.m.; Fri., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
More info:
020 3489 2853; lemerlin.co.uk


 

P. Franco

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This minimalist wine shop and bar serving seasonal dishes on a single high table is a 'little brother' to Broadway Market's Noble Fine Liquor. Their passion is fine wine, and their stock reflects the diversity of a collector's curated cellar, with contemporary natural selections and beautifully packaged bottles. Resident chefs, recruited from some of the most reputable restaurants in the world, design menus to suit the wine (follow P. Franco on Twitter to see their changing seasonal menu). A draft menu includes salsiccia picante, smoked mackerel broth, mussels, curry leaf, and, for dessert, goat’s milk ice cream. Most things are good with wine, but these specially selected tastes are a cut above the rest.

Where: 107 Lower Clapton Rd, Lower Clapton, London E5 0NP

When: Shop/bar, Tues. & Weds., 4-9 p.m.; Thurs. & Fri., 4-11 p.m.; Sat., 2-11 p.m.; Sun., 2-10 p.m. Kitchen, Thurs.-Sat., 6-10 p.m.; Sun., 3-9 p.m.
More info: 
020 8533 4660; pfranco.co.uk


 

My Neighbours the Dumplings

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My Neighbours the Dumplings serves up special treats on communal wooden benches under hanging paper lanterns. The delicate dumplings are handcrafted with seasonal ingredients and wrapped in elastic yellow skins. But while dim sum is where this family-run restaurant shines, the small-plate ethos is evident in each steamy bamboo basket. Expect Thai- and Japanese-style dishes as specials, and sake-based drinks from small breweries in Japan  the ideal accompaniment to a basketful of dumplings.

Where: 165 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 8EQ

When: Tues.-Thurs., 6-10:30 p.m.; Fri., 6-11 p.m.; Sat., 5-11 p.m.; Sun., noon-4 p.m.
More info: 
020 3327 1556; Facebook


 

Il Guscio Pizzeria

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There’s nothing like a good neighbourhood Italian. Nestled beside a bus stop, Il Guscio Pizzeria feels like a hidden gem, serving up classic dishes just like Nonna made them. Find a candlelit table for two in the window and start with burrata, olives and bread. Traditional pizza and pasta dishes make life easy for no-fuss diners, but it’s worth checking the chalkboard for nightly specials. The friendly staff will help you pick your wine with the option of glass, carafe or bottle. You know you’ve found a good restaurant when a dish as simple as spaghetti pomodoro has you twizzling your fork with joy. 

Where: 90 Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 0QR

When: Mon.-Fri., 5-11 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., noon-11 p.m.
More info: 
020 7502 3288; ilgusciopizzeria.co.uk


 

Palm 2

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Tucked between the corner shop and a Muay Thai boxing gym, Palm 2 is an event space hosting brunch clubs, dinners, film screenings and lazy Sunday sessions. It's run by the grocery/deli downstairs, which sells arguably the best homemade gozlëme this side of Clapton. Every Saturday and Sunday, long wooden tables are laid upstairs for breakfast and brunch. Sunday afternoons become deliciously leisurely with Bloody Marys, papers, roast dinners and good music. It doesn't get much better.

Where: 152-156 Lower Clapton Rd, E5 0QJ

When: Weekend brunch, Sat. & Sun. (see calendar)
More info: 
074 3495 8073; palm2.co.uk

 

St John at Hackney

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Hosting avant-garde performances, drone and experimental music, St John at Hackney is far from an ordinary church. Inviting the secular through its otherwise sacred doors, this iconic church is one of the most interesting venues in the East End. Modern design sits tastefully amongst stained-glass windows and a huge round stage. Shuffle along a pew for the regular St John Sessions, including performances by the likes of multi-instrumentalist Áine O'Dwyer. Amen.

Where: Church of St John at Hackney, Lower Clapton Rd, London E5 0PD

When: See calendar for listings
More info: 
stjohnsessions.co.uk


By Zara Miller

Zara is a freelance writer who loves travelling and all kinds of storytelling. Follow her on Twitter.