When Hackney Council announced it was renovating Clissold House and replacing its café, local residents were excited. An outcry followed when they were informed that only catering companies with an annual turnover of £1 million-plus would be considered for tender. Company of Cooks, who have already done an efficient job of improving food in other London parks, won the contract.
The restoration is beautiful. The rooms have high ceilings, wooden floors, large windows and serene paint colours. There’s a new terrace on the south side too.
On our Sunday lunchtime visit, getting a table was a scrum and service was chaotic. Staff were not looking after newcomers; they seemed barely able to cope. It was 15 minutes before we were approached once we’d secured a table. Our main courses came 20 minutes apart, so that one daughter had finished her meal before the other’s plate arrived. We asked for a side order of bread and butter with our curry and rice; the curry came with unbuttered bread and no rice.
I wasn’t given any cutlery. We didn’t get our tap water. When reminded, the waitress poured the water into my daughter’s half-drunk sparkling elderflower, and didn’t offer a replacement.
Which is a shame, because the food was rather good, and reasonably priced. The cauliflower, spinach and potato curry had depth and complexity, while a Barkham Blue cheese-and-leek tart with mixed leaves was hearty and full of flavour. One daughter had mushroom soup and consumed every drop. An almond polenta cake had perfect texture, and the orange zest meringue was excellent. If the service improves, The House could be a winner.
Soon after reopening in January, The House at Clissold Park Café was targeted by a Facebook group calling itself the Clissold Park Café Action Group, complaining that the café was too expensive. Possibly in response to this, Company of Cooks brought in cheaper dishes such as pasta, cheese on toast, or sausage and mash durting March 2012.