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  • Restaurants
  • Clapton
  • price 2 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Leo's
    Leonie Cooper for Time Out
  2. Leo's
    Leonie Cooper for Time Out
  3. Leo's
    Leonie Cooper for Time Out
  4. Leo's
    Leonie Cooper for Time Out

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A chic cafe and lunch spot in Clapton, which morphs into an Italian-ish restaurant in the evenings.

If you cannot stand the mercilessly twee stylings of Wes Anderson, but would nevertheless occasionally like to immerse yourself into the kind of pastel-paletted world where Tilda Swinton pops up out of nowhere to offer you a small digestivo while French piano jazz plays, then Leo’s is the ideal place to while away the hours (NB: a Tilda Swinton is not confirmed with every visit).

On the trim, gentrified stretch of Clapton that is Chatsworth Road, and inside what was once Jim’s Cafe (a restored 1960s greasy spoon turned US-style diner that closed post pandemic),  Leo’s retains shades of classic caff-ery. Like E Pellicci’s as stage managed by Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud, it has wood-panelled walls, masterfully tiled flooring and mammoth 1960s posters for Italian vermouth brands everywhere you gaze. We may very well have visited directly from the Hackney Wick community sauna, all pink of face and ruddy of thigh, but we felt as sophisticated as Sophia Loren having a lunchtime cortado as we sit and sip coffee from vintage Duralex cups and saucers. 

Leo’s retains shades of classic caff-ery, Like E Pellicci’s as stage managed by Grand Designs’ Kevin McCloud

In the evening, Leo’s transforms into a Hackney restaurant like many others – cue lovely helpings of meaty, Sardinian-inspired pasta, or sardines fired on the wood hearth in the dining room at the back by chef Giuseppe Belvedere, who formerly plied his trade at the dearly departed Bright. But it’s in the morning and over lunch that Leo’s tips its coppola well above other local offerings. With daily newspapers – a debonair New York Times included – bulldog clipped and hanging from a chrome rail against the yellow and duck egg blue scheme like an expensive chocolate bar wrapper, you can’t help but feel like you’re on holiday – or, at the very least, a last-minute city break.

From 9am until 3pm, Leo’s offers cafe classics with an Italianate twist as part of a short but exceedingly sweet menu del giorno. As well as coffee chasers such as amaretti and salted chocolate chip cookies, and spuntino-style snackery, there’s fried egg and chips with prosciutto crudo, and a starkly satisfying tonnato milanese sandwich. Simple in its execution, a breaded chicken breast is slipped inside a sweet, shiny bun alongside some fresh curls of lambs lettuce and a vigorous wallop of tuna and anchovy mayo-style sauce. We also ordered a solid square of trad, no-frills lasagne, framed perfectly on its white plate like some piece of expensive pop art, its earthy, crispy corners tasting as sublime as they looked. 

Is Leo’s simple? Wholeheartedly. And does it do exactly what you want, as you thumb through the morning papers while wishing Fellini were directing your every move? Very much so. 

The vibe Extremely chic 1960s-style Italian cafe energy in, peculiarly, Clapton. 

The food Full-bodied Sardinian pasta, fish and meat in the evening, and lighter lunch offerings and coffee during the day. 

The drink Italian cocktails, aka Negronis, spritzes and an impressive selection of apéritifs in well-worn bottles.

Time Out tip Go in the morning and watch the world (or Hackney’s freelance creatives, at least) go by.

Leonie Cooper
Written by
Leonie Cooper


59 Chatsworth Rd
Lower Clapton
E5 0LH
Opening hours:
Cafe: Wed-Sun 9am-3pm Restaurant & Bar: Wed-Sat 6-11pm
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