Hackney is a well-established hotbed of creativity, so it’ll come as no surprise the area has seen its fair share of forward-thinking eateries pop-up over the last few years. But setting out to impress with their food – rather than any gaudy gimmicks – is Rootdown in Clapton; a modern and friendly restaurant, promising culinary influences from Europe, the Mediterranean basin, and North Africa.
The restaurant is located on the relatively busy Lower Clapton Road, just down from Clapton Station, and a few minutes' walk from the Hackney Downs greenery. Following suit with the cuisine theme, expect a stripped back décor, with Mediterranean influences and geometric adornments.
The venue is really open, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to the street and tables outside; but somehow paradoxically, manages to conjure a really nice and intimate feel too. Chilled beats are playing in the background, and there’s plenty to look at - so you don't really notice the busy street out front. Record players, vinyls and botanical quirks line the far wall, and there are tables of various different sizes to choose from.
It’s a small venue for sure, but it’s perfectly adaptable to any group size really. You’ll notice the small DJ spot by the bar; they do throw the odd event, but the venue is also hire-able for private parties. It's a versatile space so you can set up the venue as you like.
Food and Drink
Now, I’m not into spouting hyperbole for the sake of it - unless I’m talking about brunch - or Beyoncé - but the food at Rootdown was completely flawless. I was expecting good things, but genuinely, for the price and its location, I hadn’t anticipated the level of sophistication we received.
I went for the steamed mussels, coconut & lemongrass, coriander and homemade bread (£7.50) to start. A world away from your bog standard white-wine broth, the sauce was packed with powerful flavours, with the lemongrass and coriander coming through beautifully. The mains also didn’t disappoint; while my date plumped for the bavette steak, griddled miso vegetables, cucumber kimchi, caramelised shiitake ketchup, watercress (£13), I went for the red skinned potato & squash gnocchi, asparagus, cashew nuts, sun marzena tomato, parmesan crisp (£12). It’s so clear that on top of the impressive culinary skills being employed, the kitchen team really care about quality of ingredients being used too; the steak was perfectly tender, well-balanced and melted in your mouth, while the gnocchi dish packed a punch full of complex flavours and delicious accompaniments. For dessert – as we’d slightly overdone it with a few sides with the main (looking at you, white truffle & parmesan mac & cheese) – we shared the lemon posset, shortbread, almond crumb (£5) dish, which came well-presented, and was a nice, fresh way to finish the feast. Drinks-wise, Rootdown have a varied cocktail menu packed with puns, plus local beers from the likes of Crate Brewery, Camden Town and more.
Rootdown is a safe bet for all different types of nights out. We happened to visit on a relaxed weeknight, but even then, you had some guests in for drinks, a big family dinner of 10, and other couples in the mix too. Down to its location, the clientele is decidedly trendy, with what feels like a lot of locals too, but as the place is available for hire - and when the word really gets out - expect to see all different types of people at Rootdown.
In danger of over-egging it; I genuinely couldn’t have been more impressed with Rootdown. Yes, it’s a little out of the way, but it’s indisputably a hidden foodie gem for London, not only boasting delicious and original eats, but also a cool interior, friendly service and a non-pretentious atmosphere.
What's not to love?