Monday, November 3, 2014

Review: Candela Clapton

How was your weekend? On Saturday, John and I tried an amazing new restaurant in the heart of Hackney called Candela Clapton - a Latin/Iberian-inspired restaurant with a very sweet story to boot (it's co-owned by friends), where we sampled a variety of delicious dishes, including the nachos, which John dubbed, "The best nachos I've ever had" (which says it all, really, since he usually only expresses around 1/4 of the amount of bubbly American enthusiasm I typically have). 

This week was full of indulgences for me (I ate out nearly every night!), but once those nachos arrived, my appetite mysteriously reappeared (if only my abs would do the same - sigh):

I wasn't even particularly in the mood for nachos, but this plateful of baked tortillas loaded with chilli, jalapeno, sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo was positively scrumptious. I can't stress how nice it is to be served freshly made pico de gallo when you order nachos, versus that unidentified tomato-y gloop you usually get in supermarkets and so-called Mexican restaurants in London. Fresh tomatoes and cilantro are truly the best. The guacamole was equally delicious and the chilli was served piping hot - just the way I like it.

The cocktails at Candela Clapton are also worth writing home about: John opted for the refreshing Raspberry and Basil Mojito and I chose the Sex in the Woods (which is infinitely better than Sex on the Beach, btw - interpret that how you will), a blend of Plymouth sloe gin, orange juice, fresh blueberries and elderberry syrup.

For the main course, John ordered the smoked chicken fajita, which had a lovely, smokey flavor and a delicious green rice filling, topped with sour cream and a black bean tapanade. I can never resist crab when it's on the menu, so I chose the prawn and crab tostada which was just what I was in the mood for: something fresh, crisp, and light.

The tostada came beautifully presented, with sweet pieces of mango, avocado, and pomegranate scattered throughout.

When it came time for dessert, we were SO FULL, but couldn't resist the baked fig drizzled with pomegranate molasses and accompanied by rose marscapone - a simple, but very effective little dessert (next time, I'm totally getting the tres leches brownie: chilli brownie served on a 3 milk reduction. I have no idea what that means, but I definitely want to find out!).

I loved the atmosphere at Candela Clapton - it's not huge, but then again, the tables are arranged in such a way that you're not elbow-to-elbow with the diners next to you, which is kind of a deal-breaker for me. I've dined at some hyped-up restaurants which have let me down in this respect (Dotori in Finsbury Park is a serial offender for seating their diners too closely together and having sullen staff who bark at you when taking your order, and even Michelin-starred Yauatcha is not immune to this dining gaffe).

Plus, they have live music (we were serenaded by a guitar and trumpet jazz duo from France on Saturday, which was fun!) and salsa nights throughout the month. It seems like the perfect place to hang out with a bunch of friends, and I was already secretly plotting a return in December for my birthday.

Something else I love about it? The staff. They're friendly and greet customers as soon as they walk in the door - another deal-breaker. I may be an American who expects a different level of customer service, but my pet peeve is walking into a restaurant and being ignored at the door for minutes (even if I've reserved a table) while the staff rush around and pretend not to see you - a regular occurrence in London. But at Candela Clapton, everyone is greeted as they walk through the door, even if they can't be seated immediately. It makes the world of difference!

Great food and a terrific atmosphere at (very) reasonable prices? I think Candela Clapton's on to something here, and it's not to be missed.

We were generously hosted by Candela Clapton and Zomato UK - thank you! All opinions are my own.


  1. I JUST had the experience of being ignored by restaurant staff at the All Bar One in Guildford last week. I was greeted by the man at the bar and allowed to choose my seat, but once I did, the servers on the floor just kept passing me by (while not-so-surreptitiously glancing at me from time to time). Everyone else was being served and helped. I wondered if it was because I was alone, but honestly that shouldn't matter. Yours is one in a long line of mentions about the lack of good Mexican food in England. I'm glad you found Candela Clapton and had such a great dining experience!

    1. Hi Gianni - that's really rude. I'm not a huge fan of All Bar One in general, but that really takes the cake! When I'm ignored like that in restaurants (particularly if I'm dining on my own), I can't help but wonder if it's my race and/or gender as well. I hate to jump to conclusions, but when everyone else is being served and you're being very clearly ignored, it's difficult not to.

      But anyway! Candela Clapton was delicious. I love that it's not strictly Mexican, per se, but is also influenced by flavors from Cuba and the Caribbean, for example. I'd highly recommend it! Another favorite of mine in East London is Machete - near Victoria Park.

    2. You seriously took the words right out of my head and put them here on screen. I absolutely wonder (in many situations) whether my race in particular is the cause of someone's rudeness. I had a number of unpleasant experiences while studying in Glasgow some years ago. I'm 90% sure that had something to do with it. I didn't want to be a major downer on your page and mention it but, since you brought it up, Yes. Yes.


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