Test Drives


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verden-mainWhat should we know about Verden?

This is a collaboration between Ed Wyand, former Senior Maitre d’hotel at Scott’s, Tom Bell who was Head of Public Affairs at Ogilvy Public Relations and Tom Fraser, former Sous Chef at Scott’s. Billed as a wine bar and deli it actualy feels like much more, like a wine bar/deli/restaurant/corner store/pub.

The space itself is rather lovely - they took over the lease when the pub had been gutted back to the brick and brought in designers Pippa Murray and Simon Lamason to give it a Nordic/Japanese feel with furniture and lighting crafted in Cumbria. Pretty much nothing like anything you'll have seen before round here.

Where is it?

In deepest Clapton - this is one of a handful of places marking a rapid upwards rise of this area (others are Maeve's Kitchen, Clapton Craft, Eat 17 and more). The nearest train station is Clapton (a 5 minute walk away) and it's on plenty of bus routes.

Where should I meet friends for a drink beforehand?

Come straight here, would be our suggestion. There are tables outside for a drink should the weather be in your favour and there are plenty of stools (handmade specifically for Verden) perched up at the bar.

Where should I sit?

On a Tuesday evening in their second week of opening on a day when England were still in the World Cup, the ground floor of Verden was surprisingly busy. When more people discover it, there's another basement floor with views into the kitchen and their wine, cheeese and charcuterie cave. Downstairs has some great communal tables making it ideal for large groups or parties; upstairs is a better bet for couples, smaller groups or solo dining.

What about the food?

The clear focus at Verden is on their cheese and charcuterie boards. You can choose from a suggested selection - the House Cheese Board is £12.50 and features 26 month old Comte Reserve, Beauvale and Golden Cross (and comes with a selection of bread) while the House Charcuterie Board is a mixture of Llonganissa De Vic, Loin and Morcilla Iberico fo £13. Or you can go off-piste and pick from a wide range of cheese and cured meats.

We kicked off our dinner with generous servings of four meats - a smoked beef silverside from Lombardy, a herby pancetta Arrotalatta from Tuscany, hand cut salami from Abruzzo and some rather fine Iberico Morcilla. All were beautifully cut and kept at the perfect temperature.

From here we tried all three of the dishes of the day from the dinner menu - really lovely pink lamb chops served up with summer vegetables and sweetbreads (£15), a stunning-looking fried courgette flower stuffed with goat's cheese and served with ribbons of courgette (£9) and - our favourite - slip soles with jamon, capers and endive. Those soles were memorably good - but then if you can't get a good fish dish from someone who used to be at Scott's where could you?

There were three desserts on the menu as well as a selection of icecreams and sorbets. We managed a portion of Brillat-Savarin cheesecake with cherries which was surprisingly light. A good thing, as we finished off with a cheeseboard featuring Wigmore Beauvale and an interesting addition from Verden's cheesemonger, Buchanans, a cow's milk cheese washed in Somerset brandy and breaded.

And to drink?

There are some cracking craft beers on offer, but we'd heard good things about Champagnes Savart here from wine writer/sommelier Zeren Wilson and it lived up to the billing at £10 a glass. We then enjoyed Slovenian Pinot Gris Sivi Pinot (£6.50 - 125ml) and finished off with a rather fine glass of 17-year-old Hibiki whisky from Japan (£9). The wine list here is really interesting, so there'd be plenty to work through on subsequent visits.

Overall thoughts?

Verden has taken over an old Clapton boozer and given it a new lease of life. You can buy food and wine to take away here or just pop in for a glass and a bit of meat or cheese. But we think you'd be missing out if you didn't come for a full brunch, lunch or dinner, particularly as dishes change regularly thoughout the week. It's a great local addition with the added benefit of those key staff having Caprice Holdings experience and worth making a detour for if you're not from round these here parts.

Verden is at 181 Clarence Road, London, E5 8EE

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Hot Dinners ate as guests of Verden. Prices were correct at the time of writing.

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