Few former public toilets evoke such local nostalgia as those now housing Clapton’s popular restaurant Brooksby’s Walk.
Boarded up, derelict and a focus for antisocial behaviour, the loos overlooking Chatsworth Road were threatened with redevelopment until six years ago when the Clapton Improvement Society mounted a public campaign to save them.
Today the 1930s building, which is owned by Hackney Council, has been transformed. It was recently crowned Best Neighbourhood Restaurant and Bar and highlighted as ‘one of London’s Best Rooftop Restaurants’ by Time Out.
And Local Buyers Club cardholders can now save 25% off their bill at Brooksby's Walk. (See website for details www.localbuyersclub.com/clapton)
When Jim McMahon and his friend Lisa O'Hagan spotted the building, it was steeped in controversy because the much-loved community café Nana’s had recently vacated. They called on Jim’s childhood friend Nick Clough as an investor and quickly put together a business plan. Once their bid was accepted they set to work redecorating and Brooksby’s Walk was born.
“I’d worked for other people for so long and had always wanted to run something for myself”, said Jim.
He added: “It’s a project of passion – I don’t think any of us ever thought it would make us rich but we’re thrilled to be realising an ambition of owning and running something for ourselves and we’re having fun. A quirky building allows for a quirky menu.”
Lisa worked in regeneration, used to deal in vintage clothes and once owned a noodle restaurant in Manchester and Jim worked for some of London’s most prestigious bars including Shoreditch House, Hawksmoor and The Redchurch.
Two years on the place is buzzing - they’ve created a truly unique space, with a rooftop restaurant (lit with fairy lights and covered with a strong canopy), an inside bar and an outside dining area on the ground floor.
Former Soho House chef Ferdinand Montoya (nicknamed ‘Budgie’) runs the Brooksby’s Walk kitchen and has brought his heritage Filipino food to the menu, including fried crispy chicken wings with banana ketchup, crispy pig ears and Char Siu lamb neck fillet. And it’s getting rave reviews.
Many customers remember when the building was a public loo – one regular regales diners with tales of when his parents were the attendants.
Improvements to the space were made by Clapton Improvement Society following a Kickstarter campaign and by the old occupants Nana’s. The building has some good eco credentials – the toilets are flushed with rainwater and solar panels on the roof feed into the grid.
Some of the original toilets can still be used by customers and members of the public during the restaurant’s opening hours.
On Saturday September 30th Brooksby’s Walk is running a Filipino Street Food Festival from 12noon till 10pm featuring live music and drinks. www.brooksbyswalk.com
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