Great beer, great pizzas, Crate place
Well if ZAGAT says it's the trendiest new bar this side of the sun then I had to go. Because their business model isn't built on the opinions of idiots and the ramblings of trolls. Oh wait.
Describe Crate with even a hint of cynicism and it sounds like your average person's hell: "Ya, it's a microbrewery bar on the canal,
in a gentrified industrial estate in Hackney". There were more fixie bikes chained to the railings than there were railings to chain fixie bikes to, along with baggy sleeveless t-shirts (why? Why, why, why?) and rimmed glasses so thick Clarke Kent would have felt out of place.
But I do Crate a disservice – not something they deserve. It's a beautiful spot along the canal, where the sun catches the water, there are boats moored (that people sit and drink on!) and the inside is decked out industriously and beautifully. Kind of like an art gallery, but a little more soulful. More importantly, with the exception of the moronic trendies drinking white wine at a brewery bar, the locals and staff were friendly, fun and evidently beer lovers. The place was packed for a Wednesday, and not only because Crate's beer is damned fine (especially the kegged IPA) but because their beer fridge is a joy – three kinds of Brooklyn, Racer 5, Flying Dog and Kernel all made appearances and show that the customers know and respect beer almost as much as the owners.
But I knew all that. I was here for the pizza, which I have on a lot of authority (rather than good authority), are amazing. As you can tell from my reviews of Pizza East (in the east) and Pizza East (in the north), I like mine simple, crispy and quick. So at first glance Crate's menu is the stuff of nightmares. They're loaded with toppings – one's that would make a napoli man cross his heart and jump into the nearest wood-fired oven. But the more I read, the more I started salivating. Whoever wrote this menu knows how to combine flavours. I will never, EVER be sold on the laksa chicken ones, but the spiced lamb, pine nuts and spinach was essentially a turkish pizza, and the sweet potato, Stilton and walnut looked ridiculous but tasted incredible.
But we plumped for the caramelised onion, feta, courgette and mozzarella pizza (how good does that sound?!). Crispy almost to a fault, it left us with charcoal coated hands, like we'd been feeling up Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins. It was sweet, then salty, then oh so cheesy. And it went dynamite with our IPAs, where a plainer margherita might have been overpowered. The dough, it has to be said, completely lacked texture other than crispy – and definitely needs a bit more handworking by the chefs . It's needs to be elastic and not so dry, so you get the doughiness and the crispiness – but the toppings were flawless. Pizza is a meal made for sharing, and perfect for eating outside, and eating it al fresco by the canal was exceptionally pleasant, well worth going right to the end of the overground line.
Beer should be drunk fresh – ideally straight from the machinery – and this is as close as you'll get. And Crate have done themselves proud with their pizzas too. They may not be the best pizzas in London, but this might the best place to eat one.