It started with a slow trickle, now it’s a full-on torrent. The number of friends with young families moving to Clapton is getting serious – and so the arrival of Maeve’s, a friendly, no-fills, laid-back foodie escape for a weekday evening away from the kids is heartening.
Godchildren safely tucked up in bed, we lured their mother out for a midweek warming array of one-pot comforts. She comes to Maeve’s all the time; it’s exactly what you’d like your local restaurant to be. Dominic Dromgoole, patron of Maeve’s and artistic director of the Globe Theatre, lives across the road, and the story of his godmother, Irish novelist Maeve Binchy, bequeathing him some money after her death in 2012, which he used to set up this restaurant in her honour, is well known by those who live within a stone’s throw. But, despite its theatrical connections, (the decor was designed by experimental immersive theatre troupe Punch Drunk), the restaurant is cosily homey: worn mustard walls, pale olive curtains, farmhouse tables, gingham napkins, pretty coloured tiles and a blackboard menu.
Our smiley waitress Phoebe tells us she commutes from Kew every day, she loves it so much, which is a ringing endorsement if ever there was one, and serves us our starters: creamy chicken liver pate and a sweet carrot soup with a whisper of coriander. It sets the tone for a menu that’s proudly no-nonsense and hearty. Simple stews are a mainstay – we might have cooked our Moroccan chickpea and vegetable stew, and moqueca (Brazilian fish stew) at home and be sitting in the kitchen gossiping. In fact, the tumbler filled with Madeira-based Zabione for pudding made both of us think it was something we should try making ourselves.
Maeve’s isn’t the place for a gourmet adventure; rather it oozes low-key, friendly charm: it’s like eating at home, without actually having to do any of the cooking yourself. Which sounds pretty great to us.