Yard Sale Pizza – May 21st.
We’ve always laughed at Clapton. “Stop trying to make Clapton happen”, we’d say. “They probably still drink cocktails out of jam jars”, we’d joke – because we’re terrible people, and because Clapton was never going to happen. “Cracking pond”, we’d acknowledge, safe in the knowledge that’s all it had.
Us, in Hackney proper (well, Bethnal Green actually, but ssshhhh), we had everything. Equidistant between The Sebright Arms and London Fields, our tiny world’s our oyster. The butchers have mood lighting and play make-out music. We gather downstairs at burger restaurants and eat ‘MockDonalds’ – created by a legit burger genius – whilst old grainy McDonalds adverts play on a beaten-up projector. We drink at the wine bar on Hackney Road, which used to be a racist pub, and earnestly discuss their glorious toasted sandwiches. My film of the year is a documentary about a bunch of guys chasing round trying to find the best buffalo chicken wings in America (genuinely funnier and more moving than any second of The Grand Budapest Hotel). You can’t move for goddamn cronuts. Old DIY shops get replaced by coffee shops with £400 hand-stitched handbags hanging where fork handles once did. Made In Chelsea film on Hoxton Square. Our lives are great, and our lives are ridiculous, and we’re the lamest fucking glamour set you ever heard of; the 2014 characters from the most repugnant book F. Scott Fitzgerald never wrote. We’re living in a golden age of consumption, and we don’t care that everyone’s laughing at us. Our beer? Our beer is fucking awesome. We used to travel for Yakima Red like Julia Bradbury travels for red squirrels, but not anymore. The red is now ubiquitous, it chased the Australian Gold out of town. Survival of the fittest. The gloriously bearded Darwin would approve. For all that, though, we’ve never had great pizza. And, really, without great pizza what’s the point in anything? Pizza Pilgrims, Homeslice, Voodoo Rays, none of them really walkable – I hear good things about Santa Maria, but that’s in whatever Ealing is. We’ve just got a Franco Manca, and for that we thank the pizza gods.
Back to Clapton. Lord knows what happened, or how long we blinked for, but Clapton happened. Great pubs (hey Clapton Hart and the Windsor Castle), cute coffee shops galore, that deli on the corner that looks like any one of a hundred sells-everything-apart-from-what-you-need type places but feels like New York inside. “Can we buy sushi wraps?”, we ask, embarrassed. “No, but you can in our organic shop across the road.” There’s a craft beer shop named Clapton Craft which is a) a thing of beauty b) sells beer in things called ‘growlers’ and c) has a radtastic bear for a logo. A couple of weeks ago there was a queue outside Hayden Wylds, Clapton’s super-cool record store. “What are you queuing for?” we ask. “Courtney Love” came the reply. Gruff Rhys played there, too. Clapton probably has its own free wi-fi network. Clapton has become Claptonia. It’s always sunny in Claptonia.
And now? Now Clapton’s only gone and got itself really great pizza. We’re at Yard Sale Pizza, we’re being served up huge pizzas from a ferociously hot gas-powered pizza oven. “Look at the size of those pizza shovels” I whisper, admiringly. What do i know about pizza? Not much really, but I know i love pizza. I know I want the base pliable, with plenty of singe marks, I know i want the mozzarella melting and spreading into gooey cheesey puddles, and the cornicione puffed up and airy. Yard Sale nail the lot. The pick of the bunch is the pepperoni, served with three types of that most wonderful pizza topping. Is there ‘Nduja on it? Of course there fucking is. The raw tuna pizza is a marvel, too; working in a way it really shouldn’t, with salty anchovy flavours flooding through it. If you don’t like anchovies on your pizza you’re getting life wrong, right?
Turns out we’re not the only people in Clapton tonight that love pizza, either.
“Do you like songs about pizza? I mean, do you like quite punny songs about pizza?” ask a motley bunch set up behind the Yard Sale counter. It’s not a question you get asked a lot. It’s not a question you need to think about much. “You do? Cool, cos that’s all we’ve got.” Before we know it, The Pizza Underground, fronted by one Macaulay Culkin (obviously) are launching into a medley of Velvet Underground covers with all the words replaced by pizza puns (obviously). ‘All the Pizza Parties?’ Check. ‘I’m Waiting for Delivery Man?’ Check. Is Culkin playing a solo on a trombone-shaped kazoo? Of course he fucking is. As a concept it’s hard to know what to make of it. Is it the ultimate Pop Art statement? Or is it pop, and this ridiculous time we live in, utterly consuming itself? Would Andy Warhol approve? Would Lou Reed tap his foot? If bees knew this was happening would they come and attack Macaulay? Who knows? Who cares? If it’s the end of everything at least we’re listening to ‘Take a Bite of the Wild Slice’, devouring pizza, swigging craft beer and downing picklebacks as the boat goes down. And we couldn’t be happier. God bless you Clapton, and God bless pizza, too.