The Proud Archivist:
2-10 Hertford Road
Hoxton Mini Press Presents: ‘51 Faces of Hackney’
For all the advantages London has to offer, the one thing that our great metropolis lacks is open space. The majority of Londoners don’t have the benefit of a garden, and you’ll be hard-pushed to find a “beer version” at one of our pubs. We don’t complain though. It’s our fault for living here in the first place, and it’s a very small price to pay. So what do we do when the sun starts a-shining? We flock en-masse to parks, squares and lidos, dragging our BBQ’s along behind us. Public spaces become our beach and playground. The Thames and the canals our seaside. It’s this last one which is one of London’s success stories. The waterways of London, especially in summer, are brimming with activity. Some would say too much, but let’s not get into that here.
One such place that has jumped on the waterway bandwagon is The Proud Archivist. Smack bang on the Regent’s Canal near Haggerston. A combined bar, restaurant, events space, and gallery, that purports to “revive the traditions of London’s grand 17th and 18th century coffee houses.” We’re not too sure on the accuracy of this description as it’s housed in a modern building for a start, with contemporary furnishings, and one is more likely to find clientele supping down a cooling pint of craft beer or a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, than a cup o’ Joe.
We had made an early afternoon reservation to sample Proud’s weekend brunch menu, but were disappointed to be told on arrival that they had just moved to serving Sunday Lunch – 3 hours earlier than advertised. Granted this was a tad annoying, but neither of us had had a traditional roast for a while so we didn’t complain. On reflection, we’re rather glad they performed a “switcheroo” on us as it was luuuuverly. No real surprises with what was on offer: The Pork Belly was juicy and rich, with a solid slither of crackling, and served with fluffy boiled potatoes and aniseed-y red cabbage. The Roasted Topside of Beef was perfectly cooked: very red, and tender, served with carrots, broccoli, crispy potatoes, and a dollop of spicy horseradish. Topping it off was a most peculiar, flat slice of Yorkshire pudding. What should have been the dishes crowning glory was nothing more than a soft, limp letdown. A bigger disappoint were our drinks, or more to the point: the cost of our drinks. Owing to the lack of visible drunks menu, our waitress happily reeled off the list of fresh juices, however it wasn’t until we paid our bill that we noticed these had cost over £4.50 a pop. We don’t mind paying for quality, but these were not quite in that bracket. We’d certainly have gone for something a bit more exciting had we known. Naughty.
As mentioned above, Proud is a multi-use space, and at the time of our visit they were exhibiting “51 Faces of Hackney.” Effectively two exhibitions in one. Firstly, Jerwood Drawing Prize-winner Adam Dant presenting illustrations from his rather humorous ’50 Faces of Hackney’ series. A fun look at the stereotypes that frequent this part of London, from the “Too Old for a Skateboard” to the “Flat White Bore” via the “Street-food Evangelist”. Rather cheekily there is also ‘Barge Dwelling Fantasist.’ Very apt owing to Proud’s position on the waterway where their nearest neighbours are a community of hippy, canal boat occupiers. Each entails a caricature sketch, and a synopsis of the breed in question. The second part of the exhibition are a selection of Martin Usborne photographs taken from the book “I’ve Lived in East London for 86 ½ years.” A delightful anthology that documents the life of elderly Hackney resident Joseph Markovitch. A lifelong, authentic Eastender, who if you had not guessed makes up the extra 1 to make 51. Although no longer with us, Joesph was a window into a sadly bygone era. A bachelor to the very end, requiring no less than 5 sugars in his tea, and who ventured out of the city on only one occasion in his life for a visit to the seaside with his mother.
As much as the exhibition was pleasurable and interesting, this venue wasn’t the right place for it. The pictures were arranged around the sides of the upper floor which instead of being dedicated entirely to the exhibition, was also doubling up as a seating area for the restaurant. It meant we couldn’t get a real look at what was on display as it would have meant inconveniencing people who were trying to enjoy their meal.
It is possible for “multi-use” to work but not like this. Proud, either keep the area solely for the exhibition, or don’t have an exhibition at all. End of.
Here’s a few of our favourites from the gallery….