Jon Favreau’s Swingers is a coming of age film for my generation. It’s Clueless for dudes. Set against a backdrop of sleazy LA nightspots and sleazier Vince Vaughn lines, the film is ultimately about friendship, the male psyche and the healing of time. Heartbroken Mike is dragged by horny Trent from bar to bar, his loyal encouragement falling on deaf ears. Bars represent failure and desperation in American cinema. But they don’t have to be this way…
P.Franco is an intimate wine bar resembling a Parisian caves à manger with Antipodean swag, cosmopolitan clientele and a Chinese cash-and-carry sign. That it can be all this with such insouciance signals Clapton’s rise from the murder-mile ashes and an owner joyfully creating his own rules.
These rules include only selling wine the staff love and rotating the chefs on six month residencies. Inside it ‘feels like a mate’s home’. There’s a solitary central table and a tiny two-stove induction hob. Behind these culinary decks they’ve had: Tim Spedding, (formerly Clove Club) William Gleave (Garagistes) and Giuseppe Lacorazza (current).
The owner is called Phil Bracey, who reflects: “It’s almost like having a new restaurant every six months which I think is great for the community”.
Bracey’s care for the ‘community’ is endearing and has clearly spread by osmosis through the brilliant team. The community runs through the veins of P.Franco; the suppliers (Tutto, Elliot’s, Mons ) the neighbouring trade (Yard Pizza, My Neighbours The Dumplings) Clapton’s Round Chapel, the walk-ins, the walk on-by’s and of course the regulars.
Londoners rarely acknowledge strangers despite their ever-close proximity. Passive aggressive manners are common. Restaurants, fun-bars and night spots encourage safety in cliques or the morning-after pill. P.Franco is comparatively radical. It’s full of people gratefully meeting new people: steamy windows, loud, intertwining, conversations. There is an energy here that isn’t the alcohol or the music. It’s the tempo, better yet the rhythm. Seductive and infectious. The community love it.
The menu changes too often to suggest any dishes. You can probably expect variegated creations such as Spedding’s: Brussels tops stuffed with pheasant, sea urchin Tajarin, and a clementine granita.
I’m unsure if there’s ever been a dish more on trend but I’m pretty sure it’s what James Franco would taste like. If he were a dish. Which I’m told he is.
P.Franco. So money and it doesn’t even know it.