Hackney Downs loses lively Russet café, a victim of the ‘gentrification’ it helped to create

Russet0715: cafe-bar near Hackney Downs LonE8 080415 © DavidAltheer@gmail.com

Russett cafe @ Hackney Downs closes 070616 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com
Closure: once this was a business that also gave good community service
THE RUSSET café is to close. On Sunday 5 June 2016 this semi-secret venue on the northwest edge of Hackney Downs will serve its last skinny latte, to the distress of dog and baby walkers, joggers and the occasional flaneur.

The pleasant and often well-patronised restaurant was more than just a place for a snack: it was a bar, a space for music, theatre, cabaret and film and workshops.

Clapton vintage-media enthusiast Ciné Real used to show films at the Russet. The club is  going to show On The Waterfront, the first film it screened when it set up there in February 2013.

The opening of the Russet was a casebook example of what is pejoratively termed gentrification: a stylish venu replacing a printworks to sell fashionable food and drinks to the affluent or at least aspirant young middle class.

Hackney Downs NW end 070616 © DavidAltheer [at] gmail.com
Downs and out: tunnel to the park near the Russett
Locals from the adjacent housing estates were not interested. Yet it is hard to deny that the venue helped to enliven an under-utilised corner of Hackney, bringing cheeriness and colour to a site where once there had been noise, greyness and decay.

Now the Russet is itself a victim of gentrification: rent rises stemming partly from the area’s recent popularity have led directors Tendai Davies, Rachel Ring and James Storey to lock up for the last time.

Expect some development likely to give a better yield than a hip restaurant. Expect more collapses of coffee shops and small restaurants in northeast London.

The name Russet came from an Egremont Russet, a species of apple tree in the nearby orchard created by the Tree Musketeers.

The seed of a good idea had been planted in 2011. But as any gardener knows, even a fruitful tree can succumb to an adverse climate.

David Altheer 110516

* Backstory: Reich stuff at the Russet Fashion talent in HackneyDowns up the stakes on the Ditch

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© David Altheer
From the Downs: it so often looks irresistible to walkers and joggers
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