It seems London’s churches are in a bit of an existential crisis. Which would usually be fine because they specialise in those, except this one’s pretty serious. Congregation numbers are thinning as fast as their hair – and between Tinder, SnapChat and that pesky ‘Atheist Church’ set up by those comedians, it’s getting harder and harder to stay relevant to young people.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that in Dalston, hipster central not too long ago, St Peter de Beauvoir’s Church has taken somewhat drastic measures – evicting the dead from their catacombs and replacing them with a cosy community space, at no small expense. In Dalston even the crypts are trendier than me.
Filling that space was the next challenge. And for the last few months, an opportunity has arrived in the form of a gang of creatives known as SoundAdvice, who help local youngsters learn media skills and lend their support to local music talent. Acoustic Sundays is the perfect crossover of these initiatives: a monthly fundraiser with live music, where in exchange for playing the musicians get professional video recordings of themselves.
The only trouble is the place is a little bit out of the way, about 15 minutes walk from Dalston Kingsland station – which means they’ll have to rely on word of mouth rather than passing traffic.
I’ve no doubt Acoustic Sundays will gather momentum though. I only stayed for a few songs but the music was everything you’d expect at the best pubs in London – and this was only the open-mic section before the professional line-up came on.
The food, prepared in the little on-site kitchen by a new pop up called 2 Fingers, is limited to four variations on the traditional fish finger sandwich (and a veggie bean burger) – but what they lack in variety they more than make up for in punchy flavour.
Jamie Oliver claims fish finger sandwiches to be a guilty favourite of his, but his recipe (‘Bread, butter, a dollop of ketchup, bosh!’) compares pathetically to the Cod Creole.
And it tastes as good as it looks. With a £6 meal deal you’ll get thick cut chips and a glass of spiced cider that instantly takes you back to Christmas at Grandma’s. There’s also the option of the ‘Old Skool’ made with bog standard Birds Eye fish fingers, but why you’d opt for that over the creole-spiced hulk of deliciousness above, I have no idea. There’s something very satisfying about seeing a humble dish elevated to a high art form.
Rick Panesar, the founder of 2 Fingers, claims he named it after the manner in which he quit his last job. I’m not surprised – his slightly manic passion for comfort food gives me no doubt he’s found his calling in life. Jamie and Captain Birdseye had both better get their act together.
Exceptional music and fish fingers might be the closest you come to a religious experience at Acoustic Sundays – but they’re getting feet through the door. Praise be to cod.
St Peter’s De Beauvoir Church