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Hackney area guide

Find the best restaurants, shops, pubs and things to do in Hackney – peruse the markets, explore the café scene and discover what there is to see and do in the area

©Olivia Rutherford

There's plenty to heart in Hackney, where high art and edgy innovation meet. There are flavours to savour from its lip-smacking restaurants, not to mention world-class coffees (Square Mile coffee beans, anyone?). Quirky, scruffy, sleek or hip – the area's bars and pubs suit whatever taste you're packing, as do its diversions (you're seriously spoilt for things to do). And if money's still burning a hole, Hackney's shops and markets sell temptation by the truckload, from vintage fabrics and designer must-haves to rare meats and artisanal bread.

What's your idea of Hackney heaven? Let us know in the comments.

Restaurants in Hackney

Restaurants Book online

Lardo

If a restaurant is named after the cured back fat of a pig, you can expect that charcuterie is among its specialities – and so it is here. But lardo itself isn’t on the menu at Lardo, except as a pizza topping, so our charming, clued-up waiter bought a plate specially. It was excellent, as was the paper-thin fennel pollen salame. Other small plates on the short menu are divided into ‘cold’ (simple but satisfying puréed cannellini beans with black olives), ‘warm’ (an unctuous bowl of braised chicory and melted fonduta cheese topped with speck) and ‘hearty’ (Venetian lamb’s kidneys). There’s also a couple of own-made pasta dishes and a handful of pizzas with novel, tasty toppings such as goat’s curd, anchovy and sprouting broccoli. You can watch the pizzas being fired if you choose to sit on the stools around the open kitchen; otherwise there are closely packed but not cramped tables. Industrial-style windows, plenty of wood, and lighting that’s so low most people need to use the tealights to read the menu, make for a stylishly casual setting. Lardo is part of the Arthaus complex, so it’s a trek across a blinding white foyer to find the shared toilets. Drinks run from cocktails to builders’ tea plus a brief, mainly Italian wine list. Hackneyites love this place – rightly so – and cram in from breakfast to late, so it’s wise to book.  

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Pacific Social Club

Admiring the Pacific Rim postcards and tiki mask, the wall covered in vinyl inner sleeves (Columbia, Decca, ‘race records’ pioneer Okeh) and a dresser of teacups that seems to have been stolen from a Victorian parlour, we were charmed by this addition to the welter of weeny cafés that have descended on all quarters of Hackney in the last few months. The food and drinks here are inventive, though not flawless. Our flat white (the makings come from Broadway Market’s Climpson & Sons) seemed a bit long on the white, and we enjoyed the idea of a fig, gorgonzola and Parma ham toastie a little more than the execution – it was too heavy on the fig for the saltiness of the cheese and ham to really come through. The Venezuelan sandwich was great – a generous mash-up of chorizo, morcilla, black beans, avocado and cheese – but a little soggy, perhaps because we ate it later as a takeaway. Still, the cakes were a resounding success, whether the tooth-suckingly sweet crème fraîche and iced raspberry muffin, which was winningly served with a cake fork on an antique saucer; or an excellently moist Oreo brownie. For the sweaty summer’s day of our visit, a mint and apple smoothie – recommended by the cheery young waitress – was a total winner. Above all, it’s the atmosphere of this place that raises it above the competition. There’s the little bookshelf where Graham Robb’s Rimbaud biography sits alongside Charlotte Berney’s ‘The Fundamentals of Hawaiian Mysticism’, and there’s the ‘analogue li

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Railroad

Initially winning acclaim for its brunch, this cosy spot on Homerton’s fast-gentrifying Morning Lane is now a local fave for lunch and dinner too. Gone are the open-mic nights, and in has come a sharpened focus on Railroad’s eclectic, homely dishes, which run the gamut from moroccan eggs to ajo blanco. The seating options are also diverse, with diner-style tables arranged next to battered school chairs. Although the space leaves you in no doubt you’re in Hackney – an arty black and white photo of an obscure indie singer graces the wall, and craft beers line the shelves – the atmosphere is easy-going. The meal got off to a lip-smacking start with beetroot borani. This yoghurt, beetroot and garlic purée (popularised by Moro) was taken to new heights with the addition of orange blossom. Mains were also good. Line-caught mackerel was served with a (slightly too moist) bulgar wheat, dill and yoghurt salad; and birria – a Mexican stew of pork shoulder, chipotle chillies and sweet potato – was rich and hearty. After a break to peruse the books for sale (cookery books sit beside literary classics), we enjoyed a sensationally light yet rich Cru Virunga chocolate cake and a Square Mile espresso – the perfect end to a very civilised evening.  

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants Book online

Rita's

Back in 2012, when pop-ups were springing up faster than Olympics refuseniks, pop-up Rita’s caused something of a stir with its winning mix of quirky bar food and inventive, alcohol-heavy cocktails. It’s now found a permanent home in a long, thin two-floor space on Mare Street between a launderette and one of Hackney’s ubiquitous fried chicken shops, and has wisely retained the trademarks of its first outing; friendly, un-attitudey staff serving an odd but appealing international cuisine mix that takes in spiced noodles with pig’s head ham, fried cheese, meatloaf with onions, and crispy roast duck. There’s a partyish feel to sharing such unusual combos, and some impressive cooking: notably in Rita’s signature fried chicken; in a dense, deep fish stew; and in a starter of ox tongue with a black bean puree. A couple of party poopers – soggy pepper squid and hot soy ginger hot wings, both slathered in gloopy sauce that bore few traces of heat, ginger or pepper – tried to spoil the fun on our visit, but were shouted down by elements zinging on the plate and a quirky feel carried through to drinks like a Frozen Rita – a tequila Slush Puppy with hibisucus and lime – served in a paper cup, and prosecco served in an old-skool tumbler. Rita’s has clearly found its proper place; the night after our visit a friend Instagrammed a pic of her dulce de leche beignets with foie gras, which sum up Rita’s: it shouldn’t work, but it does. Reviewed by Yolanda Zappaterra

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Hackney highlights

Things to do

Broadway Market

For east London’s fashionably attired food-lovers, there's no better Saturday destination than Broadway Market. Quaint cafés, pubs and indie music shops line the street, but the real star here is the market. The food-loving hipster's weekend hangout of choice, Broadway Market is as much about seeking out quality food as it is about just letting your hair down and soaking up the vibe – with a freshly grilled burger (from Northfield Farm) in one hand and a chilled Vietnamese coffee (from Ca Phe VN) in the other. Stalls range from the classic (sweet seasonal cupcakes from Violet) to the exotic (The Arabica Food & Spice Company do a mouthwatering range of mèze, as well as Damascene falafel wraps). Spices, cheeses, breads, rare-breed meat, luscious cakes and olives are all present – it's hard to imagine the need to go anywhere else for your weekly food shop. The market is also popular for its vintage and new designer threads, old Vogue patterns, buttons, Ladybird books, flowers and crafts. The permanent shops and eateries are worth popping into as well – look out for the Broadway Bookshop, coffee house Climpson & Sons, haberdashery store Fabrications and florist Rebel Rebel. The neighbouring Netil Market is just around the corner on Westgate Street – you'll find more vintage clothes, food, jewellery and bric-à-brac.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Theatre

Hackney Empire

Charlie Chaplin, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd all trod Hackney's boards during its time as a music hall. It's since been used as a television studio and, rather quaintly, as a bingo hall, before opening as a theatre proper in 1986. Today, it's a much-loved East End institution whose pantos have become the stuff of legend. High art does feature (the English Touring Opera presented Mozart's 'The Magic Flute' in 2009) as does issue-heavy theatre, often with an emphasis on class and multiculturalism. But the focus tends to be on fun: comedy, children's theatre and music all featuring large on its programme. Tours of the Grade II-listed auditorium take place during Open House London weekend in September.

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Pubs in Hackney

Bars and pubs

Prince George

Once a mellow backstreet local, the George now swarms with rowdy, slumming-it art students in ridiculous outfits on Fridays and Saturdays, to the point where the landlord has even hired a bouncer.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Dove

The staff at the Dove long ago realised that the formula of great beers, uncomplicated food and simple decor was a winner that'd stand the test of time.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Kenton

One of Hackney’s hidden gems, this eclectic boozer draws a crowd of loyal locals to an interior that mixes candlelit antiques and modern curiosities.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Cat & Mutton

Show up at this corner pub on a Sunday lunchtime and you’ll think you’ve walked into an estate agent’s advertisement for urban living.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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See our full guide to Hackney pubs

Comments

4 comments
Andrew Holder
Andrew Holder

I used to shop and browse in Stoke Newington back in the 70s and 90s to see the Sight and sounds of Hackney

hackneyophile
hackneyophile

Your entry re Netil Market is wrong. What you describe is the Broadway Market overspill, which is in the London Fields primary School yard and is called the Broadway Schoolyard market. I've noticed the same mistake in your magazine articles.

Netil360
Netil360

Like Netil market? Just off of Broadway Market? Then come to the "coolest" bar in town. Netil360... up on the rooftop, a festival of tents and tipis and yurts, live music, craft, Dj hot cocktails ..... www.netil360.com