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pembury tavern
Photograph: Pembury Tavern

Hackney pubs

With so many to choose from, here are the best boozers in what is still one of London’s hippest boroughs

By Laura Richards
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Hackney is hardly lacking in places to grab a drink. Still one of London’s hippest boroughs, the area boasts a grand array of bars and nightlife spots in the city, not to mention some of the country’s best breweries

But if you’re not in the mood for a cocktail bar, or if a taproom is just too hop-heavy for you, Hackney has some great boozers for you to sink yourself into. Whether you're after an authentic and uncomplicated Irish pub, a spot that also offers vegan food or somewhere you can duck into after a day in the park, Hackney’s pubs cater to everyone.

So if you’re overwhelmed by choice, or just planning a pub crawl and want some recommendations, here’s Time Out’s guide to the best pubs in Hackney. 

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood with our Hackney area guide

The best pubs in Hackney

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© Nerida Howard

Auld Shillelagh

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Stoke Newington

Despite its skinny appearance, this Church Street boozer is filled with little surprises. With themed music nights, big-screen football and a surprisingly large beer garden, it’s like falling into Wonderland. Its best quality, though, is its honest simplicity: it’s an Irish pub (note: not an Irish-themed pub) where the staff are so hospitable that they’ll offer to bring your Guinness over to your table once it’s reached perfection. As one Time Out user said, ‘The craic in this place is magic.’ They’re not wrong.

The Axe

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Stoke Newington

This Stokey local may have moved into the spot of a previously beloved boozer in 2017, but it’s more than established its own identity. Perhaps, with more than 60 beers on offer (some 22 on tap), eight gin and tonic concoctions, a serviceable wine list and negronis on tap, they’ve drunk punters into submission, but who cares when the drinks are this good. Likewise, the food is top notch, too. Seriously, this pub gets everything spot on.

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Chesham Arms

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Hackney

More like a handsome country pub than an East End local, this spot nearly fell under Hackney’s redevelopment spell. Thanks to a community petition, however, it was saved. From the lilac frontage to the textbook Great British pub interiors, there’s so much to love (not to mention the cute back garden). And with a rotating range of six beers, two ales and one cider, you’ll want to keep coming back to this cracking community asset.

 

The Cock Tavern

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Breweries Hackney

Home to Maregade microbrewery, this brewpub pulls in a big crowd thanks to its 24 taps of locally – quite literally – brewed beers and a number of guest spots. Most certainly not a hipster bar, there’s staunch traditionalism here: along with the home brewed beers you’ll find pork pies, scratchings and (award-winning) pickled eggs, and the decor is comfortably scuffed. It really is the perfect package, especially if you’re able to leave any smutty puns at the door.

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Dove

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs London Fields

At the heart of the bustling Broadway Market, Dove is a Belgian beer-lovers heaven. Fittingly, it has the feel of a Continental tavern, with oak everywhere and an oversubscribed bar, which is the focus of the action. The menu is filled with Trappist, gueuze and fruit beers: it’s an exhaustive list celebrating the best of a proper beer culture. To soak it all up, steaming bowls of moules-frites fly from the kitchen, and there’s a whole meat-free menu on offer, too. It makes the Dove a perfect for a post-market pitstop.

Lady Mildmay

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Newington Green

Just on the cusp of the border between Hackney and Islington, Lady Mildmay is a favourite with locals. There’s a seasonal European-inspired menu, which changes every three weeks, and daily lunch specials for six quid, but it’s the roast that’s worth checking in for. Five ale taps rotate, and there’s a short but sufficient wine list, a plethora of home-infused gins to try and even that craft lager you’ve not had before. This Newington Green spot is well worth a visit.

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Marksman

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Hackney Road

If you’ve found yourself with the conundrum of whether to dedicate Saturday night to fine dining or serious drinking, this Hackney Road pub is for you. Following its re-opening in 2015, the bar was left mainly intact, with many on-tap offerings and a great bottled beer selection. It’s the food, though, that’s its crowning glory, even picking up the title of Michelin Pub of the Year 2017. Unfortunately, this means that tables fill up fast, so it’s worth booking if you’re keen. And take it from us, it’s definitely worth being keen.

Nelsons Head

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Hackney Road

The old-timey mock-Tudor exterior sets you up for what’s in store with a visit here. An honest-to-goodness boozer with patterned carpets, engraved mirrors, a collage of beer mats, maritime art and a wood-burning stove. There’s also the framed picture of a pink flamingo, about the only possible nod to the Nelsons Head’s status as a gay-friendly pub. At the bar, they pour from London breweries near and far – Hammerton, East London Brewing Company, Five Points and Redemption are regulars, and on Sunday there’s a roast, too. The Nelson’s Head is a wonderfully faithful devotee to the traditional pub formula.

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Pembury Tavern

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Hackney

Five Points Brewing Co is now the proud parent of The Pembury Tavern, a pub on the busy junction with Dalston Lane that the brewery took its name from. Five Points got a feel for things behind the bar before a refurb, and by taking a sympathetic approach to the wants of existing punters, the two best things about the Pembury – pizza and pints – are still the main focus. They’ve also kept the bar billiards, don’t worry. Expect the Five Points range on tap – its Railway Porter doing a storming trade – as well as options from UK indies.

People's Park Tavern

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Victoria Park

During the day, this sprawling boozer is always a buzzing reflection of the area’s park life, with visitors to the verdant space marking this as a pit stop or an end goal. You’ll find plenty of dog walkers here with their pups, settling in for a warming-up by the fire or for an afternoon of sport on big screens. By night it makes its own fun with quizzes, discos and comedy nights. But the main draw is the sprawling beer garden, with pretty bunting and a constant summertime crowd enjoying pub grub and pints.

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The Prince

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Stoke Newington

As a free house, this Stoke Newington boozer can serve any beer it likes. This means that it’s loaded with London-based breweries: you might find Bermondsey’s Partizan Saison Ginger, certainly not cheap at around £3 a half; or a more straightforward Prince house pilsner at about £4 a pint. There’s a small, smart dining room that looks out to the garden, but you can eat in the pub, too. The food is also far better than usual pub grub, too, ranging from confit duck to oysters. 

Pub on the Park

Bars and pubs London Fields

This buzzing boozer close to London Fields station really draws the crowds in summer. Most of that’s down to a spacious outdoor terrace, with the green of London Fields itself within pint-tossing distance. There’s a solid selection of ales on pull pump, with regularly changing drops. A short wine list also features, alongside seasonal stuff - jugs of Pimm’s do brisk business in the summer.

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© Britta Jaschinski

Railway Tavern

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Dalston

Tucked away behind Dalston Kingsland station, this gem of a local pub from the owners of the Pineapple in Kentish Town proffers up Thai food during the week and a beer selection that’s something special. There are six regularly changing real ales on tap, and they’re often made in London – from Redemption, Brodie’s or the East London Brewing Company, for instance. The RT is a handsome fellow too, with framed vintage tube scenes on the walls and a few tasteful bits of golden-age railway nostalgia dotted here and there. One of the best pubs in London.

Sebright Arms

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Bethnal Green

Now managed by the team behind The Old Blue Last, this back-passage boozer-slash-live-music-venue just off Hackney Road has maintained its dedication to championing local craft beers. Look for anything from Hackney Brewery, London Fields or Redchurch on rotation on tap – as well as showcasing fast food pop-ups. Indeed, a long-running residency from Lucky Chip put the tongue-in-cheek burger vendors firmly on the foodie map.

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The Spread Eagle

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Homerton

Formly the lovely Jackdaw and Star in Homerton, The Spread Eagle boasts the title as London’s first fully vegan pub. With food from Meriel Armitage, the woman behind cult vegan-Mexican street food star Club Mexicana, they’ve kept the large central bar, painting it a deep, rich blue. There are 16 taps pouring vegan-friendly beer but the stars of this show are the sours: tequila, whisky and amaretto. They use chickpea water instead of egg white to achieve that lovely frothy head.

Spurstowe Arms

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Dalston

One of the more mature pubs in the Hackney canon, the Spurstowe Arms works a sophisticated stripped-back charm, never trying too hard to impress. The nondescript exterior would have you believe it was a football pub or stop-off for a desperate quick half, but inside features fresh-cut flowers, polished brass and a grand horseshoe bar, which offers four ales on tap, a fab wine list and even cocktails.

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The Virgin Queen

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Haggerston

For those unacquainted, this was once a London legend that doubled as a museum to football, as well as acting as a home away from home for West Bromwich Albion fans. Now you’ll find posh Viccy Park chippy Fish House and 15 beer taps mostly dedicated to what’s brewed within the M25, like a citrussy session IPA from Gipsy Hill. The interior is panelled in gorgeous carved wood, and fabric-covered pews act as seats in the small drinking space. It really is a striking pub experience.

Olivia Hemingway Photography
© Olivia Hemingway

Wenlock Arms

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Hoxton

From pouring its first pint in 1836 to nearly closing its doors in 2012 due to redevelopment, the Wenlock Arms is the quintessence of all that is good about pubs – it’s a taproom with minimal decor, minimal food and brilliant beer. Plus it’s a free house, meaning it can buy from any brewery it chooses: you’ll find 10 cask ales, 20 keg lines of constantly changing craft ales and big brewers and even seven real ciders. Simple but oh so effective.

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Windsor Castle

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Clapton

While the Windsor Castle might be aimed squarely at the trendy Hackneyites rather than the old school Clapton residents, it hasn’t jumped the shark entirely. While you’ll find a strong selection of local favourites like Five Points, Trumans and Beavertown, there are also standard beers on offer. There’s a strong beer garden and some surprising items on the food menu, and you can even cop yourself a seasonal cocktail, if that’s where your head is at.

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