For every gents-turned-pop-up-bar in Hackney there’s an honest-to-goodness boozer serving well-signposted pints and top-notch nosh.Cat & Mutton is a buzzing gastropub great for Sunday lunch, while Pembury Tavern draws the real-ale crowd. New Empowering Church, meanwhile, is a temple of hipster cool with some great club nights.
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Hackney bars and clubs
Head to the first floor of this East End trendsetter for the light, white restaurant and big oval bar (the Manchichi, where walk-ins can eat and good cocktails are mixed). Although the hipster count is high, the welcome and service are friendly, and there’s a level of professionalism here that’s missing from many local restaurants. The kitchen is capable of highs – duck confit with puy lentils and mushrooms was a stellar version – but a steady B-plus is more usual.
The bjoux live back room still smells bizarrely of mould and the courtyard smoking area – complete with broken fountain and faded, crudely painted murals – might nix its chances of a Michelin star for music venues, but this down-at-heels gem is already an institution, just two years after throwing open its doors to a rampantly eclectic live music programme. The Shacklewell is usually crowded, but generally convivial, welcoming a hipster-ish crowd to gigs seven nights a week, plus club nights, magazine launches and after-show parties, all benefitting from a late licence.
Housed in a former art gallery and shop, this inappropriately named hangout – it’s actually right on Broadway Market – has won a loyal following since it opened at the end of 2008. The owners have said that it’s modelled on a now-defunct bar in New York’s East Village, and you can kind of see what they mean without having been there. Certainly, the menu’s mix of notable beers (Brooklyn on tap, along with a number of other excellent bottled American imports) with worthwhile cocktails (rooted in tradition, but modified for the modern drinker) is unusual for the UK but pretty common across the ocean.
A popular Clapham bar, with regular DJ sets alongside its pan-Asian food menu and its extensive drinks list. It's just down from Clapham Common tube, and has been operating since 2000. Drinks range from premium spirits by the bottle and magnums of vintage Champagnes to a short wine list offering bottles from across the globe. Cocktails include a kiwi caipiroska, a number of martinis, pitchers of Pimm's and a house old fashioned made with Angustura 1919 Rum stirred with bitters, orange zest and creme de cacao. The food menu is influenced by Asia, with dim sum, chicken satay and duck spring rolls alongside Thai curries, wok stir-fries, papaya salads and tord man - a spicy fish cake made with prawn, cod and Asian spices.
Venue says: “SOUK offers the best Sunday nights in south-west London – open until 2.30am with deep house tunes. You won’t find anywhere busier in town!”