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.
There's a suitably industrial look to this bar and kitchen, which is situated close to Kilburn tube and Brondesbury Overground – it does reference a smelting site, after all. It's a slip of a room, with bare brickwork, leather banquettes and brushed wooden flooring leading down to an open kitchen at the back. Beer pumps held up by brass-gilded fire extinguishers prove a talking point. There's a bit of a dude-food slant to what comes out of the kitchen - expect sliders, a chorizo and black pudding hash, rainbow 'slaw, burgers and flat-iron steaks with fries. A feta and thyme panna cotta and braised pig cheek with celeriac purée and pear relish show adventure. Cocktails prove popular here, with classics alongside signatures such as a sour monkey (Monkey Shoulder whisky, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur lemon and egg white) or an I am Groot (Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, vanilla, lemon, bitters and Square Root root beer). Those finely furnished taps pump out drops from Meantime, Camden Town, Beavertown, Kona and Red Hook - plus there's loads of craft beer by the bottle, too. There's a suitably industrial look to this bar and kitchen, which is situated close to Kilburn tube and Brondesbury Overground
Venue says: “Happy hour! Two-for-£10 cocktails, buckets of beers for £12 and Meantime Lager for £3! Plus sliders and nachos offers. Mon-Sun, 5-8pm.”