Mare Street swoops through the hipster heartlands of London Fields, from Clapton to Cambridge Heath. But, while bars and boutiques might have claimed nearby Stoke Newington High Street and Kingsland Road, Mare Street is still full of actually useful things. Cheap clothing stores and supermarkets still outnumber craft beer pubs and artisan restaurants, and its pedestrianised bit feels more like a suburban town centre than a trendy urban borough.
In the decades since the ’40s, the road’s been home to Afro-Caribbean, Turkish and Vietnamese communities. And, thanks to the London College of Fashion campus, there’s always an arty crowd catwalking through the area, although they’ve recently been joined by glossier fashion types, popping into Hackney Central’s new designer outlets. It’s not the first time Mare Street’s attracted people with cash to splash. In the 1600s, it was a favourite spot for holidaying aristocrats who’d indulge in shuffleboard, bowling and watching freak shows in the pub after a spot of hunting. There are still signs of some of its former architectural glory along the street: just check out number 195 for some serious Doric column shit.
Mare Street is a road where you can experience London’s history, sip a nice cocktail and do your supermarket shop for less than a tenner. It’s an east London essential.
Chicken wings, chargrilled lamb and bone-marrow hash browns at north American joint Rita’s.
Soft-shell crab or coconut milk-infused lamb at family-run Vietnamese spot Green Papaya.
A bouji brunch at Hackney Bureau, where the menu features mimosas, smashed avocado and truffled mushrooms.
A pint of Howling Hops IPA at the brewery’s birthplace, The Cock Tavern. It’s one of the best beer pubs in London.
Tea-infused negronis for just £6.50 at cheap tapas joint Boceto Hackney. Nab a seat outside and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday, except you’re actually sitting across the road from Iceland.
Gulp down a super smoothie amid the lush houseplants of coffee shop Palm Vaults. It’s like Instagram, but in real life.
Ace the monthly film quiz at Hackney Attic above hip cinema Hackney Picturehouse.
Settle down for a show at the Grade II*-listed Hackney Empire theatre.
Keep dancing past closing time at late-night venue The Dolphin. The pub’s grimy basement club blares out student-night anthems until 4am.
Check out some creepy taxidermy at Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities. You can even have a cocktail while you’re about it.
Fifties tea dresses and glittery shoulder pads at vintage store Paper Dress Vintage, a total treasure trove of retro everything.
Swooshy silks and other textiles at Mermaid Fabrics. The store’s been in Hackney since the ’70s and sits in the spot once occupied by the Mermaid Tavern, a seventeenth-century pub frequented by the actual Samuel Pepys.
Spicy sausage, salted fish and jars of South American sauces at excellent – if rough-and-ready – supermarket Brazilian Centre.
If you only do one thing…
Head around the corner on to Amhurst Road for a gig at Oslo. The bar-cum-kitchen-cum-club has a Scandi warehouse vibe and knows how to throw a party.
By Kate Lloyd, who’s had plenty of mares on Mare Street
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