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16 great things to do on Hackney Road

The Marksman, Hackney Road
Andy Parsons

Despite weaving its way through some of the east’s trendiest bits, Hackney Road was until relatively recently a bit of a nothingy stretch of pavement. You’d only head down if you were looking to walk from Shoreditch to Bethnal Green, or were keen to buy some back-of-a-lorry luggage or wholesale plumbing products. But the nearby Broadway and Columbia Road Markets and the increasingly densely hip suburbs of Hackney, Haggerston and Hoxton have now spilled over and blessed Hackney Road with some art, culture and food to call its own.

Though you’ll still wander past any number of ‘unique bag’ stores, and the odd derelict building, such as the abandoned (and soon-to-be-redeveloped) Mecca Bingo, all that radial gentrification from the surrounding areas has started to glam the place up a bit. There are small and intimate cocktail bars sandwiched between secondhand shoe stores and ‘USA Pizza’ takeaways, as well as a few special art galleries, coffee shops, high-end restaurants and even a city farm full of pigs, llamas and chickens. The street art scene has also crept up from Shoreditch. It’s not as pretty as the markets or the nearby Regent’s Canal, but Hackney Road is finally a destination. Take a walk this weekend – you might just be surprised.

Do this

Catch a gig at the Sebright Arms, an old-school boozer tucked away down an alley. There’s a cosy live space downstairs that hosts great up-and-coming artists.

Celeb-spot at The Premises café and rehearsal studio, where loads of big artists practise.

Feed some chickens at Hackney City Farm before relaxing in its cosy café.

Embrace your outré side at Sink the Pink’s weekly Savage Disco nights, occupying strip club Metropolis at the Bethnal Green end of the road.

Eat this

The filthy cheeseburger taco, a star dish at Bad Sports taqueria.

A freshly baked pastel de nata from A Portuguese Love Affair: Hackney Road’s very own Portuguese deli and café, at number 326.

Wild pigeon breast with fried aubergine, pomegranate and stuffed dates at Morito.

A two-quid bacon sarnie from the Window Canteen. Add a motherlode of avocado for just 50p at this speedy takeaway café.

Drink this

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A glass of something fancy at Hackney Road’s two impressive wine bars: Sager + Wilde and The Laughing Heart.

The ‘reverse sugar cane’ cocktail with infused tahini paste, port, lime, sugar and a hint of chocolate at cocktail bar The Natural Philosopher.

The perfect negroni at the Apiary Studios’ new bar, Honeymoon Bar. The space is designed to delight all the senses, combining boozing with interactive installations and music.

Buy this

Hanging plants, climbing ferns, indoor trees and all sorts of gardening tools at the luscious Conservatory Archives.

Giant bags of frozen dumplings, chocolate-coated pocky sticks and loads more delicious Asian products at Longdan Express.

Unique designer clothes and accessories made from vintage bits and bobs at art and fashion emporium Wall and Jones.

Vinyl of all sorts, from soul, jazz and hip hop at Cosmos Records London to heavy metal at its neighbour, Crypt of the Wizard .

And if you only do one thing…

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The Marksman just won Michelin’s Pub of the Year award: the first London boozer ever to do so. Sink into its cushioned booths for some world-class British grub and a long list of great beers.

By Andrew Zuccala, who still misses Mecca Bingo.

Now discover more of London’s best bits.

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