Out and about in Hackney...

In London’s East End, there are few places that have evolved as much as Hackney...

After years of adverse publicity, there's plenty to love about it today, where high art and edgy innovation sit comfortably together. Hackney has recently been described as London’s most livable borough. So, we thought we’d have a closer look and share some of our favourite places…

Autumn Yard
An all-encompassing warehouse space that’s nicely designed, provides an all-day eatery in Hackney Downs for breakfast, brunch, lunch and early supper. The warehouse floor is kitted out with clever, dark furnishings and an imposing, engaging big open kitchen, to make it a hip Hackney hangout. There’s something for everyone here, with long open tables and cosy corners for couples. A bar and shop at the entrance and an outdoor terrace for beers in the summer. The all-in approach works well - come with whoever you want and they’re sure to like it - from blueberry muffins, a smoky cannellini stew, sweetcorn fritters or a plate of roast chicken – be it veggie, vegan or classics with a twist, they’ve got it covered. Nice.

Well loved by the locals (and rightly so) Lardo is an excellent option for breakfast through ‘til late. Named after the cured back fat of a pig, the charcuterie is of course excellent - but so are most things here, and in particular pizza which you can watch being fired if you sit around the open kitchen.  It’s a strong contender for a first date, family time or meeting up with mates. Drinks are plentiful, from cocktails to builders’ tea, all there to complement pizza, salads, charcuterie and specials with a strong seasonable bias. If you want a vibrant atmosphere that’s also intimate (and kid friendly at the appropriate times) and you want to get in and out for under £20 the choice is there. Best to book (unless you plan on turning up later at night.)

One of the trailblazers of small plates eating, with their original Exmouth Market location, Morito has continued what they started so well at the Hoxton end of Hackney Road. Moro and Morito chef proprietors, Sam & Sam Clark, opened their third restaurant at 195 Hackney Road in 2016 and it’s a great place to eat: the tapas menu means you can just keep going and the menu has so much to offer – from roast quail, seafood rice, and roast cauliflower salads, you’ll be happy with whatever you choose here. The restaurant has been designed in collaboration with artist Dillwyn Smith and Hackney-based designer Sam Newton.  With a horseshoe shaped marble topped bar, polished concrete floor, bright slugs of colour, and a light and airy space. Sit up at the counter as a couple, or come with colleagues you really care about and you won’t regret it.

Yard Sale
It all began with a little oven, chugging away in a back yard in Hackney, where the team honed their craft on friends and family with weekly supper clubs… and the creation of their unique stone baked pizza. Now it’s a hit with locals and aficionados alike. If eating food the size of your face sounds appealing, then you’ll like it at Yard Sale. A proper pizza joint, equipped with plastic furniture and few of the trimmings, it continues to get bigger and better since it first opened. The pizzas are splendid and good to share between three if needs be. Keep an eye out for their informal collaboration series (like Happy Endings & Jackpot peanut butter) and check out the decent merch on offer if you’re a mega fan. Oh, and don’t forget the brownie. It’s freshly baked and something to remember. 

Three long-term friends celebrate Britain’s world-class produce…simply. This restaurant is very much produce driven and things are kept as easy and sustainable as possible. If fine-tuned choice is what you’re after, there’s a simple focus on only one meat product in the kitchen at a time and low-intervention wines by the glass. Here, quality food and drink doesn’t compromise the welfare of those involved. All good value, you’ll love it at Nest.  With a seven-dish, no-choice seasonal menu and limited opening times, engaging, charismatic owners, and a soundtrack you’ll want to download, it’s honest, great quality. From plain bistro furniture and all-round feel-good spirit, you will still find them at pop-ups and one-off events and festivals, where it all began. Splendid.

My neighbours the dumplings
Here in this family run Dumpling House & Sake bar in Hackney, London, they hand roll the freshest dumplings you'll find. Ever. Creatively developing the menu, the super-skilled team only select quality ingredients and make everything fresh on site. All meat is free range and fish is sustainably sourced, and although not strictly a Dim Sum restaurant, they follow the Dim Sum style of eating, with lots of small dishes on the table. And this is a fine (small) restaurant indeed – you could eat the har gau (prawn) and shu mai (prawn and pork) dumplings every day and not tire of them. With a cool bar downstairs which means you can easily settle in for the night. There’s the hanging garden, for party bookings and groups. Hidden deep beneath the restaurant floor you'll discover Matilda's; it’s a nod to old backstreet basement bars, with live music nights along with a spot of the old vinyl. With some of Japan’s best sake on offer, it’s an oasis to escape the chaos of Clapton.

The Spread Eagle
London's first 100% vegan pub, The Spread Eagle, keeps tradition alive while celebrating the best in modern culture. And here its scored a blinder in collaboration with Club Mexicana, who bring the best of vegan food (and vibes) to this pub in Homerton. Popular with drinkers since 1752, it made new history declaring itself London’s first 100 per cent vegan pub - all food, drinks, fixtures and fittings are plant-based and sourced sustainably wherever possible. Luke McLoughlin and Meriel Armitage, two long-standing friends decided it was time to bring veganism into the mainstream and they’ve really succeeded. Make sure you expect the unexpected with fish tacos made from tofu, burritos filled with BBQ pulled jackfruit and wonderful (fake) scallops. The drinks here are all carefully chosen from vegan producers; rotating a range of 16 beers on tap, a carefully curated list of organic wines, and some special cocktails.

Martello Hall
What looks like an artfully faded east-end industrial tavern, Martello Hall is an absolute delight, over in Mare Street, serving up absinthe fountains and sharing plates, right next to London Fields station.  With super-cosy booths, exposed bricks, a bar flanked with stools and a vintage row of taps, Martello Hall boasts the biggest selection of tap wine in the UK. There are pizzas with brilliantly chewy sourdough bases, cured Italian meats, some antipasti options and a fairly eclectic selection of sharing plates. With handsome, big windows, beaten-up wooden floors and peeling plasterwork, its somewhere you can to indulge in the splendour of reclaimed furniture, done brilliantly. It’s a hot-desking café that’s also a gin distillery, rooftop cocktail bar, and late-night venue. During the day, bag yourself a work spot with bottomless coffee, all day long, for a tenner. Alongside bottomless toast for £3.50 with Nutella and jam, and a superb selection of Po’Boys and pizzas to see you through the working day, ‘til nighttime comes.  Yes, we’re biased as this one is backed by Imbiba, but with a handsome wood-fired oven squatting in the corner with killer pizza, an amazing selection craft beers and wine and a chilled vibe, we’re sure you’ll love it.

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Fraser Bradshaw