An Insider's Guide: Things to do in Hackney
Here's our run down of the very best things to see and do in East London's much-loved Hackney
Hackney has one of the most diverse populations in the whole of England, and this fusion of cultures and cuisines, alongside it's signature ‘cool’ status has resulted in the borough becoming London’s most exciting and eclectic place to eat and drink.
Where to eat
Bistrotheque is something of an institution, not least because first-time visitors find it rather hard to find. But don't let the discreet entrance put you off. This is a stylish eatery where London’s fashionistas come to drink excellently crafted cocktails at the large rectangle bar and chat over generously portioned modern European classics, such as steak tartare and fish and chips. There is nowhere else in London where you can sit in a converted warehouse, sipping on champagne and eating oysters for brunch, listening to a pianist play pop classics on a baby grand piano. When it comes to dining, this is definitely one of our favourite things to do in Hackney here at Plum Guide.
The award-winning restaurant Moro at Exmouth Market is one of the most renowned restaurants in London. So when in 2016 Morito opened on the Hackney Road, East London’s foodies were clamouring to get a table. Just like its big sister restaurants, Morito takes its inspiration from Southern Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Order a feast of sharing plates from the different fish, meat and vegetable sections of the menu. Settle in for a long dinner in this laid-back open-plan restaurant, always absolutely buzzing with laughter and chatter and filled with a fusion of mouth-watering aromas. Oh, and word to the wise: make sure you book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Sager + Wilde
Just next door to Morito is one of Hackney’s most romantic little bars, Sager + Wilde. Settle on a stool at the beautiful old bar and let the helpful bar staff recommend a drink from their daily changing menu. The bar snacks are delicious and their fancy cheese on toast can’t help but make your mouth water, even if you aren’t hungry.
On a sunny day, the original Sager + Wilde is a great place to sit outside eat, drink and be merry. Set in an old railway arch, the restaurant focuses on local and seasonal food. When the weather gets warmer the crew at S+W set up a bar outside in amongst the long wooden tables, making it the best place to go and get a bloody mary or Aperol spritz with a group of friends on a Sunday afternoon.
My Neighbours the Dumplings
If you like dumplings, My Neighbours the Dumplings is a must. The har gau (prawn) and shu mai (prawn and pork) dumplings are perhaps the most popular, but the menu is expansive. Be warned, it can get busy, you’ll be seated at long wooden tables, elbow to elbow and handed a paper scorecard menu where you will be asked to tick off what you want. It’s an informal setup, but always vibrant and uplifting. If you fancy a drink without having to go far, there’s a great little sake bar downstairs too!
This small, yet perfectly formed restaurant has an equally small and perfectly formed daily changing menu. Legs is located just across from the Hackney Walk luxury fashion outlet centre (stores include Joseph, Zadig & Voltaire, Matches & Pringle) so why not follow a tasty brunch at Legs with a naughty (but discounted!) shopping trip? Don’t let the chilled out atmosphere fool you, the small plates are ambitious and elegant.
Just a short walk from the green parklands of London Fields, Raw Duck serves food throughout the day and gleans its inspiration from the Mediterranean.
As they say on their menu: ‘we follow the sunshine and blue skies but our focus is always on simple seasonal cooking.’ The menu changes weekly, always with the inclusion of a Sunday roast and it never fails to attract the locals and the hipster crowds.
Things to Do
Discover Broadway Market
Broadway Market is perhaps the most visited street in the neighbourhood and a must on anyone's list of things to do in Hackney. On a weekday, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes or a drink at the Cat & Mutton or Off Broadway. However, it’s on a Saturday when the market is open and c.50 stalls line the street, bringing with them thousands of locals and tourists alike. Yes, Broadway Market is always going to be busy, but it’s an absolute must for any discerning visitor to. Among the delicious foodie stalls, you’ll find vintage clothing, jewellery and records.
Wander around London Fields
After a caffeine hit from Climpson and Sons, you might fancy checking out further stalls and food trucks around the corner in Netil House before taking a stroll around London Fields or a swim in the lido.
Cycle along the canal
Hackney has the highest number of cyclists in all of London, so why not jump on a Boris bike and cycle along the canal? Exploring Victoria Park is an absolute must for nature lovers, either on foot or by bike. Pavillion Cafe is the place to eat here: sample their homemade bread, sit by the pond and perhaps even brave a pedalo ride.
Visit a Dalston picture house
Looking for a chilled weekend activity and wondering what is there to do in Hackney on a Saturday that fits the bill? Head to the cinema in Dalston - The Rio is a Grade II Independent Art Deco picture house and shows classic films alongside contemporary. And perhaps grab a slice of pizza next door at Voodoo Rays. Dalston is where all the cool kids go to party, however if you feel like something slightly more grown-up cool then opt to stay in a handpicked Plum Guide home a little more north into Stoke Newington. Ruby's is a basement speakeasy that serves dangerous cocktails and is an easy place to lose a few hours. Further north is HighWater, a dimly lit and elegant cocktail and wine bar, where you can kick back and get comfy in a leather booth and enjoy the luxury of table service.
Barter for some fresh blooms
If you didn’t go to Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday in Hackney then, did you even go to Hackney? The market stalls pack up around 3pm so it’s best to get there in the morning if at all possible. Stalls selling everything from peonies to orange trees line each side of this picturesque Victorian street, which becomes pedestrianised on market day. And the flower market certainly attracts a lot of people, you’ll find mingling with the crowd, taking in the flowers and the quaint pastel-coloured houses a sensory experience, not to mention the stall sellers clamouring with one another (often in cockney accents) and haggling with customers, trying to get the best deals.
For a great Sunday roast either stay on and see if you can get a table upstairs at The Royal Oal, a dark and Dickensian old-fashioned boozer, or book in at The Marksman Pub, just a few moments walk away on Hackney Road. The Marksman isn’t the cheapest pub around, but it certainly offers one of the best gastronomic experiences in the area and a lively, scrumptious meal that is certain to be remembered.
Explore Brick Lane
Just a short walk away from Columbia Road, you'll stumble upon another of East London's icons: Brick Lane. When asking 'what is Hackney famous for?', this is an answer that often springs to mind. If you have a penchant for vintage clothing, just off Brick Lane on Cheshire Street is the famous Beyond Retro. Further South, Hanbury Street is peppered with more great vintage stores and also has one of the capital’s best bookshops, Libreria.