The Essential Insider's Guide to East London

East London is full of unique things to do - here's our run down of what there is to see and do in Hackney

Hackney has one of the most diverse populations in the whole of England, and this fusion of cultures and cuisines, alongside Hackney’s signature ‘cool’ has resulted in the borough becoming London’s most exciting and eclectic place to eat and drink. 

It’s impossible to get bored in Hackney. Whether you’re wanting some fun with the kids, or to get sucked into some big kid fun yourself, there’s plenty to choose from off the beaten track in Hackney

Where to eat in Hackney 

Bistrotheque

Bistrotheque is something of an East London institution, not least because first-time visitors find it rather hard to find! But don't let the discreet entrance put you off! 

Bistrotheque is a stylish eatery where London’s fashionista’s 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! 

Morito

Morito has been widely lauded by critics and the public alike, praised by Vogue for being ‘a holiday without leaving Zone Two.’  (Vogue, April 2016). 

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. 

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, Paradise Row 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. 

Best Mid Range Spots

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!

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Legs

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. Expect locally sourced, fresh ingredients, and dishes such as ‘pork belly, pork caramel, pistachio, sage’ £10, ‘burrata, fennel, lemon’ £8 and ‘persimmon, mascarpone, amaretti’ £7. 

One of our favourite properties in the area is The Garden of Eden, as well as having a heavenly garden, the crisp clean design of this home has gleaned architecture awards. 

A short walk from both these restaurants is the lovingly converted Blue Forest property, equipped with a working fireplace to turn those colder evenings cosy. 

Raw Duck

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. 

You will be seated at long sharing table which makes for an informal and busy atmosphere. Raw Duck specialises in fermented foods and drinks, which prompted the opening of Little Duck The Picklery (Sept 2017) just down the road in Dalston, definitely worth a dinner date here too! 

How to spend a Weekend in Hackney

Saturday 

Broadway Market is perhaps the most visited street in all of Hackney. 

On a weekday, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and cafes (Buen Ayre, La Bouche, Franco Manca, Market Cafe) or a drink at the Cat & Mutton pub, the Dove pub or a cocktail at Off Broadway

However, it’s on a Saturday when the Market is put into Broadway Market and c.50 stalls line the street and bring with them thousands of locals and tourists alike. Broadway Market is always going to be busy, but it’s an absolute must for any discerning visitor to East London. Among the delicious foodie stalls, you’ll find vintage clothing, jewellery and records. 

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. Just moments from the lido, we recommend Maison Magnolia, a large, light and bright, two bedroom Victorian property. 

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! 

For a chilled afternoon, 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 head 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.  

Once bedtime finally beckons, we recommend staying in The Dalston Artist property, a luxurious artist’s solace, set in the heart of Dalston and Stoke Newington

Sunday

If you don’t go to the Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday in Hackney, then, quite frankly, you’re missing out! The market stalls pack up around 3 pm so it’s best to get there in the morning if at all possible.  The Queen Elizabeth property is only moments away, which means you can roll right out of bed and surround yourself (and your hangover?) with flowers. 

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 Columbia Road and see if you can get a table upstairs at The Royal Oak, 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. 

After refuelling, why not take the fifteen-minute walk to Brick Lane, and submerge yourself in another road market. Brick Lane sells everything from snacks to hats to sunglasses. 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. 

Redchurch Street, just up the road in Shoreditch, is a hipster mecca. You’ll find everything here from, great clothing stores, to coffee shops, jewellery boutiques and excellent bars. If you have a Soho House membership, you’ll find Shoreditch House just off Redchurch Street, and on a sunny day in London, the views from Shoreditch House roof terrace are second to none (especially with an espresso martini in hand).

By the time Sunday evening comes around, you’ll no doubt fancy a sit-down. At the top of Brick Lane and at the end of Redchurch Street, you’ll find the ‘community hub’ Rich Mix. Rich Mix shows new films daily on its cinema screens and puts on regular dance and spoken word performances - it’s worth checking the website to see what’s on in advance. 

There are plenty of great places to eat dinner in Shoreditch - the Peruvian restaurant Andina and the British restaurant Clove Club are just a couple of our favourites. Before returning to one of our fabulous properties in the area and sinking into your delicious bed, why not grab a nightcap (or two) at the hip Ace Hotel

A Local’s Guide to Hidden Hackney

Aside from the bustling Broadway Market, the glorious Flower Market and the busy bars of Shoreditch and Dalston, Hackney has a plethora of treasures slightly off the beaten track. We’ve asked some locals to share with us their most cherished corners and secret spots within the London borough of Hackney. 

1. Chatsworth Road

Chatsworth Road in Clapton is fairly quiet and unassuming, but give it five years and chances are, it will be as hectic and heaving as Broadway Market. Sunday is market day, and delicious food stalls, plant stalls and vintage clothing rails pop up each side of the road and attract locals and discerning tourists alike. Tempting restaurants, cafes & delis can be found here too if you fancy eating inside under a proper roof. 

You’ll find great furniture and homeware shops open on the road too, it’s a great place to while away an afternoon browsing and meandering at a leisurely pace.  If you fancy a stroll through some greenery, you can head down to Millfields Park where you can access the canal (and walk to Hackney Wick, see below). 

Or alternatively, for those of you after a tipple, further up the road in Homerton, you will find a couple of popular pubs The Adam & Eve and Spread Eagle (London’s first 100% vegan pub), both open late and lots of fun.  If you want to stay in the area, The Blueprint is one of Plum Guide’s most quirky and charismatic properties, located in a converted Victorian school building this property sleeps four and is only a short walk from Chatsworth Road and Homerton

2. Hackney Downs

Just south of Hackney is the sprawling wonder that is Victoria Park, however, the north of Hackney offers Hackney Downs. Hackney Downs is a large park and an excellent place to spread out on a rug and get stuck into a picnic or a good book. At the end of the Downs, through the railway tunnel, you will find Hackney Downs Vegan Market running every Saturday. 

This market absolutely attracts non-vegans, in fact, it’s entirely feasible you’d never even realise it was a vegan market at all! The market sells cakes, alongside hot and cold street food. However, if you fancy something more substantial (and possibly meaty!), Autumn Yard is a light and bright spacious cafe, with plenty of room for larger groups. For properties in the area, we recommend East of Eden, an exquisitely decorated cosy apartment, with garden, that sleeps four people.  

3. Hackney City Farm & Pottery Classes 

The City Farm provides an oasis of calm and a slice of the countryside, right bang in the middle of Hackney! Lying directly between Broadway Market and Columbia Road, it is easy to miss, however it’s definitely worth a visit, especially if the kids are in tow. The farm itself is very small and won’t take you long to look around, however, the cafe here serves excellent food, there’s always a queue for a table on the weekend as their English breakfasts are legendary! 

The team at the Farm also put on a calendar of classes including mosaic making and pottery. Pottery is on every Wednesday and Thursday evening and costs £15. Turn up (no need to book) with your own snack and drinks (people often bring wine or beer) and grab anywhere to sit you can. Be warned, these classes get busy and it’s a very informal affair, but a great place to socialise and get your hands dirty! 

4. The V&A Museum of Childhood

This Bethnal Green museum is a small east London branch of The Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, the national museum of applied arts (definitely worth a visit if you’re venturing out of Hackney). The Museum of Childhood is housed in a beautiful nineteenth-century purpose built building, set back off the busy Bethnal Green road, surrounded by its own small garden, (coffee truck included). 

The museum is the largest of its kind in the world, dedicated to engaging audiences in the material culture and experiences of childhood. The nostalgic displays of Game Boys, toy soldiers and abacuses will take you right back! There’s a great cafe inside too for coffee and cake. 

Right around the corner are The Courtroom Apartments, these award-winning private apartments have access a shared gym and swimming pool - what better way to shake off the bustle of Hackney? 

5. Hackney Wick

Slightly out of the way, Hackney Wick certainly has more of an artistic atmosphere than some of the more mainstream areas of Hackney, like Shoreditch.  The Wick is a summer hang out, with bars and restaurants along the canal that get very busy when the sun comes out and never fail to feel lively and vibrant. 

Hackney Wick is a great place to come to dance, many of the bars put on DJs throughout summer and winter. It’s has a very ‘urban’ vibe, expect concrete and warehouses, but it’s where to hang out if you want to drink with the artists, who often cluster here due to it’s considerably cheaper rents (compared to Shoreditch, London Fields etc).  

Number 90 is a large bar with plenty of inside and outside space, Crate Brewery is also fun and is renowned for its pizzas and beer, squeeze onto one of the long outside picnic tables and start working your way through the different beers they have on offer. 




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