Top 10 Things To Do In The Borough Of Hackney

Victoria Rudland
By Victoria Rudland Last edited 134 months ago

Last Updated 19 March 2013

Top 10 Things To Do In The Borough Of Hackney

Continuing our series highlighting the very best of each borough.

This week, Londonist contributor and Hackney local Victoria Rudland shares her Hackney highlights and laments the passing of an elderly goose. The following is a personal selection, and not intended as a definitive list. We welcome suggestions for alternatives in each category, and will add them to the article, wiki-style, as you suggest them.

Market: Broadway Market
E8 4PH

Running from Regent’s Canal up to the foot of London Fields, Broadway Market plays host to, er, Broadway Market every Saturday. Whether you fancy a Vietnamese iced coffee, a pair of handmade pants, some artisan cakes, a ‘vintage’ tweed coat or a roast beef bap where the ‘bap’ is a Yorkshire pudding (I mean, who doesn't?), this is the place to come. Lined with laidback drinking spots, cute cafes and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to nurse a hangover. Jump straight back off that wagon with a beer at The Dove or the Cat & Mutton or, hell, why not a dirty martini at Off Broadway?

Park: London Fields

Okay, so it’s full of hipsters. Like, properly committed hipsters with hula hoops and fixies and gold bicycle helmets and luxuriant facial hair and fucking ukuleles. But suck it up: on a hot summer’s day, nothing beats stretching out on the grass with bare feet, sticky with sun cream and sweat, bathing in the hazy afternoon sun, with the tantalising smell of your neighbour’s (illegal) barbecue wafting lazily towards you on the breeze as you swig from a bottle of lukewarm cider. (Who misses summer? NOT ME.) And if you get too hot, you can always take a dip in the 50-metre lido. Be warned: there is never – NEVER – paper in the public loos. And I can tell you from bitter experience that it’s a Very Bad Idea to use a perfume wipe you find in your bag in place of loo paper. Don’t do it. Burny. Bring tissues.

Pub: The Clapton Hart
231 Lower Clapton Road, E5 8EG

I heart this pub. All shabby chic and lofty ceilings and distressed furniture, I’m a sucker for that shit. The place is rammed with trendy locals on a Saturday night and the denizens of Clapton seem to be a relatively attractive bunch (relative because, well, they’re still British), but it’s also a lovely place to sit and have a roast on a Sunday afternoon. It’s one of those real ale/craft beer kinda places with a gorgeous menu (poached pear, stilton and red chard salad, anyone?) and the aforementioned roast certainly hits the spot.

Outdoors: Hackney City Farm
1a Goldsmith's Row, E2 8QA

Do you want to look at some donkeys? It’ll cheer you up, I promise. LOOK AT THEM, THE CUTE  LITTLE TUFTY SILLY THINGS WITH THEIR OVERSIZED HEADS AND RABBIT EARS! See? You feel better. As well as Larry and Clover (the donks), the wonderful Hackney City Farm, in the south-east quarter of Haggerston Park, also has pigs, calves, goats, myriad garish fowl and rodents – the good kind, the sweet fluffy kind that are supposed to be there. They also have a 29-YEAR OLD goose. A goose that has been on this planet longer than I have. Ridiculous. I can’t promise you he’ll still be there, he was looking a little... wobbly last time I saw him. You can also buy fresh eggs and honey (from the farm’s bees), et cetera, from the shop and they do a jolly good breakfast too. Oh. I’ve just looked at their website. Greg the goose passed on early last year at the age of 28. I’m devastated. Death comes to us all in the end...

Theatre: Arcola Theatre
24 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL

I just love this place: the building (a converted paint factory) is full of character, they’ve got a wee book swap library in the bar, they’re devoted to making their productions ecologically sustainable and reducing carbon emissions, AND they give back to to community, with free drama sessions for the over-60s and classes and workshops for young people. Ah. Saintly Arcola. Oh, and they have pay-what-you-can Tuesdays. Score. Their programme is varied, from old classics to new writing: coming up, check out Gibraltar (27 Mar-20 Apr) or Moby-Dick (27 Mar-4 May).

Coffee: Long White Cloud
151 Hackney Road, E2 8JL

This Kiwi-run cafe-cum-gallery on Hackney Road serves nummy Monmouth coffee AND THEY STEAM THE MILK PROPERLY, making for a killer cappuccino. The banana cake is very good also. In fact, the food in general is totes delish – all fair trade and organic and locally sourced and what have you. They’ve got a great brunch menu and, as of last week, they’re now open till 10pm on weekdays, with a themed menu each evening. Friday is Pie Night. Mmm... pie night...

Bar: Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes
32-34 Kingsland Road, E2 8DA

This bar opened in the old premises of a bag and shoe wholesaler (of which this area around Hackney Road is overrun), and they kept the original signage. Thus, Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes was born. They make a mean stone-baked pizza and great cocktails and OH GOD, I’ve just discovered they deliver. (Pizza, that is, not cocktails, unfortunately.) Life will never be the same again. It’s also an exhibition space (as is pretty much every other bar and cafe in Hackney – yes! Art! Wooo!),  so the decor is constantly changing. Get a seat at one of the long wooden benches in the window for a late-afternoon drink or early-evening bite, or head downstairs after dark to sprawl inappropriately over the black leather sofas with a triple gin and unsuitable young man/woman of your choice.

Museum: The Geffrye
136 Kingsland Road, E2 8EA

The Geffrye, as well as being a gorgeous piece of 18th century architecture, houses collections of furniture and textiles from middle-class English homes from 1600 to the present day, reflecting the progression of tastes, fashion and society. Explore the 11 period rooms, roam the handsome gardens and chill with a cup of tea in the cafe. Best of all, entry is free! I also have it on good authority that their carrot cake is the best in London. And we all know that’s what really matters.

Art: First Thursdays

As previously mentioned, Hackney is positively throbbing with art galleries. And on the first Thursday of every month, the galleries of East London open their doors until 9pm, offering free booze and art for all, hooray! So take advantage of the city's most exciting, artistically vibrant and culturally thriving borough, check out this map to find participating galleries, go along and have a gander at some art over a glass or two of some awful red wine or a bottle of warm beer – well, it is free, what did you expect?

Restaurant: Mangal 1 Ocakbasi
10 Arcola Street, E8 2DJ

I’m sorry, what? You’ve never had a Mangal kebab? No, no, you don’t understand, we’re not talking your standard 2am drunk stop for sawn-off shavings of God knows what – this is the king of back-street Turkish restaurants. The place is always packed and with damn good reason: it’s the best  bloody (not literally) grilled animal in London. Go for the mixed grill, with some houmous and (free) Turkish bread on the side, stuff yourself with delicious baklava if you’ve any room left and wash it all down with a Turkish coffee. Prices are modest, as is the decor, and it’s free to BYOB. YES.

Other instalments in this series: Barnet, Brent, Bromley, the City of London, Ealing, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea,Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Waltham Forest and the City of Westminster.