Hackney foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Check out our favourite restaurants, cafes, bars and foodie spots in Hackney. Try Sicilian red prawns, fragrant curries dipped into buttery homemade roti, and one of the best-value tasting menus in town
Looking for Hackney restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants in London's North Eastern borough. The best foodie spots include tasting menu at Nest, unusual wines at Sager + Wilde and Cretan food at Morito. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in Hackney, from Hackney Road to Homerton and London Fields...
Best restaurants in Hackney
Casa Fofó, Hackney Downs – for a great-value tasting menu
An exceptional, yet accessible, haven for Hackney foodies where continental flavours collide without breaking the bank.
Casa Fofó is the baby of Italian head chef Adolfo De Cecco, who’s best known for his time at Pidgin, and is joined by alumni from his time here – sous chef Sam Coleman and chef de partie Giuseppe Pepe.
Eight courses (for just £39 – here’s a contender for London’s new best-value tasting menu) are kicked off with a super-crisp potato cake finger with a spiced slice of pickled daikon and lardo, taken from a well-fed Middle White pig. The menu, which is tweaked daily, is Marie Kondo-esque minimal with only a few words to describe each finely tuned dish, making each arrival a pleasant surprise.
Angelina, Dalston – for Italian-Japanese fusion
Sleek and buzzy. Angelina’s minimalist interiors include high ceilings, oversized pendant lamps, plenty of indoor greenery and wooden floors. Sit in dusky-toned chairs to eat, or perch at a counter surrounding the open kitchen and watch the chefs calmly at work.
Simple yet refined Italian-Japanese cooking is the focus, and their dining concept is boldly simple: just a five-course sharing menu for £38.
The menu starts with elegant fish and seafood crudités: Sicilian red prawns, dusted with roasted rice powder and drizzled with olive oil, has a lusciously soft, almost creamy texture, while rich tuna belly is pepped up by a zingy blood orange dressing. Sea bream with mirin is salty-fresh.
EartH Kitchen, Dalston – for small plates and culture
It might feel as if you’re en route to a trendy Hackney gig, as you climb the stairs to EartH (or Evolutionary Arts Hackney to those cool cats in the know). And if you carry on, you will – there’s comedy shows, music, club nights, theatrical performances, flea markets and more. But take the first door into the former foyer of this hidden art deco cinema and you’ll come across the newly opened EartH Kitchen.
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There’s a decent list of small plates and larger main courses to choose from, depending if you’re hitting and running before a show or settling in for the night. The plates are easy eating, focussing on a few good, seasonal ingredients jazzed up with a bit of kitchen magic. There’s veg (wild garlic soup), and fish (smoked mackerel with beets, watercress and horseradish), pork chops and confit duck, but the offal’s where it’s at. This is St John alumni, after all.
Island Social Club, Haggerston – for lively Caribbean vibes
Looking for a fun night out in Hackney? A nightly celebration of rum and roti in a stripped-back setting in Curio Cabal, Haggerston, for a must-visit 12-month residency in 2019. There’s not much to choose from but everything hits the spot. The homemade bussup-shut roti is an absolute must-order – everything else is a vehicle for this buttery, flaky friend.
Colombo de poulet (our favourite), inspired by the French Islands, is incredibly light and fragrant, coconut milk bathing a combo of tender chicken, sweet pumpkin and cho-cho, which is a sponge for flavour.
Nest, Homerton – for modern British tasting-menus
If you’re looking for one of the best-value and most considered tasting menus in Hackney, and London – by some serious up-and-coming talent – look no further than Nest.
With a handful of thick-topped wooden tables, modestly decorated with tea lights, linen napkins and antique cutlery, Nest’s two set menus (one’s completely veggie) are scrawled on hanging blackboards, £32 for six courses, plus homemade soda bread and hand-churned butter.
On our visit, sika deer, reared by Julian Stoyle of Red Oak Deer Park, is the order of the day. It first comes in a delicately layered potato cake, super crisp, super soft (the texture of Potato Smiles, if you know – you know), well seasoned, with smoked shoulder, and addictively good anchovy mayo.
Later it reappears as venison wellington, ruddy, buttery, wrapped in a delicious duvet of pear, duxelle, savoy cabbage and crisp golden pastry, with pear, perry and parsnip purées on the side, and two rissoles impaled with liquorice root, drizzled with piquant Oxford sauce.
Cornerstone, Hackney Wick – for date night
Cornerstone – named after chef/owner Tom Brown’s favourite Arctic Monkeys track – opened in April 2018 in trendy Hackney Wick. Just minutes from Hackney Wick Overground, the restaurant is the first from Cornish Tom, who has worked for Rick Stein and most notably Nathan Outlaw (check out Nathan’s guide to cooking fish here). After making a name for himself in his home county, he worked as head chef of Outlaw’s eponymous restaurant at The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, which was awarded a Michelin star after only one year of opening.
Aside from its similar penchant for fresh fish, though, Cornerstone is a far cry from Tom’s previous. Here a menu of plates designed for sharing are affordably priced between £5-15 (£45 for the chef’s choice of eight). You can eat at the bar, which wraps itself around the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant, sat across from the chefs or at one of the minimalist tables. And there’s a short, international and mostly low-intervention wine list, with lots available by the glass, some stellar home-infused cocktails, and a bespoke Cornish house gin, too.
Duke of Richmond, London Fields – for French gastro pub vibes
A thoughtful restoration, including cool painted floorboards, calming accents of olive and cream on the walls, blue leather banquettes, and varnished wooden tables, make for a modern pub setting. Relaxed, a little bit rowdy (as all good pubs should be) and suitably stylish for its Hackney locals.
The menu might be continental in its leaning but all of the dishes feel at home in their British pub setting – think seasonal giant vol au vents, rib cap burgers with confit shallots, roquefort, bearnaise sauce and fries, and tart au citron. Seafood shines – try super-light Cornish crab soufflé, sea trout with wild fennel and Cornish crab chip butties.
Little Duck The Picklery, Dalston – for casual small plates
Dalston’s Little Duck The Picklery is no ordinary restaurant. Describing itself as a “fermenting kitchen, eatery and wine bar”, this third venue from the same team behind Soho’s Duck Soup and Hackney’s Raw Duck centres round one large, family-style kitchen table from which head chef and proprietor Tom Hill preps and cooks a carefully curated selection of seasonal small plates, guests only an arm’s length away.
Drinks and dishes are scrawled on blackboards and change each week. For breakfast, expect the likes of beef and lamb sausages with garlic yogurt, flatbreads and pickled tomatoes, masala-spiced scrambled eggs, and shiitake mushroom oats.
For lunch and dinner, the Mediterranean-skewed plates linger around the £8 to £11 mark and pack serious flavour. Start with a gut-friendly daily pickle or ferment (like a kimchi or kraut, for as little as £2.50) then move on to the plates proper.
Morito, Hoxton – for Cretan small plates
With polished concrete floors, a striking, horseshoe, marble-topped bar, pops of colour and Instagrammable mirrored fish-scale tiles, Morito feels very much at home in Hackney.
The open kitchen is headed by co-owner Samantha Clark and head chef Marianna Leivaditaki. Formerly at Moro, Marianna grew up in Crete and developed her feel for ingredients in her family’s fish restaurant. At Morito she makes exceptionally-sourced produce shine. Buffalo butter that smacks of the farm in Thessaloniki where it began life and the headiest za’atar from Istanbul make the breadbasket irresistible.
The menu is similar to that of the first Morito with tapas, mezze and larger plates at lunch and dinner, but with new dishes, too – made-to-order Moroccan breads for breakfast, homemade halloumi with pickled za’atar, and kid mechoui with goat’s curd, preserved lemon and harissa.
Pidgin, Hackney Central – for neighbourhood vibes
Pidgin is the permanent venture of James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, the team behind supper club The Secret Larder.
The four course menu changes weekly, and uses seasonal, carefully-sourced produce. Potato sourdough and butter is followed by two small dishes – pork fat and peas, and octopus and apple with peppery nasturtiums and a creamy almond milk dressing.
Beef picanha (the most prized cut in Latin America) from grass-reared, dry-aged Yorkshire Longhorn cattle was beautifully soft, and accompanied by rich and earthy flavours of coal-roast beetroot, sweet carrots and an intense jus.
Pidgin G&Ts are made with homemade tonic and served with a large slice of pink grapefruit and a dash of black pepper for a punchy finish while The London Fields cocktail was like a vodka-spiked green juice.
The Dusty Knuckle, Dalston – for cakes and bakes
Looking for a bakery in Hackney? The Dusty Knuckle is a social enterprise café and bakery with a conscience, according to co-founder Max Tobias. “The idea was that we would start a bakery that could provide employment experiences to young people at the margins of society.”
Max and chef Rebecca Oliver quit their jobs and launched The Dusty Knuckle from a shipping container in 2014. After three successful years it moved a few metres to a new permanent home opposite. It also runs regular bread-making classes and has ambitious plans to run a youth training academy in the future.
Temple of Seitan, Hackney Central – for vegan food
For vegan food in Hackney, this is the place to go. With a second site in Camden opening on the back of the success of its pop-ups and the Hackney mothership, Temple of Seitan is a restaurant and takeaway that’s widely regarded as the mother of all plant-based fast-food joints.
Since it launched three years ago, Temple of Seitan has gained a fanatical following for its delicious Temple Spicy Burger (crispy seitan fillet, cheese, coleslaw, jalapeños with hot sauce and chipotle mayo) and the proudly poultry-free version of KFC’s double-down fried chicken sandwich.
- Spicy vegan lentil burgers
- Thai green curry
- Buddha bowl salad
- MBLT vegan sandwich
- Aubergine bhaji
Broadway Market, Broadway Vegan Market and Netil Market – for market vibes
Three markets all located next to each other on the same day? Head east with empty stomachs to experience the best selection of street food Hackney has to offer.
Top street food stalls: Start in Netil Market, an array of shipping containers and custom built huts circle around a central market selling everything from antiques and artisan chocolate to soy candles.
Pick up Eritrean inspired tacos from LemLem Kitchen. Spongy sourdough flatbread discs known as injera are wrapped around spicy fish, pulled lamb or curried split peas before heading over to Broadway Vegan Market to pick up a katsu cauliflower sushi burrito from We Are Ima.
Finally wander round the corner for artisan eclairs by End of the Éclair. Crispy choux pastry filled with a range of flavours – salted caramel is our current favourite.
Best bars and nightlife in Hackney
P Franco, Clapton – for wine
P Franco opened on the site of a former Chinese takeaway in Clapton in 2014. Owners Liam Kelleher and James Noble are also directors of Noble Fine Liquor, a company which has retail-only shop on Broadway Market. Initially, P Franco was a simple takeaway shop that offered a small selection of hams and cheeses, although you could have a few glasses of wine while selecting a bottle.
The venue always had a lot of chefs and wine people visit, and over time it grew with resident chefs cooking down one end of the table, and there are no reservations, with walk-ins only. Anyone who cooks at P Franco has only two induction hobs to work with and they do six-month residencies with the seasonal menu changing daily. Recent residencies have included George Tomlin of The Clove Club and ex-Rochelle Canteen chef Anna Tobias.
Sager + Wilde, Hoxton – for unusual wines and date night
At this casual but romantic neighbourhood wine bar, huddle up in around candlelit tables, or prop yourself up at the industrial iron grate bar and soak up knowledge from the chatty staff while getting a closer look at rare bottles displayed on the rack along the back wall.
The small but thoughtful wine menu covers lesser-known regions and quirky categories such as crisp and refreshing whites from Austria and bold reds from Hungary, with a dedicated section to ‘skins’ wines (orange wines from Sicily, Alicante and beyond, find out more here). Other than wine, they offer on-trend white port and tonic or punchy, refreshing bergamot negronis, as well as a selection of craft beers
As well as continuing the unctuous cheese toasties (with Neil’s Yard Dairy cheese and Bread Station sourdough), a selection of seasonal small plates has been added to the menu.
Crate Brewery, Hackney Wick – for beer and pizza
If you love beer and you love pizza, Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick is the best place to visit. The stone-baked pizzas are topped with unusual ingredients including a veggie Kashmiri dal and a middle eastern lamb.
As you’d expect, beer is a real focus. Each week there’s a selection of guest bottles from a fruity brown ale to a dark Indian pale ale as well as regular casks and kegs of zingy lemon gose, velvety Crate stout and a crisp Crate cider.
GIANT STEPS, Hackney Wick – for summer al fresco vibes
New for 2018, GIANT STEPS is a food, drink and music residency in east London’s Hackney Wick. Set up by Brilliant Corners and Analogue Foundation, the al fresco waterside terrace will see Morito, Brawn and Brilliant Corners cooking BBQ feasts throughout the summer.
There’ll be a selection of natural wines and summery cocktails including white negronis and mezcal margaritas to sip on sunny days.
Scout Bar, Hackney Central – for contemporary cocktails
Launched by Matt Whiley (the man behind Bethnal Green’s Peg + Patriot), this contemporary space with lots of natural wood and rendered concrete walls is dedicated to cocktails made using only fresh produce from the British Isles.
Seasonality underpins the menu with a dedication to foraging and minimising waste, and so, depending on what’s available, you’ll find drinks such as strawberry (strawberry, lemon balm, vinegar), rhubarb (fermented rhubarb, custard, pine) and beetroot (beetroot, chocolate husk, rye) alongside five house ferments, five beers and a small selection of natural wines.
In the basement, you’ll find the Laboratory, a 10-seat private area featuring a menu of drinks that the team are developing in real time.
Words by Laura Rowe, Mark Taylor, Ellie Edwards, Alex Crossley, Clare Maguire
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