Hackney, Hackney, Hackney. Remember when everyone was talking about you being full of dickheads? Well, that’s over now. We’re in a post-dickhead time. Kind of. Yet, Hackney is still cool. The kind of cool that you hate but still enjoy. And during all this love/hate business, great new restaurants have continued to open, or old-timers have continued to serve brilliant food, all on a pretty much incomparable scale to any other borough in London. Here’s our guide to best places to eat around Hackney, from Mare Street, down to the Hackney Road, and around Victoria Park.
N.B. We have separate guides if you’re looking to eat around Dalston, Stoke Newington or Clapton, and if you can’t understand why there aren’t any Shoreditch restaurants here, that’s because Shoreditch is also important enough to merit its own guide.
A takeaway-only spot that you’ll find yourself taking away from repeatedly, Dom’s Subs - coming out of Lanark Coffee on the Hackney Road - make killer sandwiches with an Argos catalogue amount of filling. The insides range from mortadella, bresaola, and more cold cuts, to Thai ground chicken, or tenderstem broccoli with confit garlic, and other marinated vegetables. While the vehicle is a freshly baked, soft but crisp sub. Together, you have a handful of the best kind.
Tomi’s Kitchen is a restaurant on Morning Lane making hearty West African food to eat in or takeaway. It’s an excellent spot for a quick and delicious lunch or dinner, and stopping in here for a plate of stewed beef with jollof rice, beans, and plantain is always a good idea. The suya is decent and there are other staples like efo-riro and ayamase stew too. If you’re going rice-heavy, just make sure you get a decent ladle of fried tomato and also chilli sauce. Together they’re the perfect mix of savoury, salt, spice, and all that other stuff food programmes on Netflix talk about.
Arguably the definitive East End caf, these days E. Pellicci manages to juggle being both a tourist destination for those seeking a glorious, coronary-inducing fry up (featuring both bubble ’n squeak and hash browns) of the most English variety, and those who have been coming here for donkeys. Though probably not since it opened in 1900. If you’re looking for a more low-key experience in terms of busyness, come in the week. Though Nevio (owner, son, front of house) and his family always make sure Pellicci’s is a lively place to be.
My Neighbours The Dumplings, alert the press, specialises in dumplings, and they are absolutely what you should be spending 20-odd quid on for dinner if you’re around Victoria Park. Or a bit more if you fancy some sake too. The prawn har gau and pork and prawn siu mai are essentials: plump and packed, like a carry-on suitcase with a month’s worth of clothes inside. Plus they’re only £5 a portion. It’s walk-in only, but there are plenty of pubs within stepping distance for before or after.
Bánh Mì Hội-An is a tiny Vietnamese café 30-seconds from Hackney Central that makes big, extremely satisfying, bánh mì that we enjoy so much we wrote a love letter to one. It’s takeaway only and whichever option you go for, you’ll find that the char siu is sweet, the pork belly chunky, and the bread itself is the perfect equilibrium between soft and chewy and crisp and flaky. There are other things on the menu too, like noodle salads and phở. Both are perfectly decent, but it’s the bánh mì you should be focused on.
This is Pophams second location and the café, bakery and dinner-time pasta spot is perfectly Hackney-fied. You could easily turn up at their whitewashed space for a techno night on Friday, only to find they’re serving delicate and delicious handmade cappellacci, and be back happily munching bacon and maple pastries come Sunday.
Mao Chow is a tiny Chinese spot on Mare Street making some of the tastiest vegan food in London. Their sesame dan dan noodles, complete with soy mince and spicy sauce, are tastier than meat versions we’ve had elsewhere, while their handmade dumplings and vegetable dishes are never lacking a strong kick of chilli. The space is walk-in only, though squeeze-in would be more accurate. FYI, it’s cash-only.
Bright is P. Franco’s younger sibling. The one who’s been travelling and comes back wanting to do everything their cool older sibling does but bigger. And with bookings. The good news is that Bright is every bit as superb as P. Franco, and the bad news is nothing. The food is terrific, the service is that unique blend of Australian humour, incredible wine, and the menu changes daily which means there’s no reason not to go back day or night.
Every Sunday the world and its dog descends on Columbia Road to have “a pahnd a pot” shouted at them whilst they shuffle up and down the flower market gripping a 3ft fern like a pillow on a hangover. After this, most people go to the pub, but really they should be going to Brawn. It’s a confident and casual sharing plates restaurant where you can just as easily come here for a lazy lunch with a friend, polish off a carafe alongside some oysters, ravioli, and the inevitable tiramisu order, as you can do the same with a date, or your dad.
Unless you’re the kind of person who pops to the shop in a Ferrari and boils their pasta in a pot full of Voss water, then you probably don’t think of tasting menus as particularly good value. So it’s a welcome surprise to find that Casa Fofó, a casual Hackney tasting menu restaurant, offers both good value and a good atmosphere. Their seven courses change daily, and at £39 for the whole lot, that works out to just over a fiver a course. Not bad. Especially as some of the food here is very good. It makes for an excellent date night that’s out the norm, at a fairly normal price.
Turns out London is really good at Italian restaurants, and Campania is one of the best around. Its picturesque setting off Columbia Road and old dairy shopfront makes it seem like someone made a Campania filter for your phone camera, optimised for cobbles, candlelight, and pasta. The food here is good though, particularly the pappardelle and the gnocchi, and it pretty much suits any intimate occasion. If you can get a booking.
Peg is proudly one of Hackney’s most Hackney restaurants. It’s got everything you could theoretically sneer about: plants, a terrazzo counter, vinyls, beaujolais on tap, pastel-coloured crockery, and also some of the best food in London. Always remember, you can’t chew if you’re sneering. The food is Japanese-inspired yakitori and small plates. Yes, it’s meat on a stick. It’s also the best meat on a stick you’re likely to eat in London. Unless you’ve worked out a way of sticking ragu on a skewer. This place screams cool date. It also screams order the entire menu.
n.b. Peg is currently closed.
We’re here for a good time, not a long time. So, frankly, our heart probably isn’t laughing considering we eat twelve meals a day, but places like the Laughing Heart on Hackney Road make it worth it. This late-night wine bar and restaurant is the place to go for a good time. The small plates menu is constantly changing but usually has a few gems, and the service is extremely friendly when it comes to making a wine choice.
In our mind Bistrotheque is one of the original ‘trendy’ Hackney restaurants, even though the pedants amongst us say it’s just across the border in Tower Hamlets. The fact it’s still going strong shows that they know exactly what they’re doing. And more importantly, they’re good at it. This all-white warehouse is equally lovely on a bright day, or for an evening with your better half. Food-wise it’s modern European, whatever that means, so you can get anything from posh fish and chips to steak tartare. The days of it being the hippest place in town have long gone and that’s probably for the best.
An excellent option for when you want to get some good food late on, Lardo is an easy choice for a last-minute date night or catching up with a couple of mates. It’s primarily a pizza place, but there are salads and specials that are good too. If you want to spend less than twenty quid in a buzzy but intimate atmosphere, then this is a very reliable choice. It gets pretty busy for both brunch and dinner so it’s best to book unless you head there later on.
One of the trailblazers of small plates eating with their original Exmouth Market location, Morito has continued doing what they do best on the Hackney Road. It’s one of our favourite places to eat in London: the tapas approach means that you can keep going if you aren’t satisfied, or just have a few bits and bobs. The menu changes, but it’s hard to go wrong. Roast quail, seafood rice, any croquette and cheese fritters are favourites. Oh, and roast cauliflower salad. You’ll be happy whatever. Room-wise, sitting at the counter is perfect for a couple, or bring any friends or family you want to modestly impress.
The pizza at Martello Hall is not just your usual slap, bang four-cheese situation. The Green God (roast squash, beetroot, broccoli, ricotta, kale and pistachio pesto pizza) is excellent. And sure, some of the other dishes might not be revolutionary, but on a Friday night the food here will start tasting real good, real quick. They’ve also got you covered for the morning after, with a £25 bottomless brunch, a roof terrace, and enough mimosas to keep you feeling classy.
A daytime butchers and nighttime restaurant, H&S is a good little place if you get a hankering for a bit of meat. It’s a very nice atmosphere, thanks to the fact you’re all sharing one big marble island, and there are artfully hung bits of meat here and there. Maybe less so the latter but it’s fun. The menu is brief: starters, meat, sides. The main attraction is very nice but there isn’t too much going on otherwise. That said, it’s a good place for a catch-up with friends, unless they’re vegetarian.
The definition of a gastropub has broadened in the last couple of decades. What was initially defined by lamb shank and creamy mash has grown into something else where you’ve got more chance of getting a celeriac crisp than a salt and vinegar one. It’s hard to say whether these are really pubs. Actually it isn’t. They’re not. The Marksman is part of the this pub-not-pub thing. Whatever it is, it makes some seriously delicious food. This is classic British grub done good. Enormous pies to share, crispy skin duck breast, brown butter tarts. This is a restaurant that looks like a pub and we are very into it.