In a cool neighbourhood full of cool people doing cool things with food, it’s difficult to find the standout spots to eat. There is so much creative culinary endeavour going on in Hackney right now that it’s hard to know where to start.
The East End’s long history as a cultural melting pot plus the revitalisation seen in recent years has resulted in, amongst other things, an exciting restaurant scene which offers high-end dining, low-key hole-in-the-walls and everything in between. Great news for foodies, bad news for your bank balance and terrible news for anyone trying to answer the perennial “where shall we eat tonight?” question in any sort of sensible time frame.
We’ve sourced some top Hackney restaurant picks from our local insiders – and thrown a couple of our own into the mix – for those feeling overwhelmed by choice. Take a look, then make that booking…
Seasonal small-plate restaurants might be a dime a dozen right now, but Bright really is something special. Sure, it ticks all the on-trend industrial-chic boxes, but it’s Bright’s welcoming atmosphere and real ‘neighbourhood restaurant’ vibe that elevates it from the aloof coolness that so many of its contemporaries fall into. East London legends William Gleave and Giuseppe Belvedere head up the kitchen and create beautifully produce-centred dishes that allow the flavours to speak for themselves. If you’re all about the ingredients, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee
Trends have been, gone and come back round over the 20-odd years that Turkish restaurant Mangal Ocakbasi has been open. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the length of the queue out the door – attesting to the restaurant’s time-tested recipes and welcoming service. It’s no mystery as to why Mangal Ocakbasi has remained so popular over the years. Stews, mezzes and deliciously succulent grilled meat kebabs, cooked on a traditional open charcoal ocakbasi grill, await you as you walk in. You’ll quickly fall in love with this busy, smoky hole-in-the-wall. May it last for 20 years more.
Cramped and convivial, Peg’s unpretentious decor and yakitori-inspired grill menu make for an unforgettable eating-out experience. As part of P Franco’s small-but-punchy culinary empire, there’s a big focus on seasonality and simplicity. Prices are incredibly reasonable, too, particularly for the location and style of food – suffice to say, Hackney plus market-driven produce doesn’t normally come cheap. À la carte dishes start from £4, and punters can enjoy an excellent-value £15 set menu for lunch – the perfect way to sample some of Peg’s most exquisite flavour concoctions. Recommended by local insiders Josh Lee and Chiara Miele
Looking for deliciously prepared Chinese dumplings, but don’t feel like battling through the hordes of Soho tourists? Family-run My Neighbours The Dumplings has locations in Lower Clapton and Victoria Park Village and is the local go-to for dim sum-style dining. Interiors are modern and fun whilst remaining relaxed – the only issue you’ll experience is trying to decide what to have from the consistently mouth-watering sharing plates on offer. Each site also has a sake bar attached, so showing up a little early to sample a sake-based cocktail or two is definitely a good idea. Recommended by local insider Olivia Dicker
Around the corner from Columbia Road and its famous Sunday flower market sits Brawn – a refreshingly un-gimmicky small-plate restaurant that’s about the food, and nothing but the food. Its modern European menu offers elegance and sophistication. In place of fussily plated dishes and over-formality, expect a no-frills interior with friendly service. For high-end food without the stuffiness, look no further than Brawn – the restaurant’s extensive and natural/organics-focused wine list is a real treat for the palate, too. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee
Hackney’s premier wine bar doubles up as a stylish seasonal food joint. Head chef Tom Anglesea creates contemporary British menu options that draw inspiration from flavours from all over the world. Expect combos like Cornish cod with Jersey royals and nori, Sichuan crème brûlée, and pig’s head terrine with Chinese mustard. The service is warm, friendly and extremely knowledgeable, which is particularly useful when trying to decide which of the extensive list of artisanal, independent wine options you should choose to pair with your meal. Recommended by local insider Olivia Dicker
Andu Café takes pride in being “the only restaurant in London that specialises in traditional Ethiopian vegan food.” If you’re looking to experience unique cuisine in the heart of Dalston, this is the perfect place to get started. Everything is super laid-back, from its BYOB policy to its cash-only payment, and you can walk in with whatever you happen to be wearing at the time. What’s more, with Andu Café’s tasty mains starting at an extremely reasonable £6, it’s the perfect spot to tingle your taste buds without breaking the bank. Recommended by local insider Huda Awan
Casa Fofò offers fantastic high-end dining at affordable prices | Courtesy of Casa Fofò
High-end dining at affordable prices sets Casa Fofò apart from similar-style eateries. As a set menu-only restaurant, it makes for a perfect evening out for adventurous eaters who like to push their palates with new ingredients and flavour combos. Their creative eight-course tasting menu varies each day, and always incorporates seasonal, locally sourced produce, and the £39-per-head price point makes Casa Fofò accessible to a wider audience than most comparable fine-dining options. Expect a European-inspired menu spiced up with flavours from more far-flung corners, accompanied by a first-rate wine list. Recommended by local insider Olivia Dicker
Housed in a refurbished warehouse with a big focus on sustainability, Silo embodies everything that’s innovative and fun about the East End’s fine-dining scene. There’s a laudable effort to keep everything zero waste here, from their nose-to-tail and make-in-house philosophies (they churn their own butter) to the decor and cutlery made from recycled plastic waste. Silo is open Tuesday to Saturday evenings for a six-course tasting menu (no à la carte options here) and offers an upscale brunch menu on the weekends. If you’re after an occasion restaurant with a twist, look no further. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee
These recommendations were updated on June 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.