Those can be some of the areas that resonate with you think of trendy, cool London. These hot spots are full of life and their bustling bar and restaurant scene can be likened to being steroids, there is simply so much going on and it can sometimes overwhelm you. But you want to take a break from all of that, go and venture to London’s new ‘It’ zone – the Borough of Hackney. Apart from the fact it is a hit with the creatives and hipsters alike, this zone, featuring popular areas Hoxton, Haggerston and Shoreditch, is much more relaxed from the mayhem of the those converted areas yet they are vibrant, refreshing and all around fun!
East Side Represent – I am here? What do I do?
First of all, you need to head over between Regent’s Canal (yep London has plenty of them) and London Fields and visit one of London’s finest weekend food markets, Broadway Market.
Broadway Market is a hive of activity come Saturday. Located in Haggerston along the strip baring the same name, the street is closed off during the day and is overpopulated with gourmet street food vendors, independent artists showcasing their goods, trinkets, vintage clothes and fresh food from independent producers. While you make the rounds, you will be treated to the numerous buskers that set up shop and belt out their original music to patrons walking by. The homegrown talents certainly add to the vivacious atmosphere and capture the overall essence and colour of the day.
Whilst Sunday strolling down the street (or should I say Saturday), there is so much to take in. If the weather is pleasant enough and we all know that London weather is a fickle one, kick back on a sun chair adorning one of the side streets right by pop up cafes whilst people watching trendy Londoner’s passing by. Treat your taste buds to what it seems like the great wide world of cuisines served up within metres from one an another. While one store serves up the festive flavours of the Caribbean cuisine, the next serves up the old German faithful bratwurst. How could you possibly not suffer from being completely gluttonous when everything dished up is made up of high quality ingredients and looks so good. If you are not an indecisive soul already, your visit to Broadway Market will possibly make one out of you due to its abundant food options.
Local haunts along the strip also get in on the Saturday street fair and are heaving with people in and outside their doors. These markets bring out a real sense of community. Isn’t it fantastic to see so many people simply slowing down and enjoying the simple things in life without spending copious amounts of money. Now this is the London I love and screams out what life should really be made of. Good food, street beats and positive vibes.
So after I do the rounds (its’ usually more than one since I love admiring the food from afar) of the markets and deciding on where to spend my 10 quid – likened to a kid spending all their pocket money – I return to my old my favourite stall, the French themed ‘The Frenchie.’
Here I am served up some French street food at its’ finest. Picture this; a brioche bun packed with shredded duck conflict and topped with melted goat cheese drizzled with truffle honey and garnished with crackling. Now doesn’t make your mouth froth?
So after purchasing my goods, I head over to the famed London Fields which is just steps from the market itself. Come a beautiful sunny day, this place is packed with families and 20-somethings milling over disposable BBQs, picnics and cheeky people selling the controversial laughing gas balloons. It is akin to how packed a beach would be on a nice sunny day – oh how I miss an Australian summer – for the beach of course! It is all around a great vibe at London Fields.
I Just Want to Chill by the Bar…..
Its a bar, a nightclub, an art gallery, a theatre, a performance space…oh will you ever leave the place? The Queen of Hoxton reigns supreme with its rooftop bar offering. Its funky and its fresh. Smokin’ Graciela’s Roof Top bar is a place where you would just want to chill all day in the sun. Set in a colourful environment, the bar itself looks like it should belong at the beach with its’ Cuban inspired hut. The rooftop wooden decking itself is partly covered in fake grass to create a backyard feeling with wooden tables propped up by barrels. The best part? Half of a blue convertible car acts centerpiece at the entrance. This place screams good times!
If it is a particularly a nice day in London, expect long queues by the bar. A worthy mention is that if you around Monday night, head over to the main bar down stairs and be treated to a ukulele workshop night where people collectively sing together (don’t worry if you have a bad voice as it will be amongst many) and strum away on their small cords. How I love how anything really goes in London!
Snack on This!
This is a Brick Lane institution and quite possibly the best street food this area has to offer. Forget the 2am kebab or a fatty cheap burger, Beigel Bake is open 24 hours a day and baking around the clock. Established in 1977, this low fair bagel shop is famous for its freshly baked bagels and sweets that are dirt cheap and lip smacking! Snaked queues are a common sight, but don’t worry they move quick! Also, how can you not pop in after seeing the shopfront display showcasing its’ ‘hot out of the oven’ corned beef being sliced away and shoved in a bagel which is overflowing and topped with mustard. Literally salivating this while I write this. A must!
I Just Need a Cup of Cawfee
My favourite small yet hip and cosy coffee joint in the area is Brick Lane Coffee. Friendly staff, funky premises and great raw desserts on offer. I’m especially appreciative of the black and white Spice Girls picture hovering over the bathroom door – it takes me back to my 90s bedroom homely touches. Always great indie tunes playing and really, a perfect place to unwind with its’ couches and chilled vibes.
Think Outside the Box
Box Park is what makes London cool; a shopping and entertainment complex all housed in shipping containers, how very trendy and chic indeed. This two storey complex comprises of niche and independent designer labels, niche bargain bites and local outlets make this a place where you come and get inspired. For special events, plonk yourself on a deck chair be entertained with what live action is happening on its’ big TV screens outside.
Join the Ultimate Club
Part of a chain located throughout London, The Breakfast Club, is the place to enjoy the perfect brunch. Its like you step back in time with its colourful decor against black and white titled floors and retro furniture to that make this joint a hipster heaven. The food options are plentiful of course but as the name suggests, its’ specialty is breakfast. Think of this as a fine dining option to the generic American breakfast. There is also burgers and other delicious (yet not so nutritious) goods on offer. Lip smacking times ahoy – just brace yourself for the crowds come weekend so get in here quick!
More Markets? I’m In!
Shoreditch is like the centre piece of cool in the Hackney area. It also home to one of the most popular food markets in London, the Brick Lane Market which stretches along most of the main drag of Shoreditch baring the same name. A weekend fixture, the Brick Lane Market has much more food options than Broadway Market and with that said, crowds are bigger here also. There is plenty to see and do around the area including shopping at independent stores, treasure hunting at one of the reasonably priced vintage stores and checking out record stores including the famous Rough Trade store.
Located along the banks of the canal, The Proud Archivist it is a great place to enjoy a coffee, tea or a sneaky drink. It is a little on the pricey side but it certainly makes up for it by its relaxed, open airy atmosphere and its quaint location along the water. Just a fun fact, Russell Brand does his rehearsals here for his stand up shows and if your lucky, you may be able score a ticket if you get in early!
Few! That was just a long weekend of exploring Hackney. From the drinking, the eating and the shopping….it’s like a village you will never want to leave. And I don’t.
Please see below for the nitty gritty details of each place mentioned: