Roll out the bar­rel

Mar­kets, pubs and mu­se­ums in a hip his­toric bor­ough

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - ZOE DELEUIL

PAS­TORAL PAUSE: Lon­don Fields is Hack­ney’s most pop­u­lar pic­nic spot and a leafy thor­oughf fare for get­ting from one place to an­other. Once a graz­ing stop for live­stock on their way to Smith­field Mar­ket, it’s now an in­ter­na­tional hip­ster mag­net on sunny week­ends, and an es­sen­tial green space for lo­cal kids year round. The decked ter­race of Pub in the Park is a per­fect spot to take in views of the cricket and the pass­ing fashion pa­rade, a pint of ale or a Pimm’s in hand. The re­stored 1940s Lon­don Fields Lido, a 50m open-air heated pool, has queues out the door in sum­mer, but a swim in the cooler months is a lovely way to burn off a pub lunch, with steam ris­ing off the water and bare plane trees and grey skies. More: pub­on­thep­ark.com.

FINE FARE: Hack­ney has two well-known mar­kets fall­ing at ei­ther end of the price spec­trum, f from truf­fled mush­rooms on sour­dough to pound-a-bowl Bram­ley ap­ples. Broad­way Mar­ket runs every Satur­day, with plenty of stalls to gather fare be­fore find­ing a patch of grass in Lon­don Fields. Ri­d­ley Road is the more tra­di­tional Lon­don mar­ket ex­pe­ri­ence — loud, bright and cheap. The cav­ernous Dal­ston Mill Fab­rics is pop­u­lar with fashion stu­dents, and in sum­mer, don’t miss cheap boxes of In­dian man­goes and pa­per bags of English cher­ries. For fast snacks, there’s a 24-hour bagel shop or the Turk­ish Food Cen­tre, where you can buy warm flat­bread, baklava, hum­mus and freshly baked lah­ma­cun, a rolled Turk­ish pizza. More: broad­way­mar­ket.co.uk; ri­d­ley­road.co.uk; dal­ston­mill­fab­rics.co.uk

CUR­TAIN UP: Hack­ney Em­pire, a grand 1901 mu­sic hall on Mare Street, is now a busy theatre i in the heart of the bor­ough. The clas­si­cal in­te­rior of gold-leaf painted pan­els and rich red vel­vet cur­tains of­fers an at­mo­spheric set­ting for a hec­tic sched­ule of pan­tomimes, plays, mu­sic, com­edy, opera and even po­etry read­ings. The Stage 3 bar and cafe is a lively spot for a drink while ad­mir­ing the wedd­ing par­ties that spill out of the reg­istry of­fice and on to the steps of Hack­ney Town Hall for pho­tos. Theatre lovers may also like to check out the Ar­cola, an­other lo­cal theatre that prides it­self on sup­port­ing emerg­ing tal­ent as well as more es­tab­lished names. More: hack­neyem­pire.co.uk; ar­co­lathe­atre.com.

TARRYT IN THE TU­DOR: For a taste of the bor­ough when it was a coun­try re­treat for wellh heeled Lon­don­ers, stroll through St John at Hack­ney’s pretty church gar­dens to Sut­ton House, a Na­tional Trust prop­erty built in 1535 by one of Henry VIII’s courtiers, Sir Ralph Sadler. The Tu­dor red-brick ex­te­rior, wood-pan­elled rooms and vast fire­places give it a stately pres­ence on Homer­ton High Street, with mu­rals from the 1980s re­flect­ing its more re­cent his­tory as an il­licit mu­sic venue and squat. The court­yard and cafe are peace­ful places to soak up the hushed at­mos­phere of this 500-year-old build­ing, and there’s a sec­ond-hand book­shop and clas­sic Na­tional Trust gift shop. Sut­ton House hosts a di­verse range of events, from “herb sup­pers’’ to hat-mak­ing work­shops and chil­dren’s theatre, so it’s worth check­ing the web­site and plan­ning your visit ac­cord­ingly. More: na­tion­al­trust.org.uk/sut­ton­house.

BE­LIEVE IT OR NOT: The Vik­tor Wynd Museum of Cu­riosi­ties on Mare Street is not for the faint­hearted.h The Lon­don home of the First Tues­day So­ci­ety, an ec­cen­tric or­gan­i­sa­tion with a fo­cus on Vic­to­rian arts, taxi­dermy, the oc­cult and gin, there are ex­hi­bi­tions and a cock­tail bar on the ground floor and in the base­ment, a ma­cabre col­lec­tion of an­tiques and cu­riosi­ties de­pict­ing an “in­co­her­ent vi­sion of the world”, in­clud­ing two-headed stuffed kit­tens, ex­tinct bird feath­ers and spooky toys, all pre­sented with very black humour. More: the­lasttues­dayso­ci­ety.org.

SENDS IN THE CLOWNS: An an­nual ser­vice, held at All Saints Church Hack­ney on the first Sun­day i in Fe­bru­ary at 3pm, com­mem­o­rates the life of English clown and en­ter­tainer Joseph Grimaldi, and has be­come some­thing of an in­ter­na­tional me­dia event in re­cent years. Clowns, many elderly, ap­pear in cos­tume and per­form af­ter­wards. Not ideal for those who fear clowns, but a strangely mov­ing spec­ta­cle none­the­less. Though not strictly in Hack­ney, if you have small chil­dren in tow, a visit to the East End is in­com­plete with­out a noisy af­ter­noon at the V&A Museum of Child­hood in Beth­nal Green. The doll houses on the first floor are a fas­ci­nat­ing mi­cro­cosm of Lon­don life, rang­ing from in­tri­cate Vic­to­rian ter­races once played with by princesses, to open-plan 60s homes de­signed for com­mu­nal play. More: clownsin­ter­na­tional.com; vam.ac.uk/moc.

HOW SWEET: Vi­o­let Cakes is a lit­tle cor­ner of Cal­i­for­nia in a white­washed build­ing on Wil­ton W Way. Owner Claire Ptak trained with Alice Wa­ters at Chez Panisse, in Cal­i­for­nia, and her cook­ing is a cel­e­bra­tion of sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, from poached quince to fresh English berries. The counter is piled with her cre­ations, in­clud­ing rye brown­ies, peaty ginger and mo­lasses cake, and tiny cup­cakes topped with vi­brant fresh fruit ic­ings. News­pa­pers, pots of strong tea and toasted sand­wiches of sour­dough and Neal’s Yard cheese make this a mem­o­rable yet af­ford­able spot for lunch. The Vi­o­let Bak­ery Cook­book fea­tures many pho­to­graphs of the area, along­side Ptak’s de­tailed recipes, mak­ing it a won­der­ful gift. More: vi­o­let­cakes.com.

DIN­ING DI­VER­SITY: Hack­ney’s restau­rants re­flect the area’s mul­ti­cul­tural char­ac­ter as well as i its new­found hip­ster iden­tity, with pop-up eater­ies, small craft brew­eries and or­ganic bak­eries squeezed into rail­way arches and re­stored shopfronts. For re­li­ably good Turk­ish food, Man­gal 1 on Ar­cola Street is busy but worth the wait, serv­ing meat and fish from its ocak­basi bar­be­cue, which heats the room nicely in win­ter, along­side crisp rocket salad and pita bread. Bistrotheque, lo­cated down a cob­bled lane off Mare Street, is a ram­bling, dimly lit cabaret bar and restau­rant in a con­verted cloth­ing fac­tory. An es­tab­lished Hack­ney clas­sic, it serves French bistro food and a good-value prix fixe menu, as well as week­end brunches. Buen Ayre is a tightly packed Ar­gen­tinian restau­rant with steaks served on table­top par­ril­lada grills, ac­com­pa­nied by glasses of Mal­bec. And for some­thing a lit­tle more rus­tic, the Hack­ney City Farm’s cafe, Friz­zante, is a barn of a room with some out­door seat­ing in the gar­dens and a black­board menu of home-style Ital­ian food, Sun­day roasts and big break­fasts, as well as even­ing agro­tur­ismo events in sum­mer; th­ese are mel­low af­fairs with live mu­sic and Ital­ian wine. The area’s many pubs also serve ex­cel­lent food; pop­u­lar choices are The Prince Arthur and The Spurstowe Arms, both close to Lon­don Fields. More: man­gal1.com; bistrotheque.com; bue­nayre.net; friz­zan­te­cafe.com; thep­rincearthur­lon­don­fields.co.uk; thes­purstowearms.com.

BOU­TIQUE BUYS: Run­ning be­tween Re­gent’s Canal and Lon­don Fields, Broad­way Mar­ket and i its sur­rounds are home to many in­de­pen­dent shops sell­ing lo­cal crafts, vin­tage homewares, books and clothes. The Broad­way Book­shop stocks a wide se­lec­tion by the bor­ough’s myr­iad au­thors, who of­ten drop in for even­ing read­ings. The East Lon­don Design Store is good for prints and jew­ellery. And be sure to ad­mire the dar­ing flo­ral ar­range­ments at ac­claimed Lon­don florist Rebel Rebel, which sources ex­quis­ite English blooms from small grow­ers. More: broad­way­book­shophack­ney.co.uk; re­bel­rebel.co.uk; east­lon­don­de­sign­store.com.

Hip­ster hang­out Lon­don Fields, top; full house at the Hack­ney Em­pire, above left; Broad­way Mar­ket, above right; clown at the an­nual All Saints Church ser­vice to com­mem­o­rate en­ter­tainer Joseph Grimaldi, be­low

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