Best restaurants in Hackney

Looking for a restaurant in Hackney? We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to, and compiled a handy list of the best. Whatever your budget or taste, SquareMeal is here to help, with a selection of the best restaurants for every occasion. Read on for our pick of the best restaurants in Hackney. 

Updated on 07 August 2018

Earth Kitchen

Earth Kitchen

11-17 Stoke Newington Road, London, London, N16 8BH

You’ll find this all-day restaurant on the first floor of multi-use space Evolutionary Arts Hackney, a former art-deco cinema which is now primarily used as a concert venue. Interiors see a mixture of midnight blue table tops and light wood chairs, while hanging lights which could pass for an art installation and house plants lining the walls serve as a reminder that you’re in Hackney.

Although the name makes Earth Kitchen sound like it is run by a bunch of back-to-nature hippies, the restaurant in fact has some serious chef pedigree. Heading up the kitchen is Chris Gillard, who was formerly executive chef of the much-feted St John Group.

Much like St John, the menu here sees simple, classic dishes made with best-of-British produce and a sprinkling of expert skill. The offering changes seasonally, but on our visit we enjoyed the likes of a nicely charred Welsh rarebit toastie, and a medley of soft cauliflower florets, leek shavings and silky butter beans. To round off your meal, try a heavenly ginger pudding which arrives steaming and filled with stickiness, or keep it simple with the delightfully tart and impressively creamy blood orange sorbet.

Earth Kitchen isn’t trendy or flashy, but its use of high-quality produce is evident in its dishes, all of which are fairly priced. Head here for a casual meal or take advantage of the small but perfectly formed ‘pre-show’ menu.

Under £30
British
Cornerstone

Cornerstone

3 Prince Edward Road, London, E9 5LX

When a chef with a background in Michelin-starred kitchens chooses a location for a solo debut, Hackney Wick is unlikely to top the list – but it has for Tom Brown. The former head chef at Outlaw’s at The Capital has sited Cornerstone, his thrilling new small-plates venture, just a few minutes’ walk from the railway station among a little group of recently developed retail spaces.

Don’t be disheartened by the locality: there’s ample space for diners, and the vibe in the restaurant is cool, with black tabletops, retro wicker chairs and black walls (complete with requisite scribbles). Mercifully, the place avoids crossing over into hipster-satire territory thanks to the friendly young team at the helm. Guests are greeted by the central dining counter, behind which you’re likely to find Brown beavering away. Unsurprisingly, given the chef’s pedigree, his regularly changing menu champions seafood. The run of small plates we sampled, served in terracotta tapas dishes, were exceptional.

Our bubbly waitress recommended eight plates between two and the meal kicked off with a pair of sensational oysters, pickled for two hours in gherkin vinegar and served with a subtle horseradish cream. Next up, a mound of juicy potted shrimps arrived piled high on a warm crumpet, soaked with shrimp butter that melted into the holes. A perfectly cooked strip of succulent bream followed, elevated to luxury by hidden chunks of lobster and saffron. Desserts, too, are a force to be reckoned with. A light, fluffy pistachio cake with vanilla cream and a sticky mess of raspberries preceded a heavenly peach crumble well worth the 20-minute wait time: its crispy top layer breaking to reveal tangy cubes of fresh peach, completed by a dollop of cream and hints of lemon.

The drinks list provides admirable back-up, informed by on-trend cocktails and classy European wines, but prices as a whole can add up (£10 desserts are rare in Hackney Wick), and some diners might consider Cornerstone rather out of the way. Nevertheless, this is an accomplished, exciting debut from one of the capital’s most promising chefs – we can’t wait to see what Brown does next.

£50 - £79
Fish
The Prince Arthur

The Prince Arthur

95 Forest Road, London, London, E8 3BH

Andy Bird has snapped up this handsome mid-Victorian Hackney hostelry, introducing subtle decorative tweaks and updates that make for a belting backstreet boozer worthy of wider acclaim. Bird’s track record – co-owner of irrepressible Hoxton cocktail joint Happiness Forgets, saviour of The Chesham Arms – bodes well for the Prince. A fine range of hoppy worthies also helps: Belgian-inspired Bristolian brewer Lost and Grounded’s Running With Spectres perhaps, or The Five Points Brewing Co from a roster of local heroes on rotation. Sensibly priced classic and modern pub food is served in the cosy, convivial saloon. For three months from December 2017 (pending the arrival of the in-house chef), Rita’s Dining fires up the stoves with dishes that typify future plans: hearty French onion soup or Jerusalem artichoke, pumpkin, curds and pecans to start; mains of roast cod with burnt leeks and butter sauce or chicken parmigiana in a rich tomato sauce.

 

Pubs
The Elephant

The Elephant's Head

43 Lower Clapton Road, London, E5 0NS

Its original name readopted, this 1890s Clapton survivor will feel familiar to those who knew it pre-2018 as The Bonneville. The ownership remains the same, as generally does the look of the dimly lit bar and dining room: all Dickensian decrepitude. Cocktails such as El Chapo (a mezcal, Tequila and ginger Margarita), or (vodka) Grapefruit Julep are fair – and a dozen craft-beer worthies will suit most tastes. To eat, order bar snacks of wild boar Scotch egg with piccalilli, or Titanic stout and Westcombe Cheddar Welsh rarebit. Alternatively, tuck into keenly priced British pub grub such as cod cheeks in plump fried puffs with chips. Our pudding of light, creamy, rhubarb crumble was slightly bland, but a chestnut and squash nut roast, and perfectly pink shorthorn beef, were stars of the bottomless Sunday roast menu.

Pubs
Rawduck

Rawduck

197 Richmond Road, London, E8 3NJ

Circumstances beyond its control forced tiny Rawduck to move from Hackney Central to a more capacious home near London Fields. Now a happy addition to the food cluster at the Arthaus building (Lardo’s a neighbour), this café-bar has grown not only in size but also in stature. It’s a confident venture that goes all out to specialise in natural wines – the funkier the better – drinking vinegars and ferments. The scattergun global menu is slightly discombobulating (sub-headings include ‘pickles, salts and smokes’ and ‘milk by the gram’), and the kitchen’s powerful style brings together flavours that shouldn’t by rights belong on the same plate. Miso carrots and nori, pressed anchovy toasts, grilled aubergines with ponzu and (the weakest link) a raw duck ‘ceviche’ of sorts with orange and chilli was an oddball assortment, but assertively seasoned and well-paced. The concrete-heavy interior is very chic, though communal tables won’t be for everyone.

£30 - £49
International
Lardo

Lardo

The Arthaus, Richmond Road, Hackney, London, E8 3NJ

“Cheap, cool and fun”, Lardo has a new recruit in the kitchen: ex-Spuntino chef Rachel O’Sullivan – but fans of this on-the-pulse pizzeria-trattoria can rest assured that little else has changed. The fire-breathing oven still churns out exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza, and the open kitchen sings proudly of the seasons. For a quick bite, the signature lardo and egg pizza with a Negroni or homemade soda should do the trick, but it’s worth enlisting like-minded friends to give the menu (and modern Italophile wine list) a proper going over. Dip in to small plates, secondi, snacks and salads: for example, leeks with creamy cod’s roe and almonds; mackerel with cucumber, samphire and borage; or a generous tangle of buttery tagliatelle concealing the plumpest fresh girolles. To finish, try homemade gelato or snappy cannoli. Rooftop bar and sister venue, Coppa, pops up nearby each summer.

£30 - £49
Italian
Peg

Peg

120 Morning Lane, London, London, E9 6LH

From the team behind the now-closed Legs, comes Peg (see what they did there?), a casual wine bar and restaurant. Peg is very much a product of its time, which means it won’t be to everyone’s taste – this is a frenetic, no-frills experience set in a minimalist room where all of the ‘tables’ are actually just dining counters equipped with high stools. Needless to say, Peg is no reservations, and there’s not a trace of the daily changing menu to be found online.

But Peg will be a revelation for anyone who enjoys bang-up-to-date dining, to say nothing of bold flavours. In place of sushi and sashimi, the Japanese food instead majors in fermenting, pickling and grilled yakitori skewers (liver and heart, mackerel and meatball).

Stand-out dishes on our visit included a seriously good bowl of tofu topped with a spicy pork mince. The tofu is served agedashi-style in cubes which are crispy outside and have wobbly innards, similar to the texture of custard.

We also loved the eel rice cakes – four canapé-sized bites formed of a cube of sticky rice topped with a slice of sharp pickled cucumber, sparklingly fresh eel and a fleck of nori. Meanwhile, fried chicken wings were dusted with an addictive togarashi spice mix, which encouraged caveman-like consumption with messy fingers and all.

Sweet, knowledgeable staff and a wine list exceeding more than 150 bottles are further draws, as is the competitive pricing. The restaurant was packed on our midweek visit, so it’s clear that a concept like this has got legs – expect to see copycats soon.

Image credit: Charlie McKay

£30 - £49
Japanese
Wine Bars
The Empress

The Empress

130 Lauriston Road, London, E9 7LH

Right next to Victoria Park, this regal Empress receives a number of important local dignitaries throughout the day: the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker… all pay their respects here. As a result, chef Elliott Lidstone’s menu is a celebration of the foodie scene flourishing on his doorstep – though his influences are more global. Bold, bright seasonal flavours are the cornerstones, witness prettily presented, shareable plates of fried duck egg and trompettes on toast or cured sea trout with orange, fennel and hazelnut. These vie for attention with generous mains of roast pork belly and apple sauce or cod with Moroccan-spiced chickpeas, monk’s beard, yoghurt and sumac. Other attractions at this art-filled bistro include “great” weekend brunch, £10 Monday suppers, BYO ‘frugal feasts’ and all-day tapas-style snacks to go with London beers, classic cocktails and modern wines from hotly tipped producers. Sadly, the service is less consistent than the food.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Casa Fofo

Casa Fofo

158 Sandringham Road, London, London, E8 2HS

Located down a nondescript street a short walk from Hackney Downs station, Casa Fofo is a tasting menu-only neighbourhood joint overseen by former Pidgin head chef Adolfo De Cecco.

It’s a curious and intimate space, which feels a bit like dining in someone’s sparsely decorated living room. There’s an open kitchen on the ground floor and room for fewer than 20 diners across a smattering of tables, while the basement boasts a single communal table, which is better suited to groups. Minimalist interiors feature sanded-down wooden floors and exposed brick walls, but there are a few homely touches, including house plants lined up on shelves and candles on the table.

The no-choice, six-course menu features some truly cutting-edge dishes, which can be supplemented by wine pairings. We loved our helping of homemade focaccia served with a pot of luminous jalapeno butter, which had all the flavour of the chilli but not too much of its fearsome heat, while a starting snack of borage tempura was addictively crispy and finished off with wild garlic flowers.

We were also impressed by the lusciously fatty cubes of pork belly, dressed with slices of carrot and a sticky blob of black apple. To finish, a loaf of house-baked bread, which had been hollowed out and filled with slightly sour mascarpone cream, ended the meal on a high note.  

Although we enjoyed what we ate, we couldn’t help thinking that Casa Fofo still has the feel of a restaurant which hasn’t quite found its identity – some of the dishes, like a wet blob of cheese topped with peas and shallot, seemed bland, while the restaurant’s atmosphere felt too serious for the casual setting.

Despite these flaws, there are flashes of brilliance here, too. And there aren’t many places where you’ll find a tasting menu for under £40, so it’s well worth hopping on the train to Hackney if you’re in the mood for some experimental dining.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Gotto

Gotto

27 East Bay Lane, Here East, London, E15 2GW

A great location for a summery meal, this low-lit, casual Italian restaurant near the Olympic Park boasts canal-side alfresco tables and outstanding Negronis. Inside, an open kitchen with counter seating (plus table service) makes for a buzzing atmosphere. The short daily changing menu is divided into sharing plates, pastas and risottos, alla brace (barbecue) and dolci. Expect hearty seasonal pasta dishes such as courgette-flower ravioli, alongside many Italian tapas including silky burrata and Venetian-style soppressata (dry salami) – order five or six of these small plates as a starter for two, with pillow-soft homemade focaccia. Gotto’s must-order dish is its rosemary risotto with wild mushrooms: thoroughly delicious and full of unusual flavour. Another highlight is the simple-sounding goats’ milk ice cream, the mousse-like dessert matched with sweet blackberries and counterbalanced by sharp balsamic vinegar. Drink cocktails or allow the friendly staff to guide you through the all-Italian wine list. 

In a city brimming with casual Italian eateries, Gotto takes the biscotti.

£30 - £49
Italian
Les Nénettes

Les Nénettes

19 Lower Clapton Road, London, E5 0NS

This inviting French restaurant on a bustling corner of up-and-coming Clapton is led by an all-female team (‘Les Nénettes’ translates as ‘the girls’) who have experience in the kitchens at the likes of Club Gascon and Bistrotheque. Charming staff seat diners in a rustic-chic space which boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, while there’s a small terrace for warmer months – the perfect place to enjoy the excellent charcuterie boards with a glass from the (exclusively French) wine list. Arrive hungry, as you’ll want to try everything on the menu. We loved the remixed frog’s legs, served buffalo style, like chicken wings – sticky, tongue-tingling and perfectly complimented by an intense blue cheese dip.

Next up, a selection of cheeses, ranging from mild to knock-your-socks off rich, was served with warm bread and tangy onion jam. From the mains, top shouts include an enchanting veggie option of crispy polenta topped with asparagus and a runny egg yolk, and a helping of juicy duck magret on a mound of tagliatelle. Dessert should not be missed; we’d recommend the noir et blanc mousse au chocolat: soft, cloud-like white chocolate mousse, paired with its rich chocolate opposite and topped with a crisp wafer. If you can’t make it to dinner, Les Nénettes is also open for brunch and lunch, but whatever time of day you dine, you’re sure to be welcomed with open arms.     

French