BRUNCH IN HACKNEY
THE ONLY PLACES WORTHY OF YOUR ££
Options aren’t your problem when hunting for a Hackney brunch spot, choosing is. As residents at the time of writing, two of us have sifted through our favourites and landed on the below. From a church space that redefines Sunday Service to a crêperie that rivals those in France, Hackney’s got something for ya.
Let us know what you made of them.
Also check out our guide to our favourite Hackney cafés.
MIDDLE EAST MEETS EAST LONDON
215 Hackney was set up by two Middle-Eastern pals turned long-time Hackney locals. The result is a space that serves Middle Eastern-style brunch with an East London edge. What does this mean in practice? Tel-Aviv street grub, Palestinian brekkies, Syrian platters, and cakes that’ll make East Londoners proud.
If you’re new to this food scene, expect absolutely banging shakshukas, a stunning Sabich (that’s an Israeli/Iraqi sandwich with shakshuka-style veg, eggplants, eggs, tahini, and more), pillowy pittas across a range of dishes, Jerusalem bagels, and, for those of you who can’t resist, good ol’ English breakfasts (dubbed ‘Hackney Feasts’ here).
The food is fantastic. Seriously. Plenty of veggie and vegan options. And they’ve got some beaut pastries, muffins, and disgustingly good vegan doughnuts if that tickles your fancy.
The space itself is peppered with books – in fact, each wall-side table sports shelves above where you can grab a book and read, sip on some AllPress-roasted coffee, and take a break from the everyday.
It’s the kind of place that, once you’ve visited, makes you feel like you’re in the know; that you’re in with the locals. I guess it’s because it feels like a proper hub of community and conversation. It’s not tryhard; it’s proper East London, in the best possible way. We love it.
The London Butler tip: The guys prioritise local ingredients – hyperlocal, in fact. Their fruit & veg supplier is a mere two doors down and their fishmonger is on Stoke Newington High Street. They also donate 20% of their profits to War Child.
Barge East Gardens
*OUR PICK FOR BOTTOMLESS*
Londoners love a boat. Tbf, most get excited by the sight of a mere pedalo. I think it’s because we’re a landlocked city and, as is human nature, we’re always pining for what’s out of reach. “The grass isn’t always greener” and all that – well, turns out it is, as Barge East has one beaut of a garden space sitting alongside the old girl herself. Alas, we find ourselves outside, soaking in the sun, amidst flowerbeds and homegrown veggies, with views across the River Lea and Olympic Stadium.
Barge East Gardens offers street food – think succulent burgers (our fav: braised beef in master stock sauce with sriracha mayo), falafel patties, and buttermilk chicken salads, alongside a raft of indulgent sides like maple-glazed chicken wings, loaded fries, creamy burrata, Padron peppers, among many others. Oh, and artichoke hearts – if you didn’t know you were in East London, that’ll sure give it away.
As we mentioned, this is our Hackney bottomless brunch champ. Come on a Saturday and bag 90 minutes of unlimited beer or bubbles for an additional £25p/p on top of your street food picks.
EAST LONDON KINGS
Dusty Knuckle needs no introduction. What started off in a shipping container has become one of East London’s most loved café and brunch brands. Sounds like bull but it’s not – Londoners are au fait with DK and there’s a reason why.
Its Dalston location pays homage to its humble shipping container beginnings – it’s in the same site where it all began. It has kept its urban-industrial-like feel and it’s pure East London.
Let’s talk food: take your pick from a menu that includes sarnies on their renowned crusted potato sourdoughs (they’re enormous), salads, homemade granola, as well as an ever-changing lineup that has included Peri Peri Chicken sandwiches, cannellini soup, a cheddar and onion chutney toastie and far, far more. After something lighter? Don’t fret. This is where delicate pasties and glossy buns reign. So many choices, not enough stomach space.
Heads up: they don’t take bookings, so be prepared to wait a bit – though the turnover for outdoor seating is pretty rapid.
Time to swap your avo toast for a crêpe. And we’re not talking american pancakes, btw, we’re talking Le Merlin: a place devoted to the art of the crêpe and galette.
Before we talk details, the first thing to say is that their offerings rival many of those in Brittany, in part because Le Merlin import only the best cheese and charcuterie from France. We told you they take this seriously, and we’re so glad that they do.
The menu is simple: no sides, just crêpes – and a shedload of banging combinations. Your first task: deciding if you’re in the savoury or sweet camp. Made up your mind? Now onto the tougher part, deciding which of the 11+ combinations from each section to choose from.
Feeling sweet? Our favs are the team’s homemade salted butter caramel; La Suzette – an all-time classic; or their caramelised apple, salted butter caramel and cinnamon number – so bloody good.
Savoury more your thing? We’ve managed to narrow our top picks down to: a bayonne ham number with sautéed potatoes, reblochon cheese and caramelised onions; confit duck with a blue cheese sauce, truffle flavoured honey and caramlised onions (proper indulgence) and, last but by no means least, goats cheese, baby spinach, walnuts and fig jam – the jam and cheese combo is just heavenly.
Pair your choices with a full-flavoured Breton cider or local craft beer for an unconventional but almighty brunch. They’ve got plenty of coffee and soft drink options too.
The Quarter Kitchen
MEXICAN FLAVOURS. STANDOUT COFFEE.
Think out of the box – or rather, out of the church. The Quarter Kitchen isn’t your typical brunch spot: it’s nestled amidst the gardens of St John at Hackney church, eschews the usual and embraces al fresco, serves Mexican cuisine, and says a big f*** you to bog-standard brunch joints. It’s great to see.
Focusing on two things – Mexican cuisine and specialty coffee – The Quarter Kitchen whittles its offerings down to a small, punchy menu. Expect the likes of of tacos (egg and bean is a must) and loaded burritos (brisket takes the crown). I love places that serve a small number of things – it means each dish has to shine, and shine they do. Every ingredient serves a purpose. There’s no superfluous crap on the side. No fluff, no fillers – just pure, unadulterated flavour that’ll have you coming for brunch time and time again.
As we mentioned, coffee is king at The Quarter Kitchen. The house blend hails from Origin, and there’s a rotating roster of guest roasters that have included Skylark, Crankhouse, and most recently, Dak Coffee. We’ve never had a bad coffee here. In fact, let’s flip it: we’ve always had great coffee here – and that’s a rare feat.
Keep in mind, this is an outdoor-only deal. If the weather’s warm, this should be high up on your list.
THE BEST THING BETWEEN SLICED BREAD
Brunch in Hackney – scrap that, brunch in London – has a reputation for being a pricey affair, but not all heroes wear capes. Some serve generous portions with flavour to match. And there’s a neat little spot in Hackney Downs doing just that.
Jam Cafe offers a decent-sized brunch menu, including everything from fruit compote granola, baked eggs with lentils, to poached eggs on ham hock and a hearty full english. All great, but let’s cut the foreplay and go straight to the action: the sarnies. They’re the MVPs.
First off, you’ve got a choice between focaccia or ciabatta. Go with focaccia. It’s crispy, soft, airy and flavoursome – just as focaccia should be. Onto fillings: bloody brilliant. You’ve got some delights to choose from: the pork belly with salsa verde is a dream, the Spicy Chicken Craziness will have you leaving 5* reviews like everyone else, and the Jerk Mushroom Magic is the one for the veggies among us.
A small but mighty space – come here for a no-frills, flavour-packed Hackney brunch that won’t break the old bank.
Let us know if you’ve visited any of these Hackney brunch spots via the comments.
After more Hackney tips? We’ve got a resident’s guide to the best pubs in the area. Wanting to burn off the brunch cals? We’ve written about our favourite Hackney gyms, as well as the best spot to get a massage. And if you’re only after caffeine and something light, check out our group’s go-to cafés.