THE ONLY SPOTS WORTH VISITING
Hackney’s littered with pubs – probably too many. Two of us live in the area and have spent far too many days and nights stumbling through the good, the bad, and the not-quite-right. We’ve whittled our favourites down to the below, which we use as our personal guide – it includes a mix of the new, the old, craft kings, al fresco drinking, and everything in between.
FOR OUTDOOR BEVS
The Lord Napier Star
ROOFTOP BEER GARDEN
Every inch of The Lord Napier Star’s façade is like a tattooed timeline of its past, a kaleidoscope of graffiti and political sass.
The owners didn’t just preserve this skin – they’ve let it seep into the joint’s very bones. You walk in, and it feels like you’re part of something bigger; like you’ve stepped into somewhere that’s seen the grime and grit and come out, pint in hand, smirking at the sunset. A pretty decent life lesson there.
But it’s not about lessons from the past; it’s about the here and now. That’s where the rooftop terrace comes in – and the main reason we’ve included The Star on this list. It’s a beaut spot to catch Hackney Wick in all its glory, especially when the sun gives Victoria Park a cheeky goodnight peck. It’s also got a bar, meaning weary legs don’t have to stretch too far for a refreshing cocktail, beer, wine – you get the idea.
Come for a drink, enjoy the story, stay for the sunset.
Number 90 Bar & Kitchen
BERLIN X HACKNEY
They say a busy place is a sign of a good place, and Number 90 is always lively.
We’re big fans of its sprawling waterside terrace, replete with benches and its very own barge. In fact, it’s one of our favourite drinking spots in Hackney – the city’s rush feels a world away. It’s got a nod to Berlin whilst remaining unequivocally Hackney.
This Berlin-esque feel carries through inside, where ever-changing murals are splashed from floor to ceiling. It’s a lofty, atmospheric warehouse space that celebrates artistic flair.
The food is still on a journey (it’s a bit hit-and-miss), but they’ve got plenty of beers, cocktails and wine available – and that’s all we need with such a wonder of a drinking spot.
Pub On The Park
THE CLUE’S IN THE NAME
Perched back-to-back with London Fields, right behind the station, Pub On The Park is more than just a clever name: it isn’t just about enjoying a pint or two; it’s about the warm barbecue scent drifting over from park-side grills, and the soundtrack of easy-going East London chat.
In the summer, it’s never not busy, with many a happy punter spilling onto its wrap-around wooden terrace and surrounding street. Come winter, you’ll find them huddling around heaters, whiskies and mulled wine in hand, adding a rosy glow to the cold Hackney air.
Inside, we’re talking cosy corners, warm fires and big screens – there’s no missing a big game here. But we’re not here to talk inside and bevs, back to the great outdoors…
Swing by this park-side haven – it’s a slice of Hackney life served with a refreshing side of London Fields.
FOR CRAFT BEER
CRAFT BEER & CRUSTS
CRATE Brewery prides itself on not just being a source of quality craft beer, but being a place fuelled by creativity: a place built by local creatives for the creative collective (try saying that after a few). The space, once a print factory and squat, now a leading craft beer bar and pizzeria, has a proper East London vibe about it – it hangs in the air as thick as the scent of fresh hops.
Inside is spacious albeit with a modest amount of seating – this isn’t a problem, though, as the place to be is outside overlooking the canal.
We’re here for craft beers, and craft beers are here. Their core range is brewed with partners at Purity Brewing, along with a rotating guest lineup that showcases the best of brewing. Plenty of variety and quality, each with a great story behind them – it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Hackney craft beer pub.
They also serve a wide range of pizzas – from Kashmiri Dahl to sweet potato, stilton, and walnut, these aren’t your ordinary pies. We’ve had mixed experiences on this front but their intriguing flavours always draw us in. But the real attraction is the beer, and the beer is bloody superb.
It doesn’t get much better than craft brews and and canal-side sunshine, and CRATE Brewery has them in abundance.
TWO BREWERIES, ONE MISSION
Welcome to The Experiment. Tucked beneath Hackney’s railway arches, it’s a meeting of minds between Verdant Brewing Co, making their London debut, and Pressure Drop, who have gone back to where it all began. The result? A cracking craft beer hangout spot.
With 10 taps dispensing equal parts love from both brewers, not to mention a stellar line-up of bottles and cans for you to crack open, there’s plenty to get through. The quality is exceptionally high, unsurprising given its pedigree.
Inside the arch, you’ll find about 8 benches, but we’d recommend sitting out front. It’s the perfect spot to take a pew, catch up with friends and watch the Mare Street crowd go by.
There’s no food made in-house, but they’ve partnered with Yard Sale Pizza, who deliver their renowned hot slices swiftly and without delivery charge.
No unnecessary frills here, just superb beers from two esteemed brewers. You can’t really fault it.
As for the experiment? A bloody successful one, we reckon.
FROM TANK TO GLASS
They say freshness is king, and what better way to get fresh beer than straight out of the tank? This is the way at Howling Hops, the UK’s first dedicated tank bar.
Wondering what a tank bar is? Picture towering, gleaming steel tanks, brimming with an ever-changing array of flavourful craft beers. Each has a tap attached, meaning no middlemen; no fuss – just a straight shot from tank to glass.
Inside, you’ll find long benches that lend themselves to conversations with strangers – not great if you’re after an intimate drinking sesh, but perfect for getting in the thick of it.
A wide selection of quality craft beers, ales, wines, spirits and soft drinks – though not strictly a pub, it’s one of our favourite spots on this list.
FOR A CLASSIC BOOZER
THE LOCALS’ LOCAL
Ah, The Crown. A charmer nestled in the heart of Mare Street. This Hackney pub well and truly fits into the classic boozer category. It’s a local’s local.
Think weathered wood, plenty of brickwork, and regulars that’ll chat the night away. It’s not the intimidating type of local, though – you know the kind, the type where conversations stop and all heads turn as you walk in. This is the opposite. Everyone’s welcome.
They’ve got a cracking beer garden too with plenty of booths, stools, heaters and a cover to match. Live sports? On show, of course. To be honest, there isn’t much that isn’t on offer here. You can even sip on what GQ claimed to be one of London’s top 10 pints of Guinness – we’re still deciding on that one.
No frills? Maybe. But The Crown gets a lot right, with ‘proper’ pub ambience, cracking staff, live music and more. And if the night becomes too blurry, their boutique guesthouse is just a stumble away.
ONE PART TRENDY; ONE PART TRADITIONAL
Don’t let The Spurstowe Arms’ inconspicuous exterior fool you – inside you’ll find a rather alluring old-school space. Think a large horseshoe bar surrounded by quirky paintings, that add a dash of whimsy to the antiquated wood and church pew seating. It’s kinda old school, kinda new East London. It’s one part trendy; one part traditional. Whatever it is, it’s loved by locals. On that, a word of warning: this place gets busy.
Why do we love it? It does a brilliant pint of Guinness. As for the rest of the menu… well, it’s a pub. It’s easier to ask what they don’t do. Although a highlight includes an extensive collection of quality vino.
A LOCAL HERO
Chesham Arms is the neighbourhood pub Hackney fought tooth and nail to keep. It almost became another soulless apartment block until locals went ‘not on our watch’ and saved it via a community petition. The struggle paid off. Now, inside, you’ll find a blend of British pub nostalgia and London’s penchant for the quirky. Think claret walls, a snug fireplace, Scrabble games, and even a beer garden that’s hailed as one of the best in the area. All in all, a wonderful backdrop for your session.
It’s not just all looks, though. The Chesham Arms prides itself on being a place that doesn’t serve your run-of-the-mill fizzy yellow water, but rather a small range of craft beers, ales and cider in constant rotation. Translation: Stella fans, you’re outta luck. As for food, they don’t serve anything in-house, but you’re encouraged to get a delivery from Yard Sale Pizza and eat inside this much-loved Hackney pub.
FOR THE MODERN DRINKER
FOOD THAT HITS THE SPOT
For all the uproar about East Londonification of all things good and proper, now and then it comes up with something special.
Born in the 1860s; reborn in 2014, The Gun was a once-raggedy boozer in need of some loving. It’s since had a good dose of TLC and reinvented itself as one of the most popular pubs in Hackney.
Its Edwardian bones have been tastefully reimagined, and pay homage to its humble beginnings. Think vintage Whitbread exterior signage and a subtle use of interior neon lighting. A modern boozer tipping its hat to a bygone era, if you will. Very East London – the good kind, mind you.
Unsurprisingly, they’re not pouring your typical ales here. No, no, it’s all about indie brews, artisan spirits, and carefully-selected wines. Peckish? Ling Ling’s upstairs restaurant is a banging Chinese/Vietnamese spot that gets it oh-so-right. We’re big fans. They’ve even got a rooftop terrace, complete with heaters because, you know, England.
Community spirit? Check. Anti-racism street parties? Check. Incredible food? Hell yeah.
Italian Job Pub
ITALIAN BREWS & BITES
The Italian Job Pub is the UK’s first Italian craft beer pub, serving up a range that changes faster than you can say ‘bella birra’ – seriously, the range is served on rotation and changes daily. Its aim is to showcase the best of Italian craft brewing, alongside some more local tipples.
As for food, pizza pasta and gourmet burgers are on the menu. We plumped for two pizzas: Parmiagiana (fried aubergine, smoked mozzarella, grated salt ricotta and basil) and an Italian Job (mozzarella, rocket salad, parma ham, cherry tomato, shaved parmesan) – both absolute beauties.
It’s a very relaxed space that is more pub than pizza restaurant – and that’s what makes it so good.
The Auld Shillelagh
A SLICE OF IRELAND
Though it’s a little further out than these Hackney pubs, we couldn’t not give a massive shoutout to one of our favourites: The Auld Shillelagh. The Irish Times crowned it “the most authentic pub in the world outside Ireland”, and London’s Irish community holds it dear to their hearts.
From the outside, it looks like a pint-sized charmer, but it stretches back to a beer garden that catches most of the sun throughout the day. Inside, there’s live Irish music, sports on the big screens, and plenty of good craic.
Let us know if you’ve visited any of these Hackney pubs and what you thought of them via the comments.
After more tips? We’ve got guides to the best Hackney cafés and brunch spots. If you’re after something healthier, we’ve also curated the team’s favourite gyms in the area, as well as the best spots for a massage.