There’s no lack of excellent restaurants in Hackney, but good outside space is at something of a premium. So whether you’re looking for an urban terrazzo (see: spruced up car park), rotisserie chicken in fairy light surroundings, or tacos so good you just need a wall to lean on to get ’em down you - these are the best restaurants for outside eating in Hackney.
The Outdoor Spots
Birria tacos and hot chicken sandwiches may not sound like your standard neighbourhood café fare, but that’s because Bake Street isn’t your standard neighbourhood café. The weekend menu at this bakery and brunch spot near Hackney Downs is nothing short of drool-worthy, with their fried chicken buns and tacos up there with the best in London. Seating-wise there’s a handful of tables out front, just arrive early as it’s first-come first-served.
Morito Hackney Road
Morito remains one of the most reliably delicious places to eat on pretty much any occasion. The menu changes, but it’s hard to go wrong. Roast quail, seafood rice, any croquette, and cheese fritters are favourites. Oh, and roast cauliflower salad. You’ll more than likely be perfectly happy with everything. Though their Hackney Road location might not be quite as glossy as its Exmouth Market sibling, there are still tables out front that are especially nice come summer.
A seasonal café for seasoned table grabbers is what Towpath is, but if you come here on a sunny day and nab a seat - alongside confit garlic or Bull’s Heart tomatoes on toast - you’ll soon see why it’s so busy. Plonked along the Regent’s Canal and almost entirely outside seating, Towpath has a strong case for being one of London’s most dopamine-inducing restaurants. If possible, come for a midweek, day-off meal, because things can get a little tactical during weekend brunch hours. That said, it’s worth it.
Campania & Jones
If eating handmade pappardelle on the cobbled streets just off of Columbia Road sounds like the Condé Nast shoot of your dreams, then Campania is the place for you. It’s a restaurant that specialises in two things: firstly, the food of southern Italy - think risotto gamberoni or a slab of polpettone covered in red sauce - and secondly, a ~vibe~. Buzzing, romantic, and very much outside on the street.
If you really want to eat outside, then grabbing something to takeaway and scoff, back arched on the the nearest bench, estate wall, or patch of London Fields, is the real move. With that in mind, it’s worth heading to Netil Market, as it’s home to a few of Hackney’s most sought after bites. You’ve got Sonora Taqueria making juicy barbacoa and cheese crusted tacos, not to mention their pork chicharrones burrito. There’s Pockets - home to surely the best falafel (and all vegan) pitta in London, and then there’s the OG Bao hatch as well.
Eating high (as in, vertically) is undoubtedly the king of outdoor eating experiences - though chemical additions could add a certain seasoning to some situations too. Anyway, the Marksman’s terrace is a very nice place to eat outside. The fancy restaurant masquerading as a pub has a terrace overlooking Hackney Road so that you can enjoy beef and barley buns and whopping roasts whilst swilling a wine or emptying pints all while looking down at the schmos below. Alternatively, you can sit on one of their pavement (or schmo-side) tables downstairs.
Another restaurant to takeaway and eat wherever from is People’s Choice off of Chatsworth Road. The Caribbean spot is an expert in smoky and charred jerk with its oil drum BBQ standing and smoking pride of place outside of the shop. Pick up some patties, jerk and some curried goat and then wander down to Millfields Park to enjoy. Guinness punch isn’t optional.
Few restaurants would be able to transform a bit of concrete in E8 quite like Bright has. It may only be a canopy, some sharing tables, a Spring lasagne and a glass of chardonnay on paper - but in reality it’s enough to make a car park feel thoroughly terrazzo-like. As ever, everything from the London Fields restaurant and wine bar remains at an 8/10 or above. The same goes for their first-come first-served, walk-in only policy.
London’s Best Park Bench Meals
Exercising your right to sit outside when there is only the briefest glimmer of sunshine is something all Londoners born or adopted pick up naturally. So if you’re around Hackney then it’s worth heading to The Gun for their semi-secret sun trap terrace. The pub is a wander away from Well Street Common and Victoria Park, and everything from the changing residencies we’ve sampled tends to be very tasty. At the moment it’s Ling Ling’s, a Chinese-influenced pop-up.
East London Liquor Company
Underwear and rotisserie chicken are two yet-to-be-related things that never go out fashion. You’re probably wearing the former, while you can find the latter at the East London Liquor Company in Bethnal Green. Their juicy chickens are made by Royale, the lockdown chicken company - which reads weirder than it is - set up by Leroy. As well as moist birds and cracking potatoes, there’s plenty of covered and twinkly-lit space to sit outside here.
Anatolia Ocakbasi Restaurant
Sadly, Mare Street lost Tad during lockdown, but thankfully Anatolia is still about. The Turkish ocakbasi restaurant is something of a stalwart that’s fed families, friends, and lagered up groups falling out of the Heart of Hackney next door for years and years. Though this is by no means the best Turkish restaurant in east London, it’s always solid - and the healthy amount of pavement seating means that you may find yourself consistently catching up over köfte.
Odds are that if you’re in Victoria Park on a belter of a day, then the Pavilion Café is gonna be rammed. Like, people spilling out into the pond and eating eggs benedict with the ducks rammed. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the wait though. The breakfasts and brunches here are very tasty and all the bread is baked freshly every day. There’s nothing revolutionary going on: eggs, pancakes, and customary avocado stuff. But it’s all spot on.
Brat @ Climpson’s Arch
Brat’s now permanent spot at at Climpson’s Arch is one of the places to be, rain or shine, during the British summer. All the Basque grill favourites feature here: charred anchovy-topped flatbread, those smoky potatoes, vinegar-tinged turbot, John Dory, and even something new: pot chicken rice. Only this time you’ll be enjoying it in an outdoor courtyard protected from the heavens.
70% bakery, 20% handmade pasta spot and 10% Vejas - Pophams is truly the most Hackney-fied of pastry shops. That isn’t to say what it makes and how it looks isn’t really very nice though. The springiest of focaccia sandwiches, glossy bacon and maple pastries, delicate handmade cappelletti and more is available here. There are big and covered sharing tables out front to eat everything at, but be warned - it’s first-come first-served and very popular.
A whitewashed warehouse, decent enough bistro food and a vibe that can only be described as ‘Soho Farmhouse’ - Bistrotheque is, and has been for some time, the blueprint for a post-noughties Hackney restaurant. Ordinarily there isn’t anywhere to eat outside, but for the time being at least, they’ve transformed their front area into the Loading Bay Bar, serving up cocktails, roast chicken and perennially up-and-coming Hackney energy.