Fuel Up With Filter Coffee At Allpress Espresso

allpress espresso coffee and roastery hackney

FUEL UP WITH FILTER COFFEE AT ALLPRESS ESPRESSO

Allpress Espresso is a roastery and café in Hackney that attributes its delicious coffee to the Hot Air Roasting Method it uses. In London, it started out being on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, where it still sits as an espresso bar.

You can also find Allpress Espresso in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

Allpress Espresso, 55 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 2NG. Phone: 020 7749 1780

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

There are more coffee shops in Hackney than there are corner shops. Maybe this is hyperbole; maybe this is fact – either way, you are never too far away from a decent café serving average-to-excellent coffee. I’ve gone from cortados (my first brush with coffee only four years ago) to doppios and dabbled with a few soy/oat/coconut lattes along the way.

For the past six months, though, I have been obsessed with filter coffee, and I fuel my habit by front rolling to Allpress Espresso near my apartment several times a day. Allpress does excellent single-origin filter brews (as well as other permutations and combinations of the drink), but their coffee is just one aspect that keeps this particular café busy all day. Allpress in Dalston Lane is housed in an erstwhile joiner’s factory – meaning it has ample space to sit both inside and al fresco. Through the glass partition that divides the café and the roastery, you can see their massive hot air roaster (which is powered by solar panels on their roof!), and the few items on the food menu never disappoint. There isn’t any WiFi, so you will occasionally end up sitting next to someone drinking coffee, reading a book, and not much else – which is both terrifying and refreshing in our digital age.

I’ve spent sunny, rainy, hail-y, dreary, and cheery mornings at Allpress, and I always walk out feeling better.

 

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Milkshakes and Multiculturalism At Mess Cafe

mess cafe hackney

MILKSHAKES AND MULTICULTURALISM AT MESS CAFE

Mess Cafe in Hackney is a local institution. Open six days a week (closed on Mondays), it serves an excellent breakfast and is always filled with locals from Hackney’s diverse communities.

Mess Cafe, 38 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JN. Phone: 020 8985 3194

READ KIT CALESS'S STORY

I’m not usually one for giving away London’s best-kept secrets, but for Mess Cafe, I’m prepared to make an exception. Slap bang in the middle of the stretch of Amhurst Road that runs from the Pembury to Mare Street, Mess is a local institution. It serves one of the greatest breakfasts in the borough, no arguments. You can even build your own breakfast from scratch. It serves incredible malt milkshakes. The coffee and tea are excellent. It’s cheap. They do great hash browns. There are booths to sit in with six mates or tables to share with just one. There’s some bad artwork. Out of date gig posters. Quietly played acoustic covers of hit records on the stereo. There’s a baby chair.

This cafe has everything.

But the best thing about Mess is the people. Walk into Mess any day of the week, and it’s like the street has walked in with you. Mess is such a locals’ favourite that it is always filled with all the locals from all the communities Hackney houses. Mess reflects Hackney’s multiculturalism to a tee; all ages, all races, all cultures come into Mess for food and drinks. My favourite type of customer is the Dad taking his daughter/son out for breakfast and a catch-up. There is always at least one Dad-offspring couple in Mess at any one time. It’s a unique phenomenon for a unique cafe.

You want to see how we can all just get along? Go to Mess. Mess should give presentations at the UN on building a cosmopolitan space. Mess should by consulted by sociologists and urban planners on how to make everyone feel at home. But instead, Mess just does a banging breakfast or lovely lunch and lets you get on with your life.

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Footnote Focuses On Fresh, Local Food

FOOTNOTE FOCUSES ON FRESH, LOCAL FOOD

Footnote is a café in Hackney that focuses on sustainability, serving direct-trade coffee and food from local producers. Their wines are sourced from their family vineyard. Located on Wilton Way, Footnote is canine-friendly.

Footnote, 51 Wilton Way, London E8 1BG. Phone: 020 7923 2901

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

“We’ve got a new coffee place.” That was the text I received from a friend about a year ago, excitedly telling me about Footnote. It’s been around for longer, but it was a new discovery for both of us, and I moseyed over later that same day to check it out.

Footnote is a ray of sunshine even on a cloudy day with its refreshing mulberry facade in the otherwise grey, white and black colour palette of Wilton Way. Since I first visited, it’s become an ad-hoc place to work out of, get a snack, meet a friend, or just sit with a book and a glass of wine.

Footnote has a strong stance on being fair – to its customers as well as its suppliers and producers. When it comes to their coffee, tea, wine or food, there is a conscious effort on sustainability and sourcing, and they prefer to work with small producers and local makers. And they also don’t waste any food either. They work with an app that allows them to distribute everyday excess food to customers.

With large windows laden with green plants, a counter-top embellished with dessert, and friendly staff, it makes for a quiet, welcoming space that I love to escape to. At any given point of time Footnote has several people scattered in different corners, bathed in light, doing whatever has grabbed their attention for that hour(s). 

PS: Dog lovers take note – Footnote is canine-friendly.

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Makers Of London: Sabine Gerth Of S Gerth Leather Accessories

sabine gerth s gerth leather accessories broadway market hackney

MAKERS OF LONDON: SABINE GERTH OF S GERTH LEATHER ACCESSORIES

In this week’s edition of our Makers series we caught up with Sabine Gerth of S Gerth Leather Accessories to find out more about her graphic, detailed, and unique products. With a focus on wallets, bags, lanyards and keychains, her accessories are one-of-a-kind and Sabine has a keen interest in customising products as well.

S Gerth, Broadway Market, London E8 4QJ.

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

The City Story: Tell us a little more about S-Gerth – what made you start your label?

Sabine Gerth: This is a bit difficult to answer as it feels like it has been such a long process. After my father passed away in 2011 I needed some time off. In that time, I started making little bits and bobs with leather, and in 2012 my partner and I organised an art project called Limited Space, where he showed some illustrations in a cupboard under a set of stairs, so I took that opportunity to show my tiny collection.

My friends gave me a lot of positive feedback, so I started making more products and at the same time started to apply to sell at markets. An organiser of one of these markets referred me to Broadway Market where I am selling my wares since.

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TCS: Did you study design or are you self-taught?

SG: I would say half-and-half. The design part is studied, the leather work is self-taught. I studied graphic design first and then did additional studies in fashion design/womenswear, both in Germany. After that I came to the UK and freelanced for the accessories designer Kate Sheridan – who really taught and inspired me a lot.

TCS: Your designs have very clean lines and come in the most delightful colour combinations. Have you always had this approach to your work or did your aesthetic evolve over time?

SG: I have always had a graphic approach to design as it is embedded in my background. And I absolutely love colours. That said, it has definitely developed over the years. This is, though, a reason why I am still making unique pieces and not collections. It is my favourite part to choose the colours and bring them together each time.

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TCS: Where do you source your leather from?

SG: I mainly go to leather merchants in London. I started off with just using off cuts but nowadays I also buy whole skins. Often they are still one-offs as bigger companies need larger supplies but I can just use smaller pieces up. The main focus is that the quality is very good

TCS: You have a weekly stall at Broadway Market. Do you retail at other markets as well? What’s the best route to getting an S-Gerth product?

SG: I used to do quite a few other design markets but since I had my son in 2015 I have slowed down a little. Recently I have started to again but not on a weekly basis. So, Broadway Market or online are the best way to get your hands on my products, otherwise check out my Instagram, I will always post there if I am popping up somewhere else or if a new stockist is on the horizon.

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TCS: Can you tell us the best and worst part of being a maker in the city of London?

SG: London is an amazing city and has so much to offer. It is diverse and inspirational and keeps the creativity alive. Also, there are lots of like-minded people. I love the exchange and support of all my independent designer friends. Another bonus is that the public transport network is well developed so there’s no need to own a car.

One of the things that started bothering me about London is the pollution, and I hope this issue will be tackled in the near future. It is also a very expensive to live in. But the silver lining is that it keeps you on your toes even though it can be quite stressful sometimes.

Photographs by Juhi Pande

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Visit Climpson And Sons For Delicious Specialty Coffee

climpson and sons coffee broadway market

VISIT CLIMPSON AND SONS FOR DELICIOUS SPECIALTY COFFEE

Climpson and Sons sources their coffee from around the world – Ethiopia, Brazil, Burundi, Kenya, and Colombia. Their flavour profiles range from dark chocolate and hazelnut to rhubarb and baked apple. You can visit their Broadway Market café or the Spitalfields Market coffee bar daily and the coffee cart at the Saturday market at Broadway Market, or take an appointment to visit their Hackney roastery and academy.

Climpson and Sons, 67 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH. Phone: 020 7254 7199; Pod 3 by Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, London E1 6EW.

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

Climpson and Sons source and roast some of the best coffees from around the world. That should be reason enough to visit their café on Broadway Market. The small space has a tendency to be elbow-to-elbow even on weekdays with people popping in to get coffee to-go just before work, during lunch, or as an evening picker-upper. 

It’s open daily, and weekends are usually a whole different ball-game, with queues snaking out the door. The service is quick, the coffee is excellent, and if you are lucky, you might get a chance to sit on a bench with your coffee and a newspaper. Even on Saturdays, when it has a stall at the weekly market, the café is always full – come rain or shine.

Climpson were part of the first wave of specialty coffee roasters in the capital. They set up shop in 2002, and from a small stall in the weekend market they have grown to supply coffee to multitudes of cafés around the city, run a coffee academy (workshops, barista skills), their cosy café in Broadway Market, a pod at Spitalfields market, and retail coffee, coffee-making equipment as well as merchandise.  The coffee – sourced from around the world – is roasted at their roastery in Hackney.

On a lark one weekend, I decided to deviate from my usual Americano-no-sugar to a soy latte-one-cube-of-sugar-please, and my world turned to technicolour. It has quickly become a habit that I only tend to indulge at Climpson, for fear that I might be disappointed elsewhere.

Feature photograph copyright joesayhello - stock.adobe.com

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Makers Of London: Catherine Tough Knitwear

MAKERS OF LONDON: CATHERINE TOUGH KNITWEAR

In our new series – Makers of London – we profile people around the city invested in making and creating products. In this edition, we talk to Catherine Tough of Catherine Tough Knitwear about her products but most importantly – worldwide sock domination!

catherine tough

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

The City Story: Why socks? You have multiple products under your brand, but socks are fairly predominant.

Catherine Tough: I started the business making products for interiors and only added the socks to go with our hot water bottle covers, but as soon as we launched them it was clear there was a gap in the market for quality lambswool socks. They are such a fun product to design and they are now the best-selling product in our collection. People always need socks, and they make a great gift

TCS: Do you design all the products, or do you have a design team you work with? Where do you drive your inspiration from?

CT: I design the collection with our studio manager Chloe Whale – we have worked together for nearly 10 years and have very similar tastes, so it makes the job easy...there have been some styles that you know will be an instant hit and others which are a bit more experimental. The challenge is to build a better collection from the previous seasons and learn from customer feedback to drive us on. I love working with colour and texture and never get bored of knitting.

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TCS: Where are your products made?

CT: We make a lot of our products at the studio in East London where we have a mini-factory of sorts knitting the products from scratch. It is easier for us to manage the flow of the handmade items this way, maintaining a minimal stock and having full quality control, which is very important.

We make our socks in Portugal, we have worked with the same factory for 10 years. They are very flexible and we have developed the quality of the socks together. We initially looked at Portugal for commercial reasons – to wholesale UK produced socks is quite a challenge if you aren't making them yourself – but we have a great relationship, and I wouldn't make them anywhere else now.

TCS: Could you tell us a little more about the production process – from sheep to socks/hats/brooches/scarves?

CT: We start with a product in mind and put together some rough sketches. From there we look at yarn shade cards from various spinners to get the best colours. Once we have sample cones of yarn, we knit up a fabric and make up a few prototypes before we decide on the finished product. Most products have various stages of production; for example, a scarf we knit at the studio probably has 1,000 rows of knitting, but you also need to wash, dry, press, and label each item so it takes a while!

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TCS: You live and work in Hackney – why is the borough is special to you?

CT: I have lived in Hackney for over 15 years, and both my children were born in the borough. I moved to Hackney from West London when it was much more run down but had a lovely community feel and lots of people I knew were moving to the area... I even met my partner as studio neighbours, and we have been here ever since. You bump into people you know all the time. And despite its once less than flattering reputation, it is a great place to live in, and you never get bored.

TCS: What’s in the future for Catherine Tough products?

CT: We have recently started selling to the US, and now the kids are more grown up it is easier to travel more, so I would have to go with worldwide sock domination.

Go Full English At Shepherdess Café

shepherdess café

GO FULL ENGLISH AT SHEPHERDESS CAFÉ

If you dare to live on the edge, ditch your matcha tea and carrot sticks for a greasy, full English breakfast at Shepherdess Café. This classic pub with a traditional menu and reasonable rates is ideal for diners with a hearty appetite and a weakness for fry-ups.

Shepherdess Café, 221 City Road, London EC1V 1JN. Phone: 20 7253 2463

READ JAMES BLOODWORTH'S STORY

The modern chain café is marked by a transitory atmosphere. You pass in and out to get a drink or a snack “on the go”, that subtle capitalist admonition to work yourself into an early grave. If you do stop ever-so-briefly, it is typically for a meeting or to rig your cerebral cortex up to the free wifi for a social media fix.

What I want from a café is rather different. This isn’t meant to sound conceited: I’m as much a stimulation junkie as every other contemporary human being; I’m also partial to a soggy cheese toasty scooped off a stainless steel production line by a smiley Spanish barista. But were these filling stations of capitalism not so ubiquitous I would spend more time in places like Shepherdess Café on City Road in Shoreditch.

As with the ideal pub, it’s the atmosphere of Shepherdess Café that clinches it rather than any item on the menu or added extra (this place also has wifi, so there goes the prospect of an unconnected idyll!). The light music, the clatter of plates, the small, bullet-shaped plastic canisters of brown sauce and ketchup, the plate of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes sitting enticingly on the counter, the strip lighting, the red tables and olive green booth seating – they all denote the peculiarly English atmosphere of the greasy spoon.

The view isn’t up to much – it’s on City Road after all – but these little recesses allow just enough seclusion to mount an attack on the greasy plate of food in front of you without shame.

As does the food, which is both traditional and reasonably priced. A Builder’s Breakfast – egg, bacon, sausage, chips and beans – together with a mug of strong tea comes in at under six pounds. Healthy options are available, but the menu is mainly geared toward the mid-day blowout. There is cod and chips, gammon and chips, ham two eggs and chips, mixed grill and chips etc. Appropriately enough, there is a large mirror spread across the back wall so that after you’ve disported yourself you can adjust your waistband before sheepishly making your way back out into the street.

I like as a rule to sit at one of the homely booths next to the window. The view isn’t up to much – it’s on City Road after all – but these little recesses allow just enough seclusion to mount an attack on the greasy plate of food in front of you without shame. A feeling of brotherhood soon develops with the fat man who is inhaling a plate of chips in the booth next to yours. His furtive glance is a tacit acknowledgement that the shrieking commissars who would replace this stodgy pleasure with celery and carrot juice can get at neither one of you in here.

Healthy options are available, but the menu is mainly geared toward the mid-day blowout.

And herein lies the real pleasure in a place like Shepherdess Café. It isn’t found in the fact that local celebrities are known to drop in occasionally – Jamie Oliver is a regular and the walls are decorated with dog-eared photographs of illustrious diners. It’s that the greasy spoon taps into a fundamental truth about life. The streamlined world of carrot sticks and soy lattes is only tolerable so long as one occasionally affirms life by dipping one’s toes into the encroaching tide of molten lava. As Saul Bellow famously put it, “Death” – or in this case a full English with all the trimmings – is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are to see anything”.

It is important to feel properly alive now and then. For some this means jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet with a sheet of nylon attached to their back. For others it is equally bracing to wander in off the street, set down the briefcase and newspaper, loosen one’s tie and top button and, as it were, attack a sausage sandwich or eggs Benedict with all the vigour of an infantrymen going over the top at the Somme.

Feature photograph copyright Felix - stock.adobe.com

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Your Guide To The Best Breakfasts In London

breakfast

YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST BREAKFASTS IN LONDON

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

“I went to a restaurant that serves 'breakfast at any time'. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”

- Steven Wright

Breakfast. The first and finest meal of the day in London. This is a city that prides itself on-all day breakfasts. A town where eating a fry up at 4 p.m. will be greeted with cheers rather than dirty looks. Luckily for Londoners, the wonderful waves of immigration over the years have brought breakfast specialities from the world over to its streets – allowing us to revel in such delights as Turkish or South Indian morning cuisine alongside the superb native greasy offerings. The best breakfast in London is a debate that never ends and is dependent on where you live, how hungover you are, and what your budget is. Relationships have ended over best breakfast discussions. Plates have been flung. Unlike nutritionists, we truly understand how important the first meal of the day is, so we asked the capital’s breakfast believers for their favourite spots. This is not a complete guide but a discernible compilation, one that highlights the variety and quality on offer to the Londoner.

Arthur’s Café

Arthur’s is no longer a secret thanks to some Guardian journalist writing about it – but it is still the best café for breakfast in Dalston. Arthur’s has been in the same family for decades, and its no-nonsense, no-frills attitude to serving top grub at very reasonable prices puts it high on the best of the best list. You may still get served by Arthur, the oldest of the family and well into his twilight years at 90 years old. He still likes to make sure the people coming into his caff are treated in the right way. His grandson prepares the bread at the front of the café, but be warned: if you want a bacon sandwich you’ll have to get it in the morning as they prove so popular Arthur refuses to serve them after midday. Famously, Arthur’s Café never once shut during The Blitz, and that dogmatic spirit continues to this day. Dalston has developed a lot of gimmicks over recent years, but Arthur’s is steadfastly holding on and making sure that beyond the hype of E8, there’s still something real to visit.

Arthur’s Café, 495 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AU

Sam's Cafe in Primrose Hill

Look – you want a north London café that has a jukebox curated by Robert Plant, boasts customers such as Helen Bonham Carter, Dennis Lawson and that bloke out of Supergrass, interior design by Jane Rainey Design (of “Lady Jane”, the Rolling Stones song fame) started by the son of the editor of London Review of Books?

Sam’s Cafe is it. Although it’s a London experience that might make you weep at the price [full English breakfast at £12 (yes twelve whole English pound sterling)], a trip to Sam’s is a treat that is never forgotten.

Sam’s Cafe, 140 Regent's Park Road, London NW1 8XL

Blackbird Bakery

Proper baking. Proper breakfast. These guys don’t mess about – everything in the café is baked from scratch and tastes like it (which means it tastes good, by the way). No preservatives, no “improvers’ – just flour loving goodness. Rolling with things like huevos rancheros, a lip-smackingly good BLT, and a Reuben sandwich, Blackbird do simple really well. They also make sandwiches of your choice to order. Fabulous!

Blackbird Bakery, Arch 134, Queens Road, Peckham London, SE15 2ND

breakfast

Dishoom

Go to Dishoom and eat the bacon naan!

What's not to like? Spicy, tangy, masala laced bacon and naan. It’s the breakfast you’ve never known you’ve wanted until the day you eat it, and then you want nothing else but this forever more.  Add the faux-Bombay café chalkboard, hand-painted signs, and photos from the ’70s, and Dishoom will charm your pants off. Also, breakfast at Dishoom is probably its least busy time, which, considering the restaurant’s popularity, is something to cherish.

 Dishoom, 7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE.

Café Z

Cafe Z does the best menemen in the north east. (Editor’s note: Easy now! That’s some contentious claim.) A frying pan of deliciously runny eggs with such a variety of toppings that it puts pizza to shame. Café Z has a lovely vibe, décor, and staff – it’s a veritable institution in Stoke Newington and very popular with the locals.

Café Z, 58 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7PB

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Parma

Parma does not mess around. We’re talking meat, meat, and more meat. The greasy fry-up is one of the finest in the south – always cooked and served at optimum, with care and diligence. The kebabs, if you missed getting one on your way home the night before, are well worth giving a go for breakfast. Don’t judge until you’ve done it; it could well be the breakfast that changes your life.

Parma, 412 Kennington Road, London SE11 4PT

Buhler and Co.

It has a really adventurous global brunch menu including Indonesian Gado-gado and a full Indian-inspired veggie fry-up with homemade paratha and paneer – because who doesn't want fried cheese before midday? The coffee is great, as are the bakes – especially the chocolate, halva, and tahini brownie. It also has a back garden for al fresco breakfasts. It gets busy on the weekend, but it's worth queuing for. Afterwards, you can take a stroll up to the picturesque Walthamstow Village and explore this quaint North London neighbourhood.

Buhler and Co., 8 Chingford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PJ

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The Rochester Castle

The Rochester Castle on a summer's day after doing a sleep-in shift is utterly perfect. You get that cheap-as-you-can-get Wetherspoons breakfast but in one of the best buildings they own. There are endless refills of coffee, a calorie count on the menu (if you are so inclined to worry), but best of all, if you fancy a pint with your eggs and hash browns, the array of beers on offer will keep you in the pub well past the point of no return.

The Rochester Castle, 145 Stoke Newington High St, Stoke Newington, London N16 0NY

The Regency

Quite possibly the best breakfast atmosphere in London, only rivalled by E Pellici in Bethnal Green (see below). The Regency has a unique queueing system that takes the novice a while to understand. Word to the unwise - don’t take a seat before you’ve ordered your food!

But the food! Oh, the glorious Regency breakfast. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted from a British breakfast – perfectly cooked, great ingredients, on the right side of greasy, served with a shout and a wink. Great value for its central London position (you might also recognise it as a film location for Layer Cake), it’s tremendously popular for a reason. It is for all occasions always: bad news/good news/hangover/after exercise/in love/freshly dumped.

The Regency, 17-19 Regency St, Westminster, London SW1P 4BY, UK

Cabman’s Shelter

You want the best bacon sandwich in London? The Shelter is your spot. Enough said.

Cabman’s Shelter, 23 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B

Titbits

Vegans and vegetarians – this is your spot. The breakfast here is stonkingly good, and no animal has been harmed in the process. It’s no fry up, of course, but the bircher muesli is to die for (not literally, that wouldn’t be very vegan now, would it?), and their pastries (croissants etc.) are delicious. It’s a buffet, and you pay by the weight of your plate. What?! Yes, that’s right. Tuck in, veggies! The bonus of being on bankside means the Thames is but a hop skip and jump away – wonderful on a sunny London summer’s day.

Titbits, 124-128 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SW

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Cafe Coco

Cafe Coco serves a decent breakfast, with the bonus that Magculture is next door. Worth it post-Fabric or pre-day out walking in Clerkenwell.

Cafe Coco, 266 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4PE

Gökyüzü

Hands down the best Turkish breakfast in London. The menemen might be amazing in Café Z, but Gökyüzü has got it all – the mixed mezze is incredible, the English fry-up is impeccable, and the halloumi is perfection. Just find a bus and get on it – you won’t regret it.

Gökyüzü, 26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1LG

Egg Break

West London often gets overlooked for East these days, but the gems are still there if you look hard enough or are rich/fortunate enough to know someone local. Egg Break is one of those gems. As you might expect, it’s heavy on the huevos. The menu has at least 10 different egg options, but the best are probably Levantine eggs (fried eggs, za’atar, and chickpea tabbouleh) or the Calabrian eggs – (scrambled eggs with nduja, onions, and topped with a herb and puffed chickpea salad). Major shout out to the Crab cake with poached eggs, sriracha 12 hollandaise, and spinach too. Delicious!

Egg Break, 30 Uxbridge St, London W8 7TA

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E Pellicci

What can be said about Pellicci’s that hasn’t been said before? Alongside The Regency, this east London institution is vying for the ‘best breakfast in London’ spot. Whilst the fry ups are top notch, it’s the atmosphere that gets you coming back, and back again. It’s been open since 1900 and is still in the same family. The interior is pure old school east London, and the staff have more banter than the Archbishop of Banterbury riding a Bantersaurus Rex to the Banterbus station. It truly is a joy to eat at Pellicis. You can’t chat about London breakfasts with authority of you haven’t been here.

E Pellicii, 332 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 0AG

Mess Cafe

Hackney, glorious Hackney. Under pressure from gentrification left right and centre, communities getting divided, house prices killing the neighbourhood. Somehow, it’s still hanging on. Mess Café is perhaps Hackney in a microcosm. It is incredibly popular with all Hackney types – local kids, dads with daughters, hipsters on a hangover, girls gossiping over milkshakes, old boys reading the Mirror, families, young professionals, musicians, artists, cabbies, builders, teachers – people from all walks of life. Stepping into Mess is like stepping off the street and bringing all the people on the street with you. A true egalitarian space. The fry-ups are strong and the omelettes banging, but whatever you eat, make sure you order the malt milkshake. It’s heaven.

Mess Cafe, 38 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JN

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Jesse’s Café

Everything about Jesse’s is amazing – but the décor is one of its strongest features: all the specials, such as STANDARD BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST SPECIAL, SPOTTED DICK are dotted around the place, installed into the wall. It's just a brilliant greasy, not fussy, the best kind of naughty sausages you can buy, scolding tea, and conversations with strangers.

Jesse’s Café, 68 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7LD

Riding House Café

Posh with a capital P.O.S.H, posh! The Riding House Café is a pricey place, but boy, if you’ve got the cash, you’ve got to splash. Set near Regent Street, it’s an elegant destination that’s great for a date the night before or a post-ahem-you-know-what in the morning. The food is superb, and the décor is just as delicious, but with a full English at £14.50, you’ve got to be sure the overdraft is ready. For a cheaper life, have a muesli and a cup of tea and soak up the well to do atmosphere instead.

Riding House Café, 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7PQ

With thanks to:

Saskia Wickins, Susannah Otter, Tim Burrows, Natalie Hardwick, Meghna Gupta, Ben Dawes, Farah Chowdhury, Rosh, Dino, Gayle Lazda, Marie Maurer, Shayamal Vallabhji, Paul Case, Ben Southwood, Eli Davies.

The Prince George In Hackney Is A Real Gem

prince george pub hackney

THE PRINCE GEORGE IN HACKNEY IS A REAL GEM

Located on a residential street off Dalston Lane is the Prince George, where Chef Troy Cundy has created a menu with delicious innovations around traditional pub food. The pub has a welcoming, down-to-earth community feeling and is one of Hackney’s must-visit pubs.

Prince George, 40 Parkholme Road, London E8 3AG. Phone: 020 7254 6060

READ MARTIN DEAN'S STORY

One of Hackney’s best-loved traditional pubs, the Prince George is a perfect piece of Victorian heritage that continues to thrum with life. It’s tucked away on a residential street just off Dalston Lane, and it’s a great place to stumble upon as you explore the area. Inside you’ll find a lovely beer garden, a well stocked jukebox and, in the winter, a proper open fire. And we haven’t even talked about the food yet.

The food at the Prince George is created by the enormously talented Troy Cundy, who trained with Ottolenghi, so you can expect some truly delicious innovations around traditional pub food. Be sure to try the smoked haddock and kedgeree scotch egg, the grilled onglet steak or, if you’re in a dessert mood, the salted chocolate mousse with peanut brittle. Of course, along with that you can choose from a selection of handpicked wines, craft beers and ales, or whatever else takes your fancy.

All in all, the Prince George is a real gem that combines top quality food and drink with a welcoming, down-to-earth community feeling that you’ll find is something of a theme in Hackney. Sat in the heart of a residential area as it is, you’ll find many of the patrons are from literally just around the corner, and the more you visit, the more you’ll recognise familiar faces. This is definitely one of Hackney’s must-visit pubs.

Feature photograph by Ewan Munro from London, UK (Prince George, Dalston, E8Uploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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The Rochester Castle Imbues The Spirit Of Hackney

the rochester castle pub wetherspoons stoke newington hackney

THE ROCHESTER CASTLE IMBUES THE SPIRIT OF HACKNEY

The Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington is the oldest trading Wetherspoons pub. The location has been a pub since 1702 (well before it became a Wetherspoons pub), when it was known as The Green Dragon. It has several photographs with accompanying text displayed on its walls with details and anecdotes of the neighbourhood’s history.

The Rochester Castle, 145 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, London N16 0NY. Phone: 020 7249 6016

READ FERNANDO SDRIGOTTI'S STORY

“The finest people I’ve ever met in my life are in pubs.” — Oliver Reed

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of visiting my uncle’s bar in Rosario, Argentina with my dad, back in the 1980s. Almost every weekend we would stop by Junior — such is still the name of the place — on our way back from the cinema or the video games arcade. I was fascinated by the the deco that hadn’t changed in almost 30 years, the parade of faces rushing past the big front windows, the ancient men and women hiding behind their papers, clients who were there every time we turned up, so that you didn’t know whether they were clients or human furniture. As soon as I was old enough I was spending most of my time in bars. This is a sport I’m still practicing, even during periods of voluntary or enforced sobriety. For me it isn’t necessarily about drinking but about finding a place where I can plug into the world. Being in London means I should never run out of these haunts, even if here they go by another name: pubs.

the rochester castle pub wetherspoons stoke newington hackney

What caught my attention the first time I walked into a pub in London was the diversity of the punters. Even in a central London boozer you could see the poor and the rich, the white and the black and the Asian drinking the same beer, every now and then having a conversation, sometimes even enjoying their company. This was over 15 years ago, when pubs smelled of cigarettes and you didn’t have to pay for a pint with one of your kidneys. The pubs where we spend our time today have changed even faster than the city around them, perhaps anticipating the London to come. The gastropub fad, first, evicted many from the places they used to call their second home. The craft beer fad later finished the job. I’m not bemoaning the disappearance of an Old London where everything was nicer and the grass was greener, because I’ve only been here for 15 years. I’m not idealising the local working class, because I’m not working class. It’s just that I’m not interested in places that feel isolated from their surroundings. I’m not interested in the encounters that might take place in them, if any encounter does ever happen. Thankfully, I still have a place to go to. A place that feels about right, that combines the elements I need in order to feel comfortable.

My local, The Rochester Castle in Stoke Newington, is one of almost 1,000 Wetherspoons in the UK. The current building dates back to the late 19th Century, although there has been a pub in this location in one shape or the other at least since 1702. It was taken over by the chain in 1982, making it the oldest ’Spoons still open.

the rochester castle pub wetherspoons stoke newington hackney

The Rochester Castle isn’t necessarily “pretty”, but it’s ridiculously cheap and has an unassuming atmosphere that captures very well the spirit of the area. Old fedora-clad Jamaicans, posties during their lunch break, hipsters on a night out (or on the morning after), some of the posh neighbours having an undercover fry-up, anyone you might see walking down Stoke Newington High Street can be found drinking here. If The Rochester Castle looks and feels like Hackney it’s because it isn’t trying to run away from Hackney — it’s as simple as this, almost obvious, and yet so many pubs, by accident or design, get it wrong. Pub chains are full of contradictions, and the one in question here isn’t any different. But for all we can say about this company — the Brexiteering of its owner is what bothers me the most — we can’t accuse it of not knowing its clientele or the places where it sets up business. Ironically, it has been left to a chain once hyped to destroy the pub industry, to preserve the authentic atmosphere of many a London pub. This is something that Kit Caless, Wetherspoon aficionado and contributor to The City Story, rightly defines as “the Wetherspoon’s Paradox”.

The Rochester Castle has an interesting musical history. During the punk revolution of the late ’70s and early ’80s it was a renowned music venue. Which band played here or not is disputed, but there is some consensus that at least The Jam and XTC played at the venue in 1977. The version that has the Sex Pistols peddling anarchy within its walls, at some point in their early days, seems to be just a myth, sustained perhaps by the fact that Sid Vicious, bass “player” in the band, used to attend a local school as a teen. Stokey legend and librarian Richard Boon — former manager of the Buzzcocks and, for some, the creator of indie music — can be frequently seen drinking in the pub. His is a presence that links the pub’s present with its past. And not the only one, as some of the locals have been drinking in the building for decades.

the rochester castle pub wetherspoons stoke newington hackney

Visit a place for long enough and soon you’ll start to second-guess its rhythms, perhaps because the place has become a part of you, or you’ve become a part of it. The old man crossing the doors at 9:00 a.m. every Sunday, wearing headphones that he won’t remove all day, not even to order his beer. The middle-aged guy in rollerblades, crossing the floor from one corner to the other, drink in hand — I ignore if the punters and the bar staff have given up on him or they wouldn’t flinch even if Queen Elizabeth II crossed the door wearing platforms. The Indian man who drinks lager standing by the bar every Sunday, in a Man U top, always shouting loudly into his phone while his wife waits patiently next to him, drinking tap water. The elderly couple who sits every day at the same table, drinking wine, studiously ignoring one another, alone together.

Each one of them, of us, with all of our differences, becoming part of the furniture, adding to the history of The Rochester Castle.

Photographs by Fernando Sdrigotti

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