As a West Londoner who has been gradually migrating southeast over the last few years, Hackney has often felt like a long way from home and a somewhat intimidating destination. That’s not to say I haven’t ventured there for the odd night out or cultural event. But I just haven’t put the time in to fully explore it organically.
Last week with the sun shining invitingly, I decided to remedy this deficiency in London knowledge and head north to hit the canals of Hackney Wick on my bike. The perfect way to start tentatively discovering this diverse and ever-changing area.
After its massive makeover for the Olympics, this regenerated part of the East End is going through another transition, finding its post-Olympic identity. And I really like the place it is becoming.
From the canals you can see the past, present and future intermingling everywhere you look. As you pass the few weathered warehouses still as hard at work as they were during the industrial revolution you are reminded that not too long ago most of this area was nigh on an industrial wasteland, home to derelict factories, polluted waterways and the infamous "Fridge Mountain". I’m happy to see that industry still remains, maintaining its manufacturing legacy along the canals. But a newbreed of creation is also occurring here. Colourful artist studios and rental spaces have filled the disused warehouses and outbuildings lining the canal and there is a buzz about the place that tells you exciting things are being done within the gaudy external walls.
And as happens with every no-go area turned artistic hangout, quirky venues and cafes have also popped up left, right and centre.
One such place that caught my eye that day was The Counter Café. On a sunny day this canalside haven seems too good to be true. Top knotch coffee served with a bacon and avocado focaccia, eaten on a floating wooden terrace (which can leave you feeling a bit giddy when someone steps onto it), looking out over the glossy water as colourful canal-boats (or even the odd inflatable!) float leisurely by and the majestic white structure of the Olympic stadium watches over from the other side. And the best bit about this spot? It’s not heaving with people and the prices don’t break the bank.
I would recommend a jaunt to this intriguing part of town as there is just so much to see, taste and hear. If you want to really get to grips with the East End proper, ride the Hackney canals, and see all the sights of the Olympic Park, you should book yourself onto our epic, 7 hour Olympic Tour that runs all through the summer.