Broadway Market is a densely clustered street that runs like a rich seam of gold through the heart of Hackney. On one end of the street, you have the houseboats of Regents Canal, floating along the waters edge beneath the impressive shadow of an old, enormous gas oval. Just a third of a kilometre away is the other end of Broadway Market, funnelling out into London Fields, which is perhaps the single best green space in London.
The Story behind Broadway Market
Despite its diminutive length, there is an absolute bonanza of activity packed into Broadway Market. That is particularly the case on a Saturday afternoon when the street named “Broadway Market” actually turns into a proper, outdoor pop-up market place.
The visitor will delight amongst artesian coffee stands, Scotch egg stalls, Ghanaian stews, and curio dispensaries of every shape and size below idiosyncratic green and white striped tents. There’s more food, cheese, wine, coffee and hand made goods than a human being could possibly dream. All of it is stuffed between two banks of richly postured brick-built businesses.
The rapid gentrification of East London is felt forcefully on this street, for sometimes better and sometimes worse (particularly from the local perspective). Yet there remains an element of integrity to Broadway Market. A distinct, if not dwindling character that is so unique to East London life and it must be savoured before it disappears forever.
As previously mentioned Broadway market is only a proper market on Saturdays from 9 AM to 5 PM. It is during this 8-hour window that the narrow Victorian-era road erupts into a full-blown frenzy. There has been marketing of one form or another on the passage since the Roman-era. Back then it was a prominent thoroughfare for traders headed north. Through the centuries it has always attracted sellers and buyers galore, but the current iteration re-opened in 2004 and has since become an East London sensation, luring in day-trippers from across the city and beyond. Every Saturday, a polyglot clientele revels in the midst of eccentric local offerings.
It must be said that the crowd can be overwhelming at times. Some people will find themselves more than at home in this bustling energy. With the open spaces of London Fields so close at hand, as well as a multitude of drinking dens and eateries on the street which make acquiring refuge from the chaos easily attainable.
Yet those who would prefer a calmer visit to this wonderful street will do well to come on a more tranquil afternoon in order to properly enjoy themselves. Of course, the frenetic energy of the pop-up stalls and stands will be absent, but there is always something to be said for simplicity. In fact, why not make two trips to the market. A Saturday morning adventure followed by a calmer Monday evening gallivant would be an archetypical way to spend an extended weekend around Hackney.
Broadway Market becomes suffocatingly busy during spring and summer Saturdays, so make sure you come on the early side if you value personal space. On the bright side, higher temperatures turn nearby London Fields into a paradisiacal playground. Here, you can easily avoid 5-pound pints by heading to one of several well-stocked off-licences on the park end of the street.
Grab some food at one of the Broadway Market stalls, find a patch of grass in the park and crush a few cans. There’s plenty of friends to be made and the glory of a summer afternoon in London fields must be seen to be believed.
The Best of Broadway Market
There’s plenty of places to check out in Broadway Market, the tough things is deciding where to go. To save you from the stress, we’ve rounded up the very best restaurants, bars, cafes and shops in Broadway Market that you should check out.
Cat & Mutton
This stylishly redesigned gastropub has existed, in one form another, since the 17th century. Back then it was an alehouse known as ‘The Cattle & Shoulder of Mutton’, but has since been bought and sold several times. Renovated, reshaped and ultimately abbreviated to its current iteration. On market days, the pub is absolutely rammed to the rafters with plenty of overspill into their ample outdoor seating section.
Upstairs it has polished wood, velvet stools, wallpaper and old photographs. It’s a suitable spot for dinner and cocktails if you don’t want to fork out the cash for some of Broadway Market’s more upscale haunts. On any given day or night, this is a more than decent stop off for a pint to soak in that East London Atmosphere.
The Dove House
The Dove does Belgian Beer. That’s their thing, that’s their bag, that’s just the way it is around here. More than 100 Belgian beers on offer, in fact, and not just in bottles either. At The Dove, they’ve got plenty of freshly foaming taps on offer including Duval, Chimay and Delerium Tremens.
Their kitchen is a hybrid between Thai and Belgian cuisine, and while it’s nothing to rave about, a big bowl of Moules Frites never goes amiss. You can’t thumb your nose at 10 quid for a Pad Thai either, particularly around these parts. They’ve got a selection of board games at hand as well, making The Dove a great option for an extending sipping session with some mates.
Pub in the Park
It’s not technically on Broadway Market being up the path and through the Fields. However, on a warm Saturday afternoon this half-outdoor, the half-indoor watering hole becomes the market extended. You won’t find the cheapest pint in town here by any means, but its unrivalled location on the cusp of the park makes this pub the perfect place to start your drinking for the day. As an added bonus, they’ve got some big, high definition flat-screen televisions in the indoor section as well as a few lesser screens outside. This means that POTP is a great spot to watch some weekend football. There’s always a festive ambience and atmosphere, that usually carries on till 1 in the morning with music ringing out. A great choice to begin your Hackney pub crawl.
Right at the start of the market road, this is a splendid little restaurant serving up Basque delicacies. The outdoor patio is perfect for camping out on a sunny day, with plenty of green life along the walls and natural light flooding in. Sip some Spanish beers or Sangria while you wash down their salty pintxos (Basque tapas) and then carry on further down Broadway Market.
If you are in the mood for more traditional style Spanish tapas then head further on down the street to check out El Ganso aka the goose. Breakfast is served from 8:30AM every morning and the menu features mostly traditional fare with a bit of Iberian flair. From 1 PM, however, tapas rules the roost, and their menu is packed with excellent bites of sea-food, meat, cheese and a bunch of wonderful vegetarian snacks as well.
Hill & Szrok
A small herd, whole carcass butcher shop by day that evolves into a gourmet cookshop once the sun goes down. Dismayed by the usual waste that goes on at a traditional butcher, the youthful team behind Hill & Szrok decided to do things a little differently. What that means in practice is selecting whole carcasses from small, local English farms and then dicing them up in their entirety for the eagerly flocking crowds. They do top-quality cuts of meat here and top-quality cuts of meat only. Dining occurs at a large, marble, communitarian family table where daily inspired recipes are served up with aplomb. No reservations and the competition is fierce for the 25-cover joint, so make sure you have a backup plan in mind.
A bach, pronounced ‘batch’, is a small, modest beach house in New Zealand. It’s from this iconic Kiwi tradition that this excellent eatery derives its inspiration. They do brekkie, brunch, wine, cocktails and sharing plates at the hospitable, brimming establishment. The buzzing, airy atmosphere is the perfect staging ground for an avocado-packed breakfast alongside a cup of smooth coffee sourced from local roasters “Allpress” (who also happen to be Kiwi run!). A lovely little spot that is totally worth checking out.
Fresh bread, delicious food and cracking coffee. What else can you ask for really? Try their famous Sri Lankan dahl or a glistening Swedish cardamom bun. All of their loaves go great with the seasonal jams on offer. Oh, and if you come on a Saturday you could, in theory, grab some fresh cheese at a market stall with a loaf of bread from Pavillion and have yourself one hell of a terrific picnic on London Fields. Maybe not in the winter of course.
Artwords is one of three bookshops on Broadway market. They specialise in books based around visual culture and aesthetics. Covering a selection of subjects, from fashion to graphic design, architecture and photography. The large, glass window display at the front of the shop shows off an impressive collection of trendy, cutting edge magazines. If you are more in the mood for traditional booksellers, then check out the independently run Broadway Bookshop just a few doors down. There is also Donlon Books at the other end of Broadway market. This is even artsier that Artwords (if it were a competition) and stocks an esoteric range of rare titles.
This plant shop/cafe can be found on an offshoot mews just alongside Broadway Market. Their Asian-inspired menu is filled with a smorgasbord of healthy treats from quinoa, granola, turmeric and ginger porridge. As well as noodle-laced soups and nutrient-rich rice boxes for lunch. The ambience in here is divine with plenty of plants adorning a bright interior. Most of them are for sale in addition to locally crafted pots for housing your new greenery.
Fin and Flounder
This is a high-end fish shop where you’ll pay top dollar for one of the colourful fillets on display. However, it’s worth stopping by to check out the fresh fish even as a window shopper. On a Saturday market day, they will always have an oyster display set up. With an affable, yellow-aproned shucker on hand to explain to you why exactly its worth it to be forking over a five-pound bill for three glops of salty sea meat. And somehow it always is.
L’eau à La Bouche
This “mouthwatering” (English translation of the name) delicatessen has some of the best pound-for-pound food on all of Broadway Market. The high-end gourmet café was opened up by French-native Stephane Cusset back in 2004 an has become a firm favourite amongst locals over the past decade-and-a-half.
Its shelves are laden with savoury French cheeses, extraordinary Italian wines and luxurious, creamy, fresh food items from around the continent. But the main draw here is the gastronomic creations in the kitchen, particularly the smashing selection of Sandwiches. The top-notch ambience, vibes with huge glass windows make it a perfect spot for some people watching.
Location: 18 Broadway Market | Click Here For More Info
Climpson & Sons
An East London institution that serves up some of the best coffee in the city. Since opening up on the premises of an old butcher back in 2005 C&S has spearheaded the London coffee revolution. They roast their beans at a custom-built facility in a nearby railway arch beneath the overground. Be warned that like many of the businesses on the street. Climpson loses much of its charm on the weekends where it becomes an overcrowded churn and burns, paper cup cafe. But it remains the top option for a quick jolt. During the week, the small shop is unrecognizably cosy and they even serve the coffee in ceramics.
Truth be told, we could go on forever. There are just so many places to dine and drink on this narrow little street. In addition to all of these terrific aforementioned businesses, you can wolf down Argentinian Asado at Buen Ayre. Sip cocktails and listen to live jazz at Kansas Smittys. Choose fine liquors at Noble, shop vintage designs at Retrouvé and warm up with some loose leaf teas at Tiosk. There are plenty of more surprises waiting on this awesome street and whether you come on a Saturday or during the week, you’re exploration will be amply rewarded.
If you liked this guide and are keen to explore some more hidden East London haunts, then check out our guide to the Columbia Road Flower Market, Houseboats of hackney and Brick Lane Street Art. In the meanwhile, be sure to download the Like Locals app today, available for free on both iOS and Android devices.