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The Great Outdoors

Plenty of Hackney Wick’s existing food and drink venues were already famous for their outdoor seating areas: Queens Yard being first port of call for newcomers piling out of the Overground looking for a pint, or Barge East supplying the canal-side cocktails whenever the sun shows its face. But since the pandemic and its lockdowns offered us a year to adapt to the ever-changing rules, many more spectacular markets and outdoor areas have popped up, along with heaps of new artists who have come together to continue the area’s reputation as one of the most exciting alfresco hangouts in London.

After the loss of the beating heart of Fish Island – the beloved Stour Space – earlier this year, Hackney Wick Underground was born, as the owners along with their artists bounced back in true Hackney Wick style. This brand new indoor/outdoor market is a web of community-led companies and ultimately, a celebration of the neighbourhood’s grassroots. Located directly in front of the station, HW Underground triumphantly brings together a handful of well-known local artists, displaying their work and services, alongside incredible woodfired pizza, bakery goods from Doh and £5 East London Brewery pints.

What’s more, each weekend you’ll find the outdoor area buzzing with traders, from handmade vegan soaps from Iris & Me, vintage clothing and homeware from See You Last Tuesday and Polaris Second Hand, ceramics from Ramonita Pottery, flower bouquets from Larkspur and Lavender and so many more. Emily Hana is one of the first painters who contributed to Hackney Wick Underground’s overall vision, and plays with light to create abstract paintings and structures. Head inside and you’ll see the guys from Doh working their magic, assembling their incredible veg boxes and baking tasty sourdough bread. Need a haircut? Butter Cut hair salon is at your service. Want to watch an artist in their prime? Witness Demi paint wall-size canvases or Repot Hackney Wick turn your average plant pot into a work of art. We haven’t even touched on the workshops or seminars provided for the local community. The rest is for you to discover, just speak to the artists and they’ll tell you all about how, despite changing demographic, places like this still teach the ethical values the Wick’s foundations are built upon.

Just opposite HW Underground you’ll find another gem of an outdoor space that has grown this past year. HWK provides perfectly honed coffee courtesy of Climpson & Sons, as well as top-notch cocktails, Californian street food and some of the best music you’ll hear in the area (legally for now, anyway). In fact, their resident DJs have now spread across HWK’s new neighbour space, The Lot. Covid cautiousness seems to have had little impact on the feel-good energy that spills from here each weekend. The team have perfected the art of partying in line with regulations, and sit-down dancing suddenly becomes fairly enjoyable after one of their cocktail pitchers.

Burnt Umber on nearby Hepscott Road are another exciting new addition to this stretch, having weathered the lockdown operating as just a deli, they are finally able to open their brasserie now too, with a lovely outdoor terrace at the back. Sharing the ethos of keeping local artists in the limelight, the interior promotes a rotation of independent, local and contemporary art displayed on the walls.

Queen’s Yard perfectly encapsulates the Wick’s notorious party roots. Much like the wider neighbourhood and its people, the Yard is ever-changing yet consistently diverse. It is home to countless businesses, workshops and studios, yet remains rough around the edges with its graffiti and chaotic atmosphere, true Hackney Wick style. If you’re too unorganised to attempt booking a table in these frantic times, visit Howling Hops, the legendary venue wings it when it comes to tables, just ramble through Queen’s Yard and grab one. It’s here you’ll spend as little as £1.75 on a pint – leaving pocket change (and bladder space) to try more beers on the extensive menu. Pints of IPA are £5.25. True to Queens Yard’s festival atmosphere, it has one of the biggest outdoor seating areas in the Wick. Though this was a pre- Covid feature, it has undoubtedly drawn a large percentage of Londoners out of their local areas and to this hotspot. The Wick Burger is the perfect mid-bar-crawl-pit-stop for quick and delicious handcrafted hamburgers. It involves no messing around with apps, signing up and check-ins – just make yourself known and order from their van. A recent addition to the Yard is The Colour Factory – taking over their warehouse unit just before the pandemic struck. Predominately a live music venue, it was yet another space that has had to adapt its original blueprint to fit the new regulations. It’s here you can impress your vegan friends with a Hogless Roast, Chicken-ish or Veganushi in the outdoor food court. Whilst you’re there, check out their events line-up, and if you weren’t excited about clubs reopening before you will be after clocking the upcoming June/July dates, with the likes of Secret Sundaze, Inferno and Future Disco taking over the booth.

Across the way, Crate Brewery have their large taproom and outdoor terrace complete with tasty beer selection and pizza, all served on the waterfront. Here the pints begin at £5.80. Afterwards, make time to venture upstairs to The White Building Market, where you can browse an eco-friendly range of homewares, inspired gifts and even pick up some quality groceries while you are there.

One of the neighbourhoods newest spots, and perhaps the biggest insight into the future of the Wick and its aesthetics is Hackney Bridge. Owners of one of its first cafés, The Roasting Shed, recently went as far as to call it “a new creative hub that seems to have rekindled Hackney Wick’s original charm.” Its shiny metal walls do hold some community values, providing workshops or shop fronts for the likes of Big Aye Skateboards, as well as offering free event spaces for training and social events. It’s Hackney Bridge that currently tops out our informal craft beer price index, with pints of session IPA clocking in at £6.50 each.

Their courtyard is establishing itself one of the Wick’s most versatile and adventurous spaces, which last month began playing host to a weekly array of fresh, local produce – almost like a mini farmers market. Head down each Saturday to bumble about the various stalls and pick up your weekly supplies from a growing range of organic and locally-sourced producers and farmers.

If the food market is getting a bit hectic, you can always take a short walk up the canal alongside Here East, where there’s loads more outdoor space and a grassy lawn in front of The Lock Inn. Pints of Camden Hells here are 5, with Pale coming in at £5.25.

A stroll back up the canal in the other direction will not only deliver plenty of options for your next Instagram post, courtesy of the eclectic cluster of colourful boats, but will lead to another neighbourhood favourite: Grow. The venue has acted as the Wick’s life support for live music since 2014. With its large outdoor canal-side terrace, you can watch the nomad boaters move their homes along the River Lea. If our classic English weather does you the dirty, move inside to the covered pontoon and warm up. Grow began as an experiment, challenging the possibility of being a financially sustainable enterprise in London, all whilst paying the London Living Wage, being powered solely by eco-electricity, sourcing local and sustainable products and offering free or affordable entrance to their live shows.

It’s safe to say they’ve passed with flying colours, having hosted 200+ free events each year. Being sat on their floating terrace listening to live jazz and feasting on some of the best street food in town, you’ll appreciate why. All summer they will be hosting a big monthly open air market, Future Fair, in Main Yard, where you can peruse handmade artworks and eco products from local designer-makers and Grow Studio holders, all accompanied by live music and good vibes, of course.

Also in Main Yard, the sprawling Number 90 makes for a great alfresco pit-stop with their own lovely outdoor terrace a popular choice for eating and drinking. They have a pint of house larger at £4.90 with Camden Pale at £5.70.

Meanwhile inside you’ll find regular art exhibitions in the gallery, showcasing yet more HW&FI talent, and music events are making a welcome summer return to the studio spaces too.

No Hackney Wick crawl is complete without a visit to The Pearl. Since 2011 it has been described as the ‘epicentre of the artistic community’, and it’s true. Acting as a social hub for warehouse dwellers, their outdoor seating area is buzzing every weekend. At The Pearl you can expect to see a tonne of local art, find leaflets advertising activities, workshops and parties, and you will almost certainly eat some of the best brunch in town, too. Their Huevos Rancheros is a masterpiece of spicy beans, charred corn and sauce that will cure any hangover . It works well with a £4.90 Notting Hells pint , particularly if your hangover can only be cured by continuing the party.

Just around the corner, Natura has been serving the community since 2013 with the best homemade Italian food. They have some nice seats out front from which to enjoy their signature pizzas, and don’t overlook the pasta menu (I recommend the Spaghetti All Salsiccia). Pints here cost £5.50.

And finally, if you find yourself over the ‘far’ side of the Wick on your outdoor adventures this summer, you should keep an eye out for the beautifully laid-out Trowbridge Gardens. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy breakfast or brunch toasties, healthy salads and sweet pastries from the Thingy Cafe in a cosy little verdant garden oasis.