Describe your area in three words: Green: the borough has 58 parks and green spaces totalling 282 hectares. Entrepreneurial: from retail and hospitality to digital and tech, the East End’s entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds. Creative: the area benefits from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games legacy and boasts plenty of cultural and creative venues and events. Sadly, Hackney Wick (home to many artists’ studios) is under
threat from residential development (see #SaveHackneyWick).
Coolest coffee spot: Pavilion in Victoria Park is a great spot for a coffee and a freshly made pastry, especially in the summer when you can sit outside by the lake (and there’s loads of space for buggies). For something a bit different, try their spicy Sri Lankan breakfast. Other favourites include Climpson & Sons on Broadway Market in London Fields (they roast their beans in east London too); Muxima on Roman Road in Bow (look for local art displays on the walls and lots of events); and Tina, We Salute You in Dalston (unusual name, excellent coffee).
Best family-friendly restaurant: Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green is brilliant for brunches (and cocktails on nights off!). Shane’s on Canalside at the Here East complex in Hackney Wick has lots of buggy space and, for me, has accommodated a few antenatal class reunion lunches. It specialises in British fare with locally foraged ingredients. Their smaller outpost on Chatsworth Road in Clapton is great too. And finally, Forman’s Smokehouse in Hackney Wick has delicious London cure smoked salmon (made on site), nice views of the Olympic Stadium and an art gallery for little ones to explore.
Favourite park or green space: For me, it has to be the canal network. It’s like an artery joining together most of the borough. The Hertford Union, Regent’s, and Lee Navigation canals are ideal for walking or cycling from one part of Hackney to another, ogling birds and colourful houseboats along the way.
Best local museum or gallery: Few outside of east London know about the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green – apparently the largest institution of its kind in the world. Visiting adults tend to become rather nostalgic when they spot their favourite childhood toys in the permanent collection, while children will love the museum’s exhibitions and events. See also: Sutton House in Homerton (a National Trust property – in Hackney!); Stour Space in Hackney Wick (a creative hub with a gallery, café and more); and the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch (recently closed for an £18m redevelopment but due to reopen in 2020).
Coolest kids’ shops: Hop of Hackney in Clapton carries beautiful kids’
stuff alongside homeware and stationery. Telling Tales in London Fields is a must-visit for baby bibliophiles, and their book subscriptions make a great gift. Handcrafted in Dalston and available to buy online, What Mother Made produces gorgeous children’s clothes – a mix of traditional shapes and contemporary prints in hard-working materials.
Favourite under-5s class/activity: Ella’s favourite is Baby Sensory in Bow. There are also classes in Stoke Newington and elsewhere in east London. It’s colours, lights, textures, songs and sign language all packed into 45 minutes. Ella has been going since she was teeny and is always enthralled.
What makes your area great? Hackney is a diverse, creative and energetic place to be – and that makes it brilliant for bringing up kids. When we’re blessed with good weather, the parks and canals can’t be beaten and rainy days needn’t be feared with so many shops, eateries and cultural hotspots right on Hackney’s doorstep. You don’t have to
leave the borough to find something to do. My ongoing affection and evangelism
for all things Hackney led me to set up my local events series for parents: East
What’s the best thing about living in London?: In my view, the best thing about London is the vibrant arts and culture scene. Your experience of that scene shifts when you have children, of course, but the change is softened by still being able to access theatre for babies, child-friendly gallery events and so on.
And the worst?: For me, the worst thing about London is the pollution. It’s encouraging that the Mayor’s office seems to be taking the problem seriously now, but the impact the
filthy air could be having on my daughter’s health does worry me.
Photo credit: Sarah Bruegger