Broadway, bistros and blooms: the perfect spring weekend in Hackney

This weekend started without a plan, as many of the best ones do. Fortunately, I didn’t need to stray far from Hackney Road to find inspiration…

Saturday

It’s been a while since I have wandered up to Broadway Market and it’s particularly inviting at this time of year – the colours and smells of the fresh produce drew the crowds this weekend despite it being a blustery, showery day.

It’s essential to head to the market with an empty stomach – delights on offer include gourmet scotch eggs, scallops and bacon on brioche bun, and hot haggis toasties from Deeney’s. I took away a yummy almond macaroon from Cinnamon Tree Bakery.

Fortunately, by the evening I was ready to eat again as I had dinner plans at Cafe 12 on Hackney Road. Having never eaten there, I was ridiculously excited. I walk past this place every day and the dishes laid out in the window always look fabulous. Yet somehow I have never got around to going in. I had no trouble getting a table for two – though the cosy, candlelit dining room was quiet, there was a nice buzz as lots of people were coming and going to get take away. I had a feeling as soon as myself and my other half walked in that this little place will become one of our favourite haunts.

We both ordered meat lasagne which was delicious and came with a lovely salad and grilled vegetables. We were also given hummus, bread and pesto, and some other bits to try (including some delicious crab meat – the chef was trying out a new recipe – and the roast pork) on the house. The chef made us feel welcome and even told us some of his secret ingredients. We hear the burgers are something special and will definitely be returning when these are on the menu. At less than £10 each (no drinks – it’s byob), this really is an amazing find but shhh, don’t tell anyone.

Sunday

The first sight of crocuses in Ion Square Gardens as I head to Columbia Road and I know it’s going to be a busy market day. Spring is in the air and don’t Hackney’s stylish locals and discerning tourists know it. Lured by the sun’s brief appearance, the jostling crowds grapple with armfuls of daffs and tulips. The cheeky traders call out – you’re as likely to hear them make a quip on their customers’ attire as giving them the hard sell– while local musicians entertain hipsters and families alike. I escape the throng with a quick pit stop at Pavilion Bakery to pick up some pastries – the cardamom bun and rhubarb tart are delicious – and to sample their bread, jams and chutneys. The market packs up at about 3pm and if you arrive towards the end you might bag yourself a bargain!

What makes Columbia Road and Broadway Market so magical is an East-London authenticity that is now somewhat lacking down the road on Brick Lane. My advice: give Shoreditch a miss next time you’re in town and head to Hackney. Just be sure to set the alarm if you want to beat the hordes, and make sure you are hungry!

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