The boroughs of Stratford and Hackney are gearing up for the games, with restaurant, café and pub owners preparing for a deluge of visitors. This is our pick of where to head for Olympic eats, from gastro pubs to cool cafés, and from the best of British to Caribbean jerk chicken. A couple of options are in Dalston, a little way from the stadium itself. However, this is the most happening part of Hackney, so well worth the effort to explore.
A Little of What You Fancy
The quintessence of pared-down Hackney cool, with wooden school furniture, concrete floors, graphics and an artfully unreconstructed entrance on scruffy Kingsland Road. A short but tempting menu combines British and Mediterranean food: truffled mushrooms on toast to start, mussels cooked in cider, and rump-steak tagliatelle. The meat and eggs are free-range. Round things off with cheesecake, brownies or meringues.
Make it happen: www.alittleofwhatyoufancy.info; 464 Kingsland Road
This handsome 19th-century pub serves filling gastro grub such as pork belly, gammon steak, pie of the day, and gourmet hot dogs and burgers. The local London Fields brewery has just created a wheat beer especially for the Britannia. The pub sits right on the edge of Victoria Park, the location of a Live Site with free access big screens showing the sporting action. Otherwise, if you haven’t got tickets for the big event, stage your own Olympics in the park.
Make it happen: www.thebritanniapub.co.uk; 360 Victoria Park Road
Right in the heart of Stratford, Caribbean Scene is one of the most welcoming places in the area; as well as the restaurant they also have a stand in the gargantuan Westfield Centre. The spacious restaurant dishes up Caribbean classics: jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, and patties - as well as tropical fruit salad, fruit punches and teas. The vibe is upbeat and the décor cheerful, with faux tropical huts and a mural featuring Jamaican record-smasher Usain Bolt.
Make it happen: www.caribbeanscene.co.uk; 1 Gerry Raffles Square
A funky Hackney Wick café with a great location over a canal from the stadium - the outdoor tables are wreathed with plants and sit right on the water. The café provides spicy salads, brunch options such as Eggs Benedict with salmon from the next-door smokery, cakes and coffee. There’s also a gallery space - the surrounding warehouses are home to umpteen artist studios.
Make it happen: www.thecountercafe.co.uk; 7 Roach Road
Jimmy’s Supper Club
Having chucked in a job in the City, catered on a luxury yacht and established a supper club in southwest London, young chef Jimmy Garcia is setting up an ambitious pop-up restaurant for the Olympics. Running from 20 July until mid-August, it’s based at Annex East, an arts warehouse just 100m from the Olympic site. Alongside five-course feasts there will be screenings of Chariots of Fire, wine tastings, exhibitions and cocktails. Themed events offer egg-and-spoon fun and toga-wearing opportunities.
Make it happen: www.annexeast.co.uk; 2 Hutchins Close
To buy some picnic fodder for your Olympic outing, make for L’Epicerie in Clapton, a classic French deli with global influences: one of their most tempting snacks is the Moroccan chicken pastilla. You can also stock up on cheeses, pastries, cakes, bread and beers… pretty much anything that takes your fancy. Just don’t try to take your food into the Olympic site itself, where there is a ban bringing in food and drinks.
Make it happen: www.lepicerie56.com; 56 Chatsworth Road
The pearl of Hackney Wick: a stylish modern restaurant in an unlikely location among warehouses and art studios. It cuts a dash with minimalist furnishings and a glamorous bar - in fact this is an ideal place to toast your favourite sporting hero with a cocktail or a jug of Pimm’s. Drop in for a coffee any time, but be sure to book for the restaurant itself - the excellent seasonal British/continental food is very popular with local laptop-wielding artists.
Make it happen: www.thehackneypearl.com; 11 Prince Edward Rd
Hackney’s glorious new movie house has an epic long bar and bench seating. They serve up meat and cheese platters, Italian pasta dishes, classy burgers and chips, and have a good wine and beer list. There are two more bars on the upper levels, three cinema screens, gallery space and a cute music venue - all of which makes for a great night out in the heart of the borough.
Make it happen: www.picturehouses.co.uk; 270 Mare Street
Kingsland Road in Dalston is the heartland of the Turkish community and Mangal is one of the best places to sample classic Turkish dishes including a huge variety of kebabs, hummus starters and salads. If you go in the evening you’re likely to spot conceptual artists Gilbert and George (www.withgilbertandgeorge.com) - this is their regular hangout. The restaurant has many imitators, and a second branch with an open grill nearby on Arcola Street.
Make it happen: www.mangal2.com; 4 Stoke Newington Road
Since the 70s and the fall of Saigon there has been a large Vietnamese community in Hackney - initially people worked in the garment industry but now many have set up restaurants in the borough. You’ll find a couple of good options on Mare Street: try Green Papaya (www.green-papaya.com; 191 Mare Street) or Tre Viet (www.treviet.co.uk; 251 Mare Street ). Otherwise head for the cluster of places on the lower Kingsland Road - one of the best is Mien Tay (www.mientay.co.uk; 122 Kingsland Road), which specialises in the seafood-rich cuisine of the Mekong Delta.
East London-based Helena Smith is a writer and photographer who blogs at Eat Hackney.