Hattie Lloyd 01/05/24

A Casually Cultured Evening in Hackney Wick

When you’re trying to woo a Londoner, it’s easy to get stuck with the same old hackneyed date ideas.

Which is why you need this brand new Hackney date idea.

You’ll whisk off your date for a canal-side cocktail as the sun goes down, grab a bite to eat at one of the city’s hottest new date spots, before wrapping up the night with a dose of culture in a laid-back setting.

If you’re making plans on a day off, meet your date at Stratford station and take an afternoon stroll across the lushly landscaped Olympic parkland, or head down from Lea Bridge station to walk through the uniquely beautiful industrialised wilderness of Hackney Marshes, with pylons peeping over the long grass.

But if you’re meeting up in the evening, make a beeline straight for your first stop: the 120 year-old Dutch cargo barge moored up on White Post Lane…


Barge East

The team of friends behind Barge East have nurtured their little patch at the end of Regent’s Canal into an idyllic little oasis. What started as a restaurant and bar housed in their converted barge has slowly spread onto the banks of the canal itself, where you’ll now find a street food area serviced by a vintage airstream caravan, and a flourishing garden that supplies ingredients to the on-board kitchen.

Whether you’re sitting here next to a verdant cucumber patch or on deck overlooking the water, the views somehow seem even better with one of Barge East’s E9 Coladas in-hand. And while you could stay for dinner too (and you’d have an excellent time), for a change of scene it’s a 15 minute stroll along the waterside to…

➋ DARLING’S | 6pm

Look up ‘rustic’ in the London dictionary and you’ll find Darling’s: poised and softly-lit, with salvaged wooden school chairs and crumpled linen curtains. This recent opening is a pasta restaurant that’s actually suitable for first date territory. The focaccia comes in dainty biscotti-sized slivers that won’t leave wayward rosemary leaves on your cheek. The fresh pasta is served in non-bloaty portions. Heavy sauces are eschewed in favour of elegant additions like caramelised onion and white beans; or saffron, sage & parmesan. In short, you won’t be left too full to talk, and you can end the meal with a glass of marsala wine and decadence where it matters, in a plate of tiramisu.

Retrace your steps back towards Hackney Wick station, heading for:

➌ YARD THEATRE | 7.30pm

yard theatre

An Unfinished Man

From warehouse to arthouse: the Yard Theatre sits buzzing in a corner of an industrial yard reborn as a hub for culture and nightlife. Under the steer of artistic director and founder Jay Miller, The Yard’s been staging some of London’s most adventurous, unusual and pulse-quickening theatre since its beginnings in 2011. What started as a six-month pop-up has become an influential stage – morphing seamlessly into nightclub – where artists can take risks and push boundaries. Shows premiering here have transferred to the National Theatre (Alexander Zeldin’s Beyond Caring), been adapted for TV (Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams), and blown critics away with their ingenuity (like Dipo Baruwa-Etti’s supernatural thriller, An Unfinished Man). Basically, you’re almost certainly in for a treat whatever you see here – either way, it’ll spark plenty of post-play discussion in the bar afterwards – and you’ll pay a snip compared to West End prices.

From here, the night is yours: you could sip tank-fresh pints at CRATE Brewery, dance by the waterside at GROW, or listen to the vinyl DJs at All My Friends

…who are great, just for the record.


The Itinerary:

➊ Barge East | Sweetwater Mooring, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN

➋ Darling’s | 455 Wick Lane, London E3 2TB

The Yard Theatre | Unit 2a, Queen’s Yard, White Post Lane, London E9 5EN

Looking for more inspiration? Try these excellent London cocktail bars on for size

Hackney Wick Itinerary

Start at Hackney Wick, Hackney Wick,