Hidden Hackney
CAPTION: Dennis Severs' House
Culture / Inspiration

Hidden Hackney

Words: Sarah Moor
Published: Autumn ‘15

From lesser known restaurants and cafes off the beaten track, to distinctive bars, secret gardens and unusual cultural spots, we take a look at some of Hackney’s hidden gems.

Merci Marie

Fitzroy House, Abbot Street, London E8 3DP

Merci Marie is hidden from the masses on the second floor of a Fitzroy House, an old warehouse in Dalston. As such it is one of the area’s best kept secrets. Serving lunch and dinner the talented Marie Gonford cooks up quality rustic French and European delights.

A Provence-born chef, Marie set up Merci Marie in February 2013 and fuses her heritage and knowledge of great tastes with an inspiration drawn from the diversity of London. The nearby Ridley Road Market inspires which ingredients she uses and her menus vary from day to day. Marie hosts pop-ups on Friday nights, called Sweet Fridays which includes a three-course meal, a glass of bubbles on arrival with amuse bouche and French wine with the meal.

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Geffrye Museum Herb Garden

136 Kingsland Road, London E2 8EA

Tucked away behind Hoxton’s hundred-year-old Geffrye Museum, stands the Geffrye Museum Herb Garden. Opened in 1992 the walled garden is a haven of herbology, a peaceful sanctuary containing over 170 types of herb divided into traditional uses from culinary to cosmetic and medicinal. Nestle yourself under the rose arches and enjoy the sounds of water flowing from the central fountain, created by local ceramicist Kate Malone.

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Abney Park

South Lodge, Abney Park, Stoke Newington High St, London N16 0LH

At 175 years old, the headstones of Abney Park Cemetery are mainly hidden beneath tangles of ivy, however the names of William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, have stood the test of time. Deep in the interior stands the oldest surviving non-denominational Gothic chapel in Europe. Boarded-off from public access, its interior remains a mystery. Abney Park Trust would like to restore the chapel to a safe and usable space and, whilst retaining its derelict charm, open it as a centre for arts events and skills training…watch this space.

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Banner Repeater

Platform 1, Hackney Downs railway station, London E8 1LA

Not to be confused with a pop-up, this not-for-profit contemporary art space was founded by Ami Clarke in 2010 and serves as a gallery-come-reading-room-come-project space. Located on Hackney Downs’ train station platform, the space is dedicated to developing critical art and sees over 4,000 passengers pass by on a daily basis. The programme of events, talks and performances aim to encourage discussion and debate around the key issues in art today. Next time you’re in the area why not pop in; an open door policy is maintained six days a week, even during the rush-hour commute.

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Abbot Street, London E8 3DP

If you’re looking for a unique for-hire spot in the local area there are few places quite as distinctive as Dalston’s Bunker. Run by the same folk that brought us Dalston Roof Park, is a surviving World War Two underground bunker situated behind The Print House and offering five cavernous event spaces.

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Pelicans & Parrots Black, 81 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8AD

A 60-capacity event space equipped with a fully licensed ‘Rum Shop’ and located through a secret door in the changing rooms of Dalston’s Pelicans & Parrots Black store.

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Dennis Severs’ House

18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6BX

On the very perimeter of the Borough of Hackney stands Dennis Severs’ House. From the outside it might seem like an ordinary home, but behind its front door exists an art-installation-come-museum which takes you back in time to experience 18 Folgate Street as its original occupants did in the 18th Century. Step inside and become a fly on the wall in this early Georgian family home, whose Huguenot occupants are still in residence.

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