It's the squatters, street artists and DJs of Hackney who made Hackney the hotbed of creative cool it is today. Unfortunately where they led followed the city trendies, design agency wonks and sub Nathan Barley meeja types all clamouring to claim that they've been here since, you know, since it was anything cool and now pack the restaurants and pubs (if not the bars and factory parties) for their fix of foods grown in locavore's allotments and on the factory rooftops of experimental urban gardeners.
It's more likely the latter camp and the Bugaboo bound broods of the latter camp, who pack the reclaimed wood tables of Mare Street eatery Lardo and next door cafe Unpackaged. The crowd is crowded with middle-aged men in clean designer trainers and trendy Kate Moss style mums who lunch. There's nothing wrong with that per se, especially if they're encouraging eateries like this to spring up.
Exposed brick (yawn) and upcycled furnishings might be last years trope, but it 's hardly out of place in this old factory and arts complex with its beautifully restored Crittal windows, daily menus on a clipboard (of course) and humming central bar and kitchen. Delightfully arch staff flex their tattoos as they twist through the tables straight out of hipster central casting.
There's gold on them there menus though. As you'd expect given the name, they go a bundle on meats here and digging on swine is what we came to do. It's a short but pleasing selection of sharing plates (yep, them too) of meats and veggies, small salads, pastas and pizzas from the wood fired oven in the centre of the kitchen.
'Lardy loin' came, as hoped, as the melt in your mouth thin strips of nutty fat that can only come from a happy pig. Impossible to stop eating. Arancini weren't large but were delightful, packed with morcilla and oozingly appropriate Italian cheeses like an advert for lactose and a ravishingly beautiful Pecorino, broad bean and mint salad was truly greater than the sum of its parts, if not quite enough to cope with the local yoot questioning its credentials.
We followed that with a shared salamini pizza. Fudgey soft button sized discs of picante salami pressed into a fresh sourdough base and covered with lashings of chilli oil. Mighty fine. There was nothing special about the tiramisu that finished the meal, but I suppose you can't have everything…
Next door is the slightly less easy to pin down Unpackaged. The hipster equivalent of those fresh goods stores that your Nan used to take you to. One half of the room is given over to an enormous and oh so eco selection of dried food bins. There's no way you could run out of spelt pasta or steel milled muesli round here, thankfully, there's no way you could run out of gorgeous looking breads and pastries either.
Only there for a quick breakfast, it was enough to make me brave the granola. Squidgy black beans came with dollop of sour cream, avocado and the welcome spike of raw chilli. Generously and pleasantly spiced and served with some of that sourdough bread, it kept me going till the evening. Who says vegetarians have no fun?