This hip hangout continues to shine in an area that keeps evolving.
When The Haggerston first opened a few years ago, it was almost unimaginable it would become such a cool spot. Taking over a rather grotty venue called Uncle Sam's (think rotten carpets, dark curtains, a shabby pool table and a lingering stench of stale fags even way after the smoking ban), it was transformed into a hipster-magnet and today it stands as a well-established and still achingly hip venue set over two floors.
Inside, there's dark exposed brickwork that's commonly seen across East London, antique-style wooden booths with mock-marble tables, dim candle lighting, chandeliers and a dark wooden floor. There's a DJ booth at the back and an area of tables that get pushed to the side when Uncle Sam's jazz band revisit the venue on Sundays. There's also an outside area at the back and some covered seating at the front of the venue. There's also a small room upstairs that is used for private parties and special events, such as life-drawing classes and poetry nights. For those familiar with the venue, a trip to the toilets may bring back unpleasant memories – there's a lack of cubicles and men and women have to face each other in a queuing system divided by some rather half finished-looking taps.
This definitely varies considerably depending on when you visit. During the week, you can have a pretty pleasant drink with friends, while from Thursday through to Sunday, the place gets so rammed you can barely move – although the management are considering opening the upstairs area as a second bar during these periods to combat this. As one of Dalston’s hotspots, expect to see trendy twenty-and-thirtysomethings and local scenesters wearing clothes that wouldn't look out of place on the pages of Vice Magazine. Never enter the bar expecting to be served quickly, the staff are incredibly laid-back and, if it's busy, you're in for a wait.
During the week, anything goes and you can hear everything from Girls Aloud to hardcore rap tunes. From Thursdays – and sometimes during the week if there's a special event going on – live bands and DJs take over. On Sundays, however, the legendary Uncle Sam's Jazz band make an appearance and play late into the night.
Recently, The Haggerston has started to serve deli-style pizzas on a menu that changes every month. There's also a selection of pastries at the bar.
Starting at £6.50, the pizzas are pretty good value for money as they're big enough to share. They also offer fairly inventive options with ingredients like lemon and thyme and sliced potatoes as toppings. An interesting - and pretty healthy – pick is the beetroot, spinach, grated courgette, artichoke and olive pizza (£7.50), which tastes vibrant and delicious, despite being cheese-free.
Like the pizzas, the dishes on the monthly menu are beautifully presented on wooden boards – even the salad dishes. The broad bean and pea shoot salad with a fried egg (£4.50) makes an ideal starter or side dish – and tossed with subtle-tasting red onions, finely chopped spring onions and peppery rocket, it tastes unbelievably fresh, too. If you're after a main course from the monthly menu, the spicy bean burger with guacamole and salsa is a good shout (£7.50) - the bean burger is so full of tasty beans it almost falls apart as you pick it up, the guacamole and salsa provide zest and the bun is soft and easy to eat.
The venue has come a long way with its drinks menu and it’s starting to serve some more interesting tipples. Drinks on tap aren't cheap at around £3.70 a pint, but they do include Guinness, Becks, Truman ales, Cristal, Palm and Stowford Press cider, while bottles include Westons ciders and Duvel. Wine is £12.50 a bottle (or £3.50 a small glass) and the house is an easy to drink merlot or chardonnay. There are also coffees, teas and soft drinks starting at around £1.50. A drink of a spirit and mixer is around £4.
The Last Word
Impressively evolving with the Dalston times, The Haggerston is set to stay on top of its game for some time yet.