It’s been a long time since hares bounded about on Cambridge Heath, but this hare-inspired boozer certainly seems to have found its natural habitat in gritty old Hackney.
Sited on a raggedy stretch of Cambridge Heath Road, slotted in amongst kebab shops and cheap new-builds, the pub’s once-handsome cream tiling is now grubby with exhaust fumes and unidentifiable gunk. It’s easily missed, as if swathed in Hackney camouflage, but look out for the cute, cube-shaped lamps that extend from the exterior wall. Inside the pub stretches in an L-shape either side of the bar. Big windows are heavily blinded, the downturned slats keeping Hackney’s street life very much outside.
There's an all-day-boozing-and-footy feel thanks to high-mounted TVs showing sports news, plus the many framed vintage and modern football shirts – some signed – for teams ranging from West Ham and Arsenal to Liverpool and Leyton Orient. This is the extent of The Hare’s interior décor ambitions. Football and racing betting slips are made available in plastic sleeves attached to a wall. Elsewhere, a juke box and a fruit machine. One corner bears a pool table the same burgundy colour as the carpet. This place is about passing time in any way you see fit. It has most definitely not taken on any of the cutesy hipster attitude of This Bright Field café-restaurant across the road, or Hackney Bureau just round the corner on Mare Street. It is a relic of the grittier side of life in these parts.
Other than the football-watching angle, the fact that the pub allows kids is often embraced by locals at weekends, when the pub takes on a family party reception vibe (you almost find yourself seeking out a table topped with dried-out sandwiches, sausage rolls and quiche). The majority of voices seem to be East End, and there is plenty of long-distance conversation from one side of the pub to the other, as if many of the drinkers know each other - or know of each other, since that can be enough in a place like this. Bar staff dress as casually as if they’re in their own living room, and the overall feel is of friendliness from them and from the punters.
There’s an impressive line-up of draught ales, ciders and lagers, including Aspall, Budvar, Guinness (cold and normal), Heineken, Timothy Taylor, Greene King IPA, Doom Bar and the odd guest ale. The Hare also offers a vast array of spirits, including a fine line in malt whisky. Coffee is available.
The Last Word
If you’re tired of modern Hackney pretentiousness then this is a fine refuge, as long as you don’t mind kids and televised sports. If you fancy a bit of light-hearted chatter, too, then The Hare’s bar staff or regulars are more likely to oblige than the clientele of some of the more see-and-be-seen venues hereabouts.