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The Hemingway

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by Jennifer Walter (subscribe)
Jennifer is a busy, busy bee.
Published November 5th 2012
Classic author, classic pub
The Hemingway - much like its namesake - is refined, ingenious and achieves a lot with a little. A stones throw from Victoria Park, and with its lusciously warm and inviting interior, The Hemingway is a lovely bolt hole to put in some hours of R&R - and you will want to stay longer.

Hemingway, local, Hackney, pub
Author's best friend reclining in a huge Hemingway armchair

The first thing that is apparent the second you walk into The Hemingway is that it is a proper pub. But with the heavy leather furniture and animal heads on the walls it's less country bumpkin and more country gent. And in actuality, it's a really large space, but is managed well with the little bunches of tables. To settle in one corner on a quiet afternoon makes you feel as though you are visiting a rich uncle whose left you in his cosy study whilst he's on The Hunt. But in contrast, the hugely high ceilings and the wide walkways through the pub means it doesn't ever really feel overly crowded, even when it's busy.

For a London pub, they also have a pretty sizeable garden in front which seems to exude the same great juxtaposition - sat in a metropolis, but private enough.

Amongst the mounted deer and bears, there is also what looks to be a mounted Ewok's head with a beard. Or a bigfoot's head? Either way it's definitely not a real animal.

Mystery Animal's head
Ewok and Bigfoot's love child?

Once you step through the door to the toilet there is a separate music system set up playing gorgeous classical tracks. Within both toilets (I asked a male friend to check) there are what seem to be blue and white porcelain designs, framed and hung. On closer inspection these pictures showcase loads of delicately depicted genitalia. Sounds crass and a cheap, but actually, it really works.

With these artworks, the classical in the toilet and the stuffed mythical creature head, there is something subtly tongue-in-cheeked and dryly humorous about the Hemingway. Considering Earnests' works, this seems pleasingly fitting. The establishment also gives an inconspicuous nod to the man himself as there are (real) horns and a charging bull stag on the sign after his obsession with the Spanish blood sport.

The staff are always really friendly and (who knows if purposefully) incredibly good-looking. They seem genuine and honest if you ask them about the food, and don't just go for the tactic of saying the most expensive thing is the best. They are adept at remembering your 'favourites', which helps to make you feel at home as well as receiving quick service, and although they have a 10 card minimum they are happy to open you a tab if you want to be able to spend less than that.

Hemingway, local, Hackney, pub
The Hemingway - restored and beautiful

To say their drinks selection is generous is an understatement and they've often got some rarely seen spirits in there. Their food is mouth-wateringly different with a few twists, including a homemade scotch egg. They source their ingredients locally where they can and although the choice on the menu is not huge, they mix it up enough so that the regular diner won't get bored. It's a tad pricey, perhaps, but in this instance, you get what you pay for.

People-watching in here for two minutes will tell you that The Hemingway is a success. Any pub that draws in the local scene kids, the veteran pub goers and the gangsters all at the same time means they've definitely got a winning formula.

Chuck in the cherry on the cake that they have games in there, and this is just pub heaven. Set to be a time-honoured classic, just like the author himself.
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Why? Gorgeous pub doing it properly
Phone: 020 8510 0215
Where: 84 Victoria Road, Hackney
Cost: Moderate
Your Comment
I like the sound of this place - might have to pop in when I visit London next Jan.
by Kathleen (score: 2|580) 2224 days ago
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