St John at Hackney Brewery — a craft brewery, bar and restaurant in no way related to Fergus Henderson’s institution — is opening in the newly renovated Hackney Central arches on 16 June.
Tucked beneath the railways tracks lining Bohemia Place, the operation is the first of a number of food and drink operators that will move into the arches. Co-founded by Luke Scanlon and Ryan Robbins, the business is named after the parish church on Lower Clapton Road, and will combine their own beers with a global range, and Cypriot food from Ɛ́lα, founded by Emilio Stavrou. The interior too is inspired by the church, featuring restored pews and a wooden architrave structure supporting the ceiling that promises a “church-like” feel.
The brewery is headed up by Robbins — who began as a home brewer — and will launch with an American pale ale, a lager, an IPA and an imperial stout. It seems a bold move to offer their own beers alongside a global roster more familiar to London drinkers, especially those who regularly enjoy the raft of fine craft beers already brewed in the capital. That said, the success that the likes of Beavertown and Crate have found with the taproom model is a promising sign for the new brewery.
The food from Ɛ́lα will be barbecue-focused, and in accordance with London restaurant law in 2018, the barbecue on the premises is custom-built. Stavrou’s food is inspired by what he says is “the best kebab shop in the world”: the one at the end of his grandma’s road in Nicosia, Cyprus. He partnered with Camden Town Brewery for a one-off event last year, and the food will continue in the same vein: ethically-sourced, charcoal-grilled meats and vegetables with homemade sauces and sides, either skewered or stuffed into pillowy pita. It’s important to note that the kitchen will rotate on a residency basis, offering the opportunity to showcase a variety of cuisines and restaurants.
With the tagline “beer for all sorts”, St John at Hackney Brewery — and its association with the local church — is designed with community in mind, hoping to give something back through the parish community. It’s a nice touch that will hopefully bear meaningful fruit, setting the operation apart from the restaurant-in-railway-arch norm.