In London, storm Doris has blown out of our lives and left us picking up the pieces. No serious damage, just twigs blown off trees and a few hoardings left roaming the streets. Having been trapped indoors for a couple of days listening to the wind howling in the chimneys, the sight of a blue sky, had us harnessing up Dog and striding out across the marshes to the Crate Brewery & Pizzeria in Hackney Wick. This is an area that would seem ripe for gentrification but has, as yet, resisted the polished planting of its neighbour across the water, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Professional graffiti decorates every possible surface, micro-breweries stand cheek and jowl by artists’ studios, old warehouses and disused industrial buildings. Houseboats of all shapes and sizes line the River Lee Navigation, smoke from their wood burning stoves adding to the Heath Robinson ambience.
Outside Crate, you will find the wooden tables and benches packed with local workers, whatever the time of year. ‘Hipster’ creatives dig into a variety of crisp-based pizzas, more flat bread than Italian dough, with non-standard toppings such as sweet potato, stilton and walnut; lemon chicken tajine and sage and truffle. We ‘oldsters’, more concerned for our digestions than the thirty-somethings around us, stick to the known and devour a spicy salami accompanied by a freshly-made bulgur wheat salad. Washing it down with a pint of dark velvety Crate Stout and a smaller, fruitier Crate Pale Ale, we watch the canal world drift past. A swan building a nest, a sculler catching debris with his oars, and a pair of artists spraying up a storm of graffiti advertising on the wall opposite. At weekend lunchtimes, the benches will be full of pushchairs and cyclists, but for now it’s a unique lunch place for the surrounding creative community – for as long as it resists the march of the estate agents.