The Anonymous Widower

Hackney Central Before Levelling Up

This press release from Hackney Council is entitled £19m Funding Boost For Town Centre At Hackney’s ‘Beating Heart’.

This summary is in the first two paragraphs.

A greener, safer and more welcoming Hackney Central is one step closer after Hackney Council’s successful application for £19m in Levelling Up funding.

The award will see five acres of public space transformed, bringing new green space, trees and seating along Amhurst Road, investment in Hackney Central Library, a much-needed redesign of Pembury Circus junction, new creative workspace and a rejuvenated Hackney Town Hall Square.

This is the summary from the Government’s levelling-up document.

£19 million for renovating public spaces in Hackney Central, such as the iconic Town Hall Square, as well as new creative workspace and upgrades to the Hackney Central Library.

So. this afternoon I went for a walk around Hackney Central and took these pictures.


  1. The roundel is missing outside the Graham Road entrance to Hackney Central station.
  2. Hackney Town Hall is a Grade II Listed Building, dating from the 1930s.
  3. I wrote abut the Hackney Picturehouse in The Film That Changed My Life!.
  4. The Hackney Empire is a Grade II* Listed Building.
  5. The Pizza Express is new, swanky and spacious, and not what I’d expected. I had a late lunch there.
  6. The bridge carrying the Overground over Mare Street needs improvement.
  7. I wrote about the Hackney Marks and Spencer in Levelling Up – The Marks & Spencer Way.
  8. St. Augustine’s Tower is the oldest building in Hackney.
  9. The main building of Hackney Central station is now a bar and music venue.

In words that could be attributed to legendary estate agent; Roy Brooks, it is an area with potential.

These are some thoughts.

The Town Hall Square

What puzzles me about the garden in front of the Town Hall, is the two trees, which I would associate with warmer climes.

Even today, when it was rather cold, there were still flowers in front of the Town Hall.

The Overground

I argue that the coming of the London Overground raised the standard of Dalston, Hackney, Whitechapel and other parts of East and South London to that of their more desired and affluent neighbours.

We can’t really attribute the the creation of the London Overground to any one politician, as it has been an aspiration of several politicians and rail professionals since the 1990s. This History section in the Wikipedia entry for the Overground lists all the false starts and hopes.

But one man; Peter Hendy has been there most of the time and has worked with all three of London’s Mayors and several Transport Ministers.

I do wonder how much the Overground benefited from a sane, quiet hand from someone like Lord Hendy.

The Overground has certainly done its best for Hackney and we need more of its common sense approach to levelling-up all over the country.

Marks And Spencer

When I moved back to London, Hackney had a terrible Marks and Spencer.

As one of their biggest London stores, is just three stops away on the Overground, it might have been financially prudent to close the store at Hackney Central.

But Marks did the opposite and converted it into an upmarket food store, which is much more Knightsbridge than East End.

It’s certainly convenient for me, as I can get a bus there and a bus back, with only a hundred metre level walk at both ends.

The Graham Road Entrance To Hackney Central Station

This makes it easier to travel around Hackney and to get to the Town Hall, Theatre, Cinema and Library area.

How many extra entrances to railway stations will improve journeys and attract more passengers?

The Continuous Development Of The Hackney Central And Hackney Downs Complex

Since I moved to Hackney three projects have been completed on the station complex.

  • A walkway has been built between the two stations to ease interchange.
  • Lifts have been added to the footbridge at Hackney Central.
  • The Graham Road entrance has been opened.

Two other projects have been proposed, but nothing has been actioned.

  • A replacement entrance to Hackney Central station on the North side of the station.
  • Step-free access to Hackney Downs station.

Will either of these projects be covered by the levelling up funding?

Pizza Express

This opened in December and I hadn’t seen it before, but you won’t notice it, unless you walk or ride on a bus up Mare Street, which I rarely do these days, since Hackney Wick station has been rebuilt.

So I was surprised to see it and like the Marks and Spencer it is more upmarket than other pizzadromes in East London.

  • There is a lot of space.
  • It has a proper wheel-chair entrance, that no-one could fault.
  • Seating is upmarket, with several tables having a good view of the street outside. Ideal for someone eating alone, as I do regularly.

The restaurant still has a few rough edges, but it has the potential to be a pizzadrome to visit.

I do wonder, if the upmarket Marks and Spencer and Pizza Express are in a way an endorsement of Hackney’s plans for the future, by two market leaders of the High Street.


There are a lot of bus routes going through the area, which is a good thing.

But the information could also be improved.

Clapton Bus Garage

This map shows the location of Clapton bus garage.

Clapton bus garage is the large building in the North-East corner of the map, red buses with white roofs outside.

This document on the Hackney Council web site is entitled Draft Hackney Central And Surrounds Masterplan, where this is said.

Relocate Clapton Bus Garage to an alternative site, to develop the site for mixed use, commercial/
residential development, and create a new route from St John-at-Hackney Churchyard Gardens to
Bohemia Place and beyond.

This sounds like a good idea, as part of the congestion in the area is caused by buses having to fight their way into the garage, when the roads are busy.

If they built, the right flats there I might be interested, as the site has good transport connections and an excellent Marks and Spencer.

Ashurst Road And Pembury Circus

This paragraph is in Hackney’s press release.

The award will see five acres of public space transformed, bringing new green space, trees and seating along Amhurst Road, investment in Hackney Central Library, a much-needed redesign of Pembury Circus junction, new creative workspace and a rejuvenated Hackney Town Hall Square.

Cut out what I have already covered and you get.

The award will see public space transformed, bringing new green space, trees and seating along Amhurst Road and a much-needed redesign of Pembury Circus junction.

This map shows Amhurst Road and Pembury Circus.


  1. Amhurst Road runs NW-SE across map.
  2. Hackney Central station is at the bottom of the map on the North London Line, which runs East-West.
  3. Hackney Downs station is the other station in the middle of the map.
  4. Pembury Circus is to the East of where Amhurst Road runs under the railway, at the top of the map.
  5. Dalston Lane runs between Pembury Circus Hackney Downs station.

I know the area around Hackney Downs station well.

  • I regularly take a train to Hackney Downs station and get a 30 or 56 bus to my home from a bus stop on Dalston Lane.
  • It can be a very unfriendly and cold place to catch a bus late at night.

But saying that, I’ve never had any trouble.

Improvements in that area, would certainly make my journey easier.

I would like to see the bus stops at Hackney Downs station moved to under the railway bridge to both improve shelter and cut the walking distance.


This could be £19 million very well spent and all residents of Hackney, myself included, could benefit.






January 21, 2023 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Troubles At Pizza Express

This article on the BBC is entitled Pizza Express Set For Talks Over £1bn Debt Pile.

For many coeliacs like myself, who travel all over the UK,, the failure of Pizza Express or even a cutback in the number of restaurants would be a bit of a disaster.

I stayed the night in Preston on Saturday and the only place I trust to serve a safe gluten-free meal there, is the Pizza Express.

I didn’t actually use the restaurant on Saturday night, as the weather was so bad, I went straight to bed and then in the morning, went quickly to Manchester Piccadilly station for a decent gluten-free breakfast at Leon.

If Pizza Express closes branches in places like Preston, then it will make my journeys around the country a lot more difficult.

October 8, 2019 Posted by | Food | , | Leave a comment

The Pizza Restaurant With No Cheese

Last night, two friends and myself, tried to have pizzas at Pizza Express in Walthamstow.

We left, as they’d run out of cheese.

It is not the standard I expect from this chain of restaurants.

But in the past, I’ve also found their Walthamstow restaurant had no gluten-free pizza dough and offered terrible service.

I doubt, I’ll be going again!

January 2, 2018 Posted by | Food | , | 2 Comments

A Pre-Match Meal In Ipswich

Yesterday, it was football at Ipswich at 19:45 due to SKY, so it was an early train to avoid the rush hour and a pre-match meal in Pizza Express on the waterfront.

PX is the only really coeliac-friendly restaurant in the town centre. I’ve yet to find a good Indian one, close to the football ground.

PX was heaving, so it does appear that the demand might be coming up in the town, which in my view and those of some of my friends is a restaurant graveyard. I always wondered if East Suffolk people go to bed early, ever since my father and I used to walk home from his club in Felixstowe at about 21:30 and see all the houses cmpletely dark.

But getting to and from the quay and PX in the dark is a walker’s nightmare, with uneven pavements and all sorts of barriers everywhere. How many drunks will tip into the dock?

However there did seem to be a lot of good development going on at the waterfront, but knowing Ipswich as I do, I doubt that it will be complete for upwards of five to ten years.

The quay might end up as a good place to go, but it’s not that close to the town centre, the railway station and the other attractions in the town, like Christchurch Mansion, the Wolsey Theatre and the football ground.

If ever a town was crying out for a free circular bus-route that ran around the town centre like Manchester’s Metroshuttle, it is Ipswich!

At least though the meal was good and walking down the hill to the restaurant from the station was easy, even if I didn’t find the quickest route back to the football ground in the dark. In the light, I’d have had the liths to guide me!

I shall go again in the light!

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Wet Night In Islington

I needed supper last night and although I had food in the fridge, I went to Pizza Express at the Angel.

The great advantage is that the bus stop is right outside the restaurant.

So although, the rain was amazing, I didn’t get too wet.

The gluten-free pizza was good too!

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Food, Transport/Travel, World | , , , | Leave a comment

An Incident In Pizza Express

Last night, I went to a new-for-me Pizza Express in Curtain Road, close to Shoreditch High Street station.

I always have the same meal in Pizza Express, and that’s a bottle of Aspall Cyder and a gluten-free caprisiosa pizza. The pizza comes on a slate.

Gluten-Free Pizza At Pizza Express

Gluten-Free Pizza At Pizza Express

It was of the usual high standard and was exactly like the one in the picture, which I took in their restaurant in Islington.

But when I started to cut it, with their pizza cutter, the action set up a vibration, which meant the various bottles and glasses on my table started to migrate about.

I didn’t notice what was happening, until I heard the half-drunk bottle of Aspall cyder fall on the floor, where it didn’t break, but proceeded to spin, spilling some of the cyder on the floor.

I retrieved the bottle and I judged very little had been split, despite the fall as it virtually filled my half-pint glass. A half-pint glass is 284 cl.  and the bottle of cyder is 330 cl. But I had had a long drink before the bottle fell.

I think the incident shows the strength of the Aspall bottles, which were brought in to save glass.

June 30, 2013 Posted by | Food, World | , | Leave a comment

Pizza Express and Aspall Cyder

I went back to Pizza Express at the Angel, this evening.

No problems at all, but the pizza seemed to be better than the last time. Not that it was bad in any way then.

The waitress was a bit worried that I drank the Aspall Cyder, as it is not marked as gluten-free on their menu.

I have had assurances from one of the owners of the manufacturers that it is gluten-free. But even if it is not, it certainly doesn’t affect me.

Last summer, I had a full allergy test, to try to get to the bottom of my rhinitis.  They couldn’t find any traces of gluten in my body, and as I drink quite a bit of Aspall cyder, it would have showed up positive, if any gluten had been present.

You can’t blame the waitress for being careful.  But I just don’t like the Green’s beer!

Anyway, I was conceived in Suffolk, just like Aspall’s cyder.

As I write this post, I’ve got another bottle of Aspall on the go!

May 13, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , , | 1 Comment

Gluten-Free Pizza At Pizza Express

For many years, Sunday afternoons and evenings for C and myself had a rhymn. We would go to the cinema at either the Cambridge Picturehouse or the Cineworld and then we’d go for a pizza  in Pizza Express, often at the Pitt Club, where I always had a Capricciosa. This pattern stopped in the early 2000s, when I was diagnosed as a coeliac, so sometimes I would have a salad Niçoise, or more likely we’d go to an Indian restaurant.

But all that has now changed, in that Pizza Express have produced a new very coeliac-friendly menu. This is the gluten-free page.

Last night, I went with two friends to the newly-refurbished Pizza Express at The Angel in Islington. We sat upstairs and for an avid street watcher like myself, it is a great place to sit.

I started with a bottle of my favourite long drink; Aspall Cyder.

Aspall Cyder At Pizza Express

Aspall Cyder At Pizza Express

They also have Green’s gluten-free beer, but I do prefer my Celia, when it comes to beer. The cyder is better than both with pizza.

I also had a Capricciosa, for the first time in perhaps ten years.

Gluten-Free Pizza At Pizza Express

Gluten-Free Pizza At Pizza Express

It tasted just like it did all of those years ago.

I think a personal tradition of a film followed by pizza is going to be revived.  all I need now is an attractive lady with whom to enjoy the experience.

I think too, you can’t accuse Pizza Express of being backward about going forward.

Advertising In Stereo

Advertising In Stereo

These two signs were outside.

My only problem, is that near me, there isn’t a Pizza Express with the quality of building of the Pitt Club in Cambridge.

I have a feeling that in a few years time, this will rate as one of the most significant events in dining out for coeliacs in the UK.

I wasn’t diagnosed as a child, but it must be very difficult, for both a coeliac child and their parents, when say at a birthday party, they get invited to a family restaurant.  Now they can at least eat pizza.

I think it is going to start a ripple in the various chains of restaurants, as they’ll have to follow suit.  After all, Carluccio’s and Jamie’s Italian, already operate a sensible policy on gluten-free food, and I suspect others do.

It’ll certainly make things much easier for me on my travels.  It’s already happened in Ipswich, in that the town has two Pizza Express restaurants. It’s just a pity, neither is close to Portman Road.

This will probably mean that the UK, will become one of the most coeliac-friendly countries for coeliacs to visit.

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Checking On Pizza Express

I walked past the Pizza Express in Islington this morning and looked at the menu outside to see about the gluten-free offering.

The Menu Outside Pizza Express, Islington

The Menu Outside Pizza Express, Islington

Note the gluten-free beer, although I think, I would prefer the Aspall Cyder.

The gluten-free statement is strong and comes with a NGCI symbol.  This apparently means No Gluten Containing Ingredients. This is an accreditation from Coeliac-UK. Read about it here.

As it was early and the place was empty of customers, I went inside and talked to one of the staff. She showed me the serving area and allowed me to take this picture.

Cake at Pizza Express

Cake at Pizza Express

Note the “contains gluten” sticker.

The whole system they have put in seems to be very professional and as fail-safe as you can make it.

The lady I spoke to, said that all restaurants will be offering exactly the same menu.

May 3, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

Pizza Express’s Professional Approach To Gluten-Free

If they’ve got it right, which I suspect they have as it’s a big pitch, Pizza Express have taken a bold approach to adding gluten-free to their menus. You open their web site and on the right is a large block labelled GLUTEN FREE.  Click it and you learn that they talk about 100% taste, risotto, brownies and even gluten-free Pilsner. They even reverse the usual dishes you can have to ones you should avoid.

They also say that their approach has been endorsed by Coeliac-UK.

I shall definitely be trying them out in the next few days.

At least it gives me somewhere to have lunch in Ipswich, when I watch the football!

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | 5 Comments