Its boundaries may be nebulous, but one thing’s for sure: the East End’s come a long way since its days as the heartland of working-class London. Chichi pubs, pram-friendly cafés and high-end boutiques have been slowly replacing the edgy, bohemian vibe that made the neighbourhood a magnet for creatives. But that just means there’s a bit of something for everyone in this hothouse for London’s latest trends.
In the mood for street eats? Head to Chatsworth, Spitalfields or Netil markets, where young, international chefs hold court with signature dishes. Need some breathing space? Sprawling Victoria Park’s lawns, ponds and skatepark will do the trick. If retail therapy’s more your thing, you’re bound to find something to bring home in the neighbourhood’s sleek boutiques, vintage shops (try Paper Dress for affordable treasures) and luxe outlets.
Tucked under a converted railway arch in Bethnal Green, this Venezuelan joint’s just the ticket for flavour-packed sharing plates and quaffable cocktails. Smoked brisket, beer-brined fried chicken and soft-shell crab are on the menu, stuffed in cornbread arepas and devoured alongside quick-fried plantain tajadas. Finish the night at next-door bars Mother Kelly’s or Sager + Wilde.
A watering hole for Hackney Wick’s motley crew of artists, designers and other cultural disruptors, this craft brewery has a couple of aces up its sleeve. The first is a canalside terrace that turns every sip of a pint into a contemplative treat. Hand-rolled, whisper-thin pizzas are the second, with unusual but utterly addictive toppings like spiced lamb with pine nuts or warming Kashmiri dal.
Another gem on the water, these artists’ studios foster the neighbourhood’s creative ambitions. Poetry readings, experimental animation workshops and photography shows regularly grace its events and exhibition spaces, open to all. Take a seat on the café’s pretty terrace overlooking the canal for hearty breakfasts, tasty lunches and home-baked sweet treats, which help to fund the studios.
Housed in repurposed shipping containers, this new-gen shopping destination showcases on-trend products from young creators. Get a London makeover from the edgy beauty mavens at Illamasqua, or stock up on Korean streetwear at Side Party. Upstairs, buzzy food stalls rustle up veg pots, gourmet burgers and round-the-world tapas for weary shoppers.
This thought-provoking gallery has always had the future firmly in its sights. Kahlo, Picasso, Rothko and co have all exhibited here, but its avant-garde programme of contemporary art, talks and immersive events is just as stimulating. Some of the big-name shows charge an entrance fee, but there’s always something free and intriguing on offer.
The epicentre of all things hipster, Broadway Market comes alive on Saturdays with stalls peddling lust-worthy crafts and round-the-world street food. Visit during the week for a quieter taste of its excellent cafés and boutiques: 69b gets our vote for sustainable style. Come cocktail hour, Kansas Smitty’s diminutive basement room hosts some of the liveliest Jazz gigs in town.
The heart of London’s Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane is an eclectic jumble of vintage kitsch, curry houses and raucous bars. At the weekend, stalls sell everything from retro clobber to street eats. Drop in to Dark Sugars for seductively moreish chocolate truffles, or join the late-night queues at the bagel shops to rub shoulders with the capital’s most colourful characters.
Looking at the Petit Pois Bistro menu in Hackney’s Hoxton Square, there is not a single thing we don’t want to eat immediately: steak frites, Lyonnaise salad, charcuterie, crêpes suzette… The menu changes frequently to highlight the best seasonal produce, but one thing remains constant: the chocolate mousse. Save some room.
There’s nothing better than a lazy morning at E8’s Broadway Market – tinkering through teeny bookshops and waking up with a coffee at Hackney institution, Climpson & Sons.
Nowhere embodies the East End’s transformation more than Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street. Twenty years ago, its low rents and bohemian spirit were a magnet for artists and creatives. Young British Artists Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas opened up ground-breaking pop-up store The Shop here in the 90s – a harbinger of trendy things to come.
Over the years, Shoreditch has become a haven for street art, vintage shops and buzzy hotspots. Michelin-starred Brat, one of London’s most talked-about restaurants, is just one of many gourmet stops along Redchurch Street. But there’s no need to work up an appetite to enjoy the neighbourhood’s lures: from minimalist fashion to cutting-edge design, shoppers are in for a treat, too. From a hip barber to an expert coffee brewer, here’s our pick of the best of Redchurch Street.
British brand Sunspel has made a name for itself with minimalist t-shirts and boxer shorts since 1860. Hunt down investment buys in this cleaned-lined flagship store: there’s nothing basic about these essentials, made for the most part in England, from quality materials. For something that will never go out of style, stock up on the fine cotton polo shirts worn by 007 himself in Casino Royale.
Next door to the APC boutique, Terence Conran’s Boundary project houses a hotel, the restaurant Wilder and a popular rooftop bar. Ground-floor bakery and grocer’s Albion is always a safe bet. Pop in for perfectly plated British classics, made from quality seasonal ingredients. The pastries are irresistible – especially if you can get your hands on the moreish cinnamon swirl.
There’s no trendy street in London without a barber’s. With its Victorian wallpaper and leather armchairs, Murdock Shoreditch is a cut above the rest. Modern dandies have their hair styled here as one should – with a whisky in hand. Murdock’s also sells its own grooming products made from natural ingredients like charcoal or black tea, for a look worthy of a true London hipster.
If you’re serious about coffee, make a beeline for this New Zealand outfit specialising in hot-air roasting. City bankers take their flat white to go, while hipsters enjoy theirs on the premises, paired with soft-boiled eggs, soldiers, and other old-school treats. If you’re in a hurry, the signature Redchurch espresso delivers a powerful kick, rich with dark chocolate notes.
A must for the lover of cutting-edge design, Monologue showcases interior designer Pavel Klimczak’s finds from his travels around the world. It’s a contemporary treasure trove, packed with high-end furniture and objets d’art, and you’re welcome to browse if you’re just after a bit of inspiration. The selection changes regularly and spotlights up-and-coming talent alongside more established names.
In this modern-day hardware store, even the brushes and dustpans look good. Labour and Wait stocks traditionally crafted homeware such as vegetable scrapers, blackboards, and cotton aprons – all functional and timeless. The selection is ethical and sustainable, so you can stock up on hard-wearing crockery, stationery and workwear with a guilt-free conscience, too.
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Once the beating heart of London’s maritime trade, the Docklands’ today is peppered with charming pubs, eateries and show-stopping sushi platters.
Grab a fancy sandwich at Kerb's market during the day and dance the night away at Camden's electric gig venues.