How East London has become London’s most vibrant destination

How East London has become London’s most vibrant destination

Brick Lane is famous for its curry houses, including Aladin and City Spice, serving traditional Indian cuisine. Photo / 123rfBrick Lane is famous for its curry houses, including Aladin and City Spice, serving traditional Indian cuisine. Photo / 123rf

Another staple is the nearby Old Spitalfields Market, which combines its history with contemporary food culture. Here, visitors can savour dishes from around the world, such as Greek souvlaki, Korean BBQ, and Italian pasta, or stop for a strong shot of coffee at Grind, a cute pink coffee truck. The Humble Crumble, located in the heart of Spitalfields Market, specialises in fruit crumbles with a variety of toppings and custards. It’s a comforting and indulgent treat that’s perfect for any time of day: the crème brulée crumble is highly recommended to combat jet lag after a long journey.

Old Spitalfields Market offers a global culinary experience, from Greek souvlaki to Korean BBQ. Photo / 123rfOld Spitalfields Market offers a global culinary experience, from Greek souvlaki to Korean BBQ. Photo / 123rf

Iconic eats

Among East London’s dining gems are a few standout establishments that have become iconic in their own right. Dishoom pays homage to the Irani cafés of Bombay, India, serving up a mix of classic and contemporary dishes in a charming, vintage setting. I went for dinner and ordered the rich House Black Daal which cooks for more than 24 hours and is incredible. Many locals told me I had to return for breakfast, so I went back for the Bacon Naan Roll.

Dishoom in Shoreditch pays homage to Bombay’s Irani cafés with dishes like the rich House Black Daal. Photo / SuppliedDishoom in Shoreditch pays homage to Bombay’s Irani cafés with dishes like the rich House Black Daal. Photo / Supplied

Another notable spot is St. John Bread and Wine, an offshoot of the famed St. John restaurant. Known for its nose-to-tail dining philosophy and owned by New Zealander Margot Henderson and her husband Fergus, St. John Bread and Wine offers a menu that emphasises simplicity and bold flavours. Dishes like the legendary roasted bone marrow on toast and the Eccles cake with Lancashire cheese showcase the restaurant’s commitment to quality and tradition. Its minimalist decor and focus on seasonal British ingredients make it a beloved institution and a must-visit.

For those seeking a touch of Italian panache, head to Gloria in Shoreditch. The vibrant trattoria, part of the Big Mamma Group, serves up sumptuous Italian fare with a side of theatrical flair. Dinner is a feast for the eyes (and your Instagram account) and includes dishes such as 10-layer lasagne, a simple but expertly executed carbonara served in a whole round of pecorino, and the towering lemon meringue pie.

AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.Gloria in Shoreditch features theatrical Italian cuisine, including 10-layer lasagne and carbonara served in a round of pecorino. Photo / SuppliedGloria in Shoreditch features theatrical Italian cuisine, including 10-layer lasagne and carbonara served in a round of pecorino. Photo / Supplied

Smoking Goat, inspired by the bustling canteens of Bangkok, brings a taste of Thailand to East London. This vibrant eatery is known for its fiery flavours and communal dining style. Signature dishes like the smoked brisket and the fish sauce wings are a hit among patrons looking for bold, authentic Thai cuisine in a lively setting.

Boxpark in trendy Shoreditch is a pop-up mall crafted from repurposed shipping containers and serves as a hub for innovative street food. Each container houses a different vendor and their ever-changing line-up ensures there’s always something new to try. Highlights for me included the juicy burgers from Black Bear Burger, followed by an Espresso Yourself from the Soft Serve Society: a delicious affogato soft-serve icecream with Oreo crumbs and a butter cookie.

Boxpark in Shoreditch is a pop-up mall made from shipping containers, hosting innovative street food vendors. Photo / 123rfBoxpark in Shoreditch is a pop-up mall made from shipping containers, hosting innovative street food vendors. Photo / 123rf

Towpath Café along the Regent’s Canal offers respite from the urban streetside hustle if you’re ready for some quiet time. This al fresco cafe serves seasonal British fare with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Their slow-cooked lamb is the perfect dish to eat while watching the world go by on the canal.

Dapper drinks and supper shops

Londoners love their after-work drinks and The Ten Bells, a pub with a rich history dating back to the 18th century, is an East London institution. Once frequented by Jack the Ripper’s victims, The Ten Bells retains its Victorian charm while offering a contemporary selection of craft beers and spirits. Its cosy, timeworn interior and storied past make it a unique spot to enjoy a pint and soak up the local history.

Seed Library, located in the basement of One Hundred Shoreditch, is at the other end of the scale: a contemporary cocktail bar that redefines the drinking experience thanks to megastar mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan. With a focus on minimal waste and sustainability, Seed Library crafts unique cocktails using housemade infusions and locally sourced ingredients. Menu highlights include a Black Elderflower French Martini made with potato vodka, black elderflower liqueur and pineapple, and a Galangal Penicillin, made with Patron tequila, mezcal, galangal honey and lemon.

Seed Library, a cocktail bar in Shoreditch, focuses on minimal waste and sustainability with unique cocktails.
Photo / SuppliedSeed Library, a cocktail bar in Shoreditch, focuses on minimal waste and sustainability with unique cocktails.
Photo / Supplied

For alcohol-free entertainment, head to Broadway Market, held in Hackney every Saturday, for gourmet delights from around the world. From artisanal cheeses and freshly baked pastries to exotic street food and locally sourced produce, it embodies the eclectic spirit of the area. Try the succulent pork (cooked for 20 hours) roast rolls if you happen to be there around lunchtime.

At Columbia Road Flower Market, you can find everything from fresh blooms to artisanal foods. Surrounding the Sunday market are a plethora of cafes and eateries that offer delightful treats to enjoy as you stroll through the stalls. Pavilion Coffee is known for freshly baked goods and high-quality coffee, and the commitment to using locally sourced ingredients and sustainable practices makes it a beloved part of the community.

Discover Shoreditch's best cafes. Photo / SuppliedDiscover Shoreditch’s best cafes. Photo / Supplied

Street art

East London’s streets are a living, breathing art gallery, adorned with vibrant street murals, intricate graffiti, and thought-provoking installations. As you stroll from eatery to eatery, you can spy works from renowned artists like Banksy, ROA, and Ben Eine. Nelly Duff, an art gallery on Columbia Rd, specialises in contemporary street and graffiti art by emerging and established artists, offering a dynamic collection. Located on Shoreditch’s Curtain Rd, Jealous Gallery is another cornerstone of the local art community. Known for its innovative approach to printmaking, Jealous collaborates with a wide range of street artists to produce limited-edition prints and original artworks. The gallery’s exhibitions are diverse and constantly evolving, featuring everything from bold, graphic prints to intricate, hand-drawn pieces.

East London’s streets are adorned with vibrant street art from artists like Banksy and ROA. Photo / SuppliedEast London’s streets are adorned with vibrant street art from artists like Banksy and ROA. Photo / Supplied

Where to stay

For those looking to immerse themselves fully in the East London experience, there are notable accommodation options that blend comfort with the area’s distinctive vibe.

One Hundred Shoreditch is a landmark that was until 2020 the only London branch of The Ace Hotel. Now renamed, it provides luxurious accommodations and hosts a variety of dining and drinking establishments. Its rooftop bar offers stunning views of the city skyline, perfect for sipping cocktails while watching the sunset.

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Mama Shelter, part of a hip European chain, is a unique blend of boutique hotel and eclectic dining space. The vibrant interior design, featuring bold colours and quirky details, sets the stage for a memorable dining experience; once dinner service is complete, the dining room becomes a venue for soul and jazz bands and DJs. If you stay there, pop across the road to the bustling Kiwi start-up Ozone Coffee Roasters, for a taste of home, some caffeine and banana bread.

For more things to do in London, see visitbritain.com/en

Rebecca Caughey is the co-founder of Good Sh*t soda, the good gut drink. goodshitsoda.com

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/how-east-london-has-become-londons-most-vibrant-destination/IBHOFF3YNVA3NBF64SY2ZYL6RU/

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