TEXT: Hannah Lewry
PHOTOGRAPHS: Hannah Lewry, Stuart Matthews and Steve Ryan
Move over Camden and Soho, the inner-city district of Shoreditch in the East End has one of the best nightlife scenes in London right now, along with fabulous bakeries, coffee shops, gastropubs and basement bars – all just a short walk from the Old Street tube station (a five-minute ride from London Bridge on the Northern Line). Of course, you’re wearing your walking shoes (this is London, people!), so head a little further away to Brick Lane and Spitalfields – 20 minutes on foot. Or, if you’re having a slow day, jump in a cab for an eight-minute drive.
For home-style Indian Food: Gunpowder
Brilliant family recipes and quality small plates with a twist are what makes this no- reservations eatery so popular. Try the “rasamke bomb”, their version of traditional tamarind-based soup topped with crisp puri filled with spiced potato (above). The chargrilled tandoori chicken and crispy Kashmiri lamb chops are also a highlight – it’s for good reason that this is one of the standout Indian restaurants in the area (known as something of a Curry Mile).
11 White’s Row, Spitalfields; gunpowderlondon.com
For salt beef bagels: BEIGEL BAKE
The folks at this 24-hour East End institution aren’t shy with their fillings. You could go for the classic smoked salmon and cream cheese, but it would be a crime if you didn’t order the freshly baked bagels stuffed with thick slices of tender salt beef, plenty of pickles and a dollop of mustard for a mere £3.60. Take it away or eat at the narrow counter, where clubbers and taxi drivers regularly get their bagel fix.
159 Brick Lane, beigelbake.com
For Bombay-style tapas: Dishoom
No bookings are taken at this double-storey restaurant modelled on the old post-colonial Irani cafés of Bombay, so be prepared to queue (it’s always busy) or while away half an hour or so in the basement bar, which serves superb cocktails. Order tapas to share: deep-fried okra, also known as lady fingers, spiced lamb chops, buttery garlic naan, chicken biryani and the signature dish of the house – black dhal cooked for over 24 hours until rich, creamy
and very moreish.
7 Boundary Street; dishoom.com
For drinks in the basements: Happiness Forgets
This low-key, candlelit, speakeasy-style bar o ers high-end cocktails and just happens to be one of the best-kept secrets in Shoreditch – unless you know where to look. Service is excellent and it’s popular for good reason – book ahead if you can. Order the Amaretto Sour. You’ll thank us.
The basement, 8–9 Hoxton Square; happinessforgets.com
For gifts to take home: Dark Sugars Chocolates
Visit Brick Lane for beautifully made truffles, chocolate pearls and vegan chocs – buy more than you need because they won’t all make it back to SA! Truffle flavours to try: cardamom and orange, chilli, salted caramel or sea salt. Don’t miss: the red velvet and Irish whiskey chocolate pearls.
141 Brick Lane; darksugars.co.uk
For subterranean whisky cocktails: Black Rock
If you’re a whisky connoisseur, do yourself a favour and spend some quality time in this cosy basement whisky lounge. There are more than 250 whiskies to choose from in categories such as smoke, spice and fruit. Cocktail fans should order the Spice cocktail (Singleton, Cocchi barolo chinato and speculaas) and settle down at the massive glass-topped oak table to sample some of the fanastic snacks, such as soda bread and seaweed butter or a Scotch egg with peated Hollandaise.
9 Christopher Street; blackrock.bar
For brilliant burgers: Patty & Bun
If, like me, you like your burgers simple – let’s face it, a really good one doesn’t have to hide under countless toppings – this is your go-to place for eating in or taking away. Don’t miss the “Ari Gold” cheeseburger, a beef patty topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, ketchup and smoky P&B mayo on a brioche bun. Next time, I’m going for the “Hot Chic” chicken burger – marinated buttermilk-fried chicken with coleslaw and smoked garlic aïoli.
36 Redchurch St; pattyandbun.co.uk
FOR A SUNDAY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IN THE EAST END: COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET
Every Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm, Columbia Road, a stone’s throw from Shoreditch High Street, is lined with flower sellers trading in the brightest and best blooms in town. Once you’ve taken in the sights, sounds and heady fragrances, explore the countless independent shops here and in the side streets – everything from characterful pubs, small delis and art galleries, to vintage shops and jewellery stores.
Columbia Road; columbiaroad.info
For pizza topped with seasonal produce: Homelice
Six years ago they were serving their wood-fired pizzas at streetfood markets, now they have four permanent outlets in London. The impressively large pizzas topped with seasonal ingredients are great for sharing – and the choice is diffcult with options such as kimchi, porcini cream and basil; and spiced lamb with Savoy cabbage and sumac yoghurt. Or go half-and-half as we did, with salami, rocket and Parmesan on one side and brinjal, cauliflower cheese, spinach and harissa on the other. Just yum.
374–378 Old Street; homeslicepizza.co.uk
For a substantial breakfast: Lantana Café
The first Lantana Café was opened ten years ago by Aussies who missed the café culture of their homeland and there are now three branches in London. The Shoreditch outlet is a real gem when you need to satisfy your morning hunger pangs.
I ordered the corn fritter stacked with streaky bacon, fresh spinach, roasted tomatoes, smashed avocado and lemon crème fraîche topped with a poached egg – it was every bit delicious as it was pretty!
Unit 2, 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road; lantanacafe.co.uk
FOR CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE-STYLE FARE: Bone Daddies
What started as a small ramen bar on Peter Street five years ago has expanded to seven different restaurants, each offering a unique twist on Japanese-inspired fare. At the busy Shoreditch ramen bar, where the soundtrack is “bold, brash and loud” old-school rock, order a variety of dishes to share. Highly recommended: the wild softshell crab with green chilli ginger sauce, sweet-spicy pork ribs with kimchi on the side and the 20-hour pork ramen broth – rich and full of intense flavour. The salmon poke bowl with shiso guacamole, crunchy ramen noodles, edamame and nori offers a delicious pop of freshness.
Unit C, The Bower, 211 Old Street, bonedaddies.com
If time (and budget!) allows, don’t miss…
Treat yourself to wonderful Middle Eastern-inspired salads, as well as fillet and salmon cooked to perfection. Don’t miss the unforgettable white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake tartlets. 50 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields; ottolenghi.co.uk/spitalfields
Great cortados, coconut macaroons and chocolate brownies. 23–25 Leather Lane; prufrockcoffee.com
VERDE & CO
This is a tiny, old-world grocer’s shop and Italian warehouse filled with jams, pâtés, chocolates and other delicious goodies. Have a coffee and light lunch while you people-watch from the pavement.
40 Brushfield Street, verdeandco.co.uk
I used to waitress at a restaurant called Giraffe at this famous market ten years ago and it’s still there today (along with countless other restaurants) serving brunches, burgers and grills. A great place for exploring the art, fashion and food of London. Brushfield St, spitalfields.co.uk
ST JOHN BREAD AND WINE
Just across from the Spitalfields market you’ll find this restaurant celebrating nose-to-tail eating. Don’t miss the bacon butty – it’s a British institution!
94–96 Commercial Street, stjohngroup.uk.com/spitalfields