The Cool Guide To London’s East End

Back in the mid2000s, all eyes were on East London, its Shoreditch neighbourhood turning up time and again on coolest places to live’-type lists around the world. Now, ten years or so after the initial hype, the district has changed its tune somewhat, growing into an area decidedly more polished and poised. And yet, despite its new sophistication, Shoreditch continues to thrive, an undeniable creativity continuing to emanate from the streets. Looking for a little London cool? The East End is still the place to be.

If you’re on the hunt for an early morning caffeine hit, there are plenty of options to be had in the Shoreditch streets, no trawling required. Nestled inside the ever-popular Ace Hotel, Hoi Polloi continues to serve up some of the finest brews in the area, guaranteed to fuel you for a day of slogging around the city. Smart and just a little bit glamorous, the café serves up fine breakfasts and snacks, washed down with a steaming cup of joe. Deliciousness guaranteed.

Heading to the area on a Sunday is always a good idea, as this is when you’ll find the best local talent out in the open. With Shoreditch residents out on the streets, there’s no better moment in which to hit up the Columbia Road flower market. Blooming with shoppers, plant life, and a whole lot of local colour, the market will give you a taste of the surrounding community. Plants in hand, try ducking down a side street and making your way to Brick Lane, the undeniable mecca of vintage shopping, or head further up to Cheshire Street for something a little more polished. Finally, mid-century store SCP will help you to stock up on all of your modern essentials, treasures and all. 

Once a stomping ground for some of the UK’s finest artists, Shoreditch continues to pull in the creative crowd, so there’s plenty to see. If you’re on the hunt for the best of the best, head to Wharf Road. Parasol Unit is an essential address if you’re trying to brush up on the best local talent, as the gallery specializes in emerging artists. Nearby Victoria Miro, however, has a number of well established artists on its rosters, proudly housing the works of the likes of Elmgreen & Dragset and Chris Ofili.

Eating is no problem in London’s East End. Housing a suspended Damien Hirst Cock n’ Bull installation, Tramshed is a sight to behold. With its bright and bustling open floor plan, the restaurant is a great place in which to get a taste for the area and try a plate of something delicious. If you’re on the hunt for something with a little more of a historical touch, however, try hitting up the Clove Club. Housed in Shoreditch’s grand Town Hall, the space is as impressive as it is culturally relevant, complete with its very own five-course menu. Go with an empty stomach and treat yourself to a thoroughly delicious meal.

Shoreditch really comes alive after hours, so it pays to hit the tiles when the sun goes down. Prohibition-inspired speakeasy Nightjar is one of the city’s best, hosting live jazz and swing music on most evenings. If you’re looking for the cream of the crop, however, try turning your attentions to Happiness Forgets, a favourite amongst bartenders. Small and perfectly designed, the bar is easy to walk by — but after one tasting, you’re not likely to forget it in a hurry. Complete with a list of cocktail classics, this bar does bartending right, perfecting its drinks list to a T.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.