Holiday Inspiration

East London Guide

By Susan Ward Davies

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Where to Stay in East London

Fall down the rabbit hole at 40 Winks, interior designer David Carter‘s Mile End treasure trove of a home. Two guest bedrooms (a single and a double) are madcap luxurious with antique mirrors and stacks of travel cases, plus there’s an emerald green opium den-style drawing room for drinks and watching movies (no TVs in rooms). You’ll share a fantasy Baroque bathroom with other guests and have breakfast in David’s basement kitchen. All in all, it’s about as far from yer average smooth-cornered hotel experience as possible, but feels like a real extravagance.

For minimalists there’s the oh-so-trendy Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Shoreditch’s Conran-helmed Boundary provides fancy digs on a larger scale, while the budget-savvy Hoxton Hotel has regular £1 room sales.

Where to Eat in East London

There are lipsmackingly good options in abundance that don’t stop at just bricks and mortar restaurants – they come in the form of an army of food trucks to compel you to get your street eat on.

Smokey slices of artichoke and zucchini pizza straight from Homeslice’s woodfire oven, Big Apple Hot Dogs' properly meaty NYC-style wieners and the Ribman’s ribmeat rolls slathered in firebreath-inducing Holy Fuck sauce: all these and more can be your Friday dinner at Dalston’s Street Feast market (Thames House, Hartwell Street, E8 3DU; 5-12pm). Saturday’s Netil Market in London Fields (18-23 Westgate Street) hosts burger maestros Lucky Chip, while Gujurati Rasoi serve up hot’n’flavoursome Indian thali down the road at Broadway Market.

What’s better than eating by water? Pair a Regent's Canal stroll with delicious eats at the Towpath Café (between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge) and Ombra (1 Vyner St). The first spruces up caff classics (try the sausage and sage sandwich) while the second is an East End take on a Venetian baccaro. Sides of antipasti, crusty bread and sardines are served alongside Aperol spritzes and gluggable Italian reds.

It’s not all cafes and DIY, mind – East does fancy food, too: brunch stalwart Bistrotheque (23-27 Wadeson Street) makes an almost straight-faced stab at fine dining with linen, heavy silver and a bloke tinkling on a piano – until you hear he’s playing Britney. A stroll down the road at the Town Hall Hotel’s Viajante, chef Nuno Mendes serves up six and nine-course tasting menus of Nutty Professor-type flavour combos. You can opt for a budget-friendly reduced version of these at the Corner Room upstairs.

Where to go out in East London

Watch the setting sun flash off the windows of surrounding tower blocks at Dalston Roof Park (The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, E8 3DL), a green oasis with a licenced bar on top of Ashwin Street’s Printworks building. When chills set in, pop downstairs to Café Oto, with its no-nonsense roster of experimental live music (free night of Japanese avante garde, anyone?).

Round the corner, a seemingly endless choice of Kingsland Road watering holes strive to out-trend each other on distressed furniture and local brew beer particularities. Best is Ruby's Bar (76 Stoke Newington Road), a cosy basement nook with a mean cocktail list and the kind of hulking enamel radiators you get in old schools. End the night at sweatbox clubs Dalston Superstore (117 Kingsland High Street) or Birthdays (33-35 Stoke Newington Rd).

Where to Shop in East London

Like the wardrobes of its denizens, shopping East is a right old mish-mash – you can run the gamut from concept store to charity shop in an afternoon, and enjoy the rummage at both. There’s no Oxford Street-esque high road – instead you get one-offs like Broadway Market (hipster central), Columbia Road (Balamory with Macbooks) and Redchurch Street (a London-scale Meatpacking district).

Off the map from all of these is Dalston’s LN-CC (18 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, E8 2EZ), which takes the concept of what a shop should be and shakes it like a snowglobe. Taking over a former boxers’ gym underneath Shacklewell Studios, each room is kitted out with dystopian flair by prop designer Gary Card – the most awe-inspiring piece being a Space 2001-esque wooden corridor. The edit includes everything from Jil Sander to J. W. Anderson plus harder to come by Japanese designers like Toga. Visits are by appointment, which sounds scary but the experience itself is a pleasure: you’re given the run of a rather stupendous-looking space with killer clothes but absolutely no pressure to buy. If you do succumb, you get a friendship bracelet with every item.

Got eyes bigger than your budget? East London also tows a fine line in well-curated vintage boutiques. Strut (2b Ada St) is one, Storm in a Teacup (366 Kingsland Rd) – which serves you Hendrick’s gin and tonic in gilded china as you browse – another. A bounty of bargains from the likes of Stella McCartney, Versace and Yohji Yamamoto await.

What to Wear in East London

The cliché answer to this is to go to London Fields or Broadway Market on any sunny day and copy the pavement catwalk. The actual answer is easier, and in the real spirit of East: wear what you want; anything goes.

Don’t Leave East London Without…

Eating a post-club salt beef bagel at 3am on the street outside one of the two ‘Beigel’ shops at the top of Brick Lane – it ain’t pretty, but it is delicious and an East rite of passage to boot.

Beauty SOS – where to go for Pampering in East London

Get your hair done at Bleach (420 Kingsland Rd), the salon that launched a million dip-dyes – other fun stuff on offer includes colour stencils and dyed-in roots. The shop shares space with WAH Nails, another Dalston mega-success that’s transformed the manicure into a mini masterpiece for your fingertips. Need to unwind? Boxing venue York Hall’s basement Turkish baths have been converted into the swankier Spa London (5-15 Old Ford Rd) – go for a day of steam rooms and saunas, ice-water bucket showers and plunge pool dips in an iconic East End venue. Massages, body scrubs and facials are available too.

Inspired by our East London guide and now looking for somewhere equally cool to take a mini-break in? Check out our Berlin guide.

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