The far East End
Take the temperature of hip London in two busy days. ROSEMARY McCABErevisits the capital of cool
It’s not as if I haven’t been to London’s East End before. I once stayed in Brick Lane, had coffee on the roof of Shoreditch House (sister hotel to New York’s very exclusive Soho House) and ate dinner in Pizza East, the uber-hip pizza joint with the best mozzarella this side of Puglia.
But somehow, the East End always offers new discoveries – on this whirlwind overnight stay we take in Greenwich Observatory, shop in a vintage market, lunch in Shoreditch’s newest Bombay Cafe, eat dinner in a Scottish steak house, take a trip to the 18th century and cross the river on the Thames Cable Car.
It helps, of course, that for this trip we flew into London City Airport, from which the East End is a stone’s throw and the journey from plane to front door was less than 10 minutes.
The Marriott at Canary Wharf ( marriott.co.uk, tel: 0044-207-093-1000) was base camp for this short tour. If you fancy a trip to the O2 (for £28 you can walk over the London landmark), you’ll be well positioned. A stay at the Marriott starts at £135 per person per night.
If that is a little far out, and you have an extra pound or two, stay right by Brick Lane, in what Shoreditch House calls a “tiny room”, for £185 per night ( shoreditchhouse.com, tel: 0044-207-739-5040).
For budget travellers, airbnb.comoffers the chance to stay in someone’s spare room – a private room in a Shoreditch penthouse apartment, for example, is £64 per night.
Dishoom ( dishoom.com, tel: 0044 -207-420-9324) is the latest addition to Shoreditch’s lively foodie scene – its interior draws upon the heritage of the Bombay cafe, all slow-turning fans, stained mirrors and faded family portraits. Try the daal, and order to share. You’ll want to taste everything. Pizza East ( pizzaeast.com, tel: 0044-207-729-1888), around the corner and below Shoreditch House, is great – but expect to wait.
If it’s steak you’re after, traditional Scottish steakhouse Boisdale ( boisdale.co.uk, tel: 0044-207-715-5818) in Canary Wharf has incredible views of the London skyline. It also boasts a whiskey bar with more than 1,000 bottles of malt.
There is no shortage of shopping options in the East End. Sunday is market day on Brick Lane ( visitbricklane.org), where performers jostle for space alongside vendors selling secondhand clothing, furniture and bric-a-brac.
Spitalfields Traders’ Market – pictured above – ( spitalfields.co.uk) is open Sunday to Friday, with up to 110 stalls selling a range of items from children’s toys to art and fashion, and surrounded by independent boutiques and restaurants. There’s also, of course, All Saints ( allsaints.com), the headquarters of which is in Spitalfields.
The Greenwich Market ( shopgreenwich.co.uk) is one of the best we’ve seen, with a host of original crafts for sale, alongside antiques and reasonably-priced vintage clothes (a crucial consideration).
Start by taking a trip to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich ( rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory), 15 minutes on the DLR from Canary Wharf. It’s the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Harrison timekeepers, the marine clocks that contain the world’s first bimetallic strips.
Dennis Severs’s house, at 18 Folgate Street in Spitalfields, is another must-see. Severs, an artist, refurbished the house as it would have been in the 18th century. There is no electricity, but the house is lived in, and it hosts events, for those who wish to party like it’s 1799.
Rosemary Mac Cabe flew CityJet courtesy of London City Airport . londoncityairport.com