Shoreditch & Old Street
Urban and achingly cool, Shoreditch and Old Street is the place for independent shops, lowdown bars and in-crowd restaurants. As for culture, this is where Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and other Young British Artists moved in the early 1990s, followed by a large troupe of creative bohemians. There are small art galleries seemingly on every street corner, along with a selection of surprising museums.
The restaurant scene around Shoreditch is lively and diverse. Try the fantastic steaks at Hawksmoor, from the renowned London butcher Ginger Pig. Or head for Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, where the daily menu is described as ‘elegant, rustic and honest’, and uses only fresh British produce. Merchants Tavern is a measure of how much the area has transformed in recent years. The plates are modern European yet hearty, and the large dining room is elegant and relaxed.
Many, varied, fun and loud — there’s a bar for every occasion in Shoreditch. The charming Callooh Callay has a reputation for serving London’s finest cocktails, along with a great atmosphere, quirky surroundings and attentive service. Far Rockaway is the place for American-themed cocktails such as the ‘Peanut Butter Cup’, with Reese’s peanut pieces and dark chocolate liqueur. Beach Blanket Babylon serves up breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks in a New York style warehouse, and for drinks with a great view, try the Boundary Rooftop.
Like all parts of London, Shoreditch is a compelling mix of the ancient and modern. Bunhill Fields Burial Ground is a former cemetery, and now a public park. It’s the delightful resting place of writers John Bunyan, William Blake, Daniel Defoe and up to 120,000 Nonconformists. St Leonards is a working church with a majestic spire, designed by George Dance in 1736 — but also a gallery for modern and experimental art. Brick Lane,has plenty to offer from delicious Indian cuisine, to graffiti by Banksy, Stik, ROA, D*Face and Ben Eine.
There’s always plenty happening in Shoreditch. As well as the fine curries, Brick Lane is known for several popular nightclubs, notably 93 Feet East and The Vibe Bar, both built on the site of The Old Truman Brewery. If you fancy a laugh, head for the Comedy Café on Rivington Street. For movies, try the cosy 47-seat Aubin Cinema or Rich Mix Cinema for mainstream and art house films. As for live music, Village Underground and modish Old Blue Last pub cater to most cool and contemporary tastes.
Arts & Culture
Shoreditch is home to dozens of small gallery spaces for edgy, intriguing and contemporary art. Head over to multi media art space the Leonard Street Gallery, which focuses on talented young artists. Or try the StolenSpace Gallery for artwork influenced by skateboard graphics, graffiti, illustration, comic books and tattoo art. Meanwhile, LSO St Luke’s is the place for classical, world and more obscure genres of music, set in a beautiful 18th century Hawksmoor church.
In recent years, Shoreditch has become a shopping destination that, it could be argued, rivals the West End. Big brands, designer boutiques, indie labels and quirky gift shops happily rub shoulders. Box Park is a contemporary shopping and eating mall made from refitted shipping containers positioned artfully underneath the elevated Shoreditch High Street Overground station. Brick Lane Market is a perennial draw for bric-à-brac and fruit and veg, while the bustling Columbia Road Flower Market is a Sunday must.