now that i no longer live in the city i’ve called home for over thirty years (yes, i really am that old!), it’s refreshing to be able to head back south for a few days and enjoy london as a little bit of an outsider. sure, i’ve only been gone a few weeks, and still know the city like the back of my hand, but 6 months down the line things will no doubt have changed radically enough that i’ll turn a corner and no longer recognise where i am.. ah, the fast, frenetic pace of london life!
as a new out-of-towner it’s also really lovely to fully be able to take advantage of the plethora of beautiful new design hotels in the city; choosing a base for a weekend of exploration in the areas that i used to frequent almost with my eyes shut as i rushed from meeting to meeting in the midst of a frantic working day. shoreditch has long been one of my favourite london neighbourhoods after discovering it during my student days, but have rarely had the chance to visit leisurely since then, so it was lovely to take the time when i was down last week to just wander the streets taking everything in – being a genuine tourist in my hometown for once.
whilst i can still count myself as relatively ‘in the know’ about london, i thought i’d pull together a little guide on my favourite shoreditch haunts for anyone planning a visit in the near future:
stay : citizenm
for me, staying at the new citizenM shoreditch outpost is a no-brainer. i’ve written before about my wonderful experience staying at their bankside hotel a few years ago, and with this new hotel situated just behind shoreditch high street, it makes an ideally located base for exploring all that east london has to offer.
for those who don’t already know, citizenM is an ‘affordable luxury’ hotel chain designed for a ‘smart new breed of international traveller.’ all of the rooms in each hotel are the same preassembled modular build, installed by crane, which give the rooms the sense of being a compact yet hi-tech space-age pod. this feeling is further enhanced by citizen m’s trademark moodpad: an ipad that controls everything in your room from the tv and lighting to the temperature and blackout blinds.
for me, the real selling point of a citizenm stay is the absolutely ginormous platform bed that sits underneath the large picture window, which in the case of my seventh floor room on the eastern side, framed a panoramic skyline of bustling shoreditch, hackney and beyond.
it’s the kind of bed you climb upon and simply want to spend the rest of the day nestled, whether that be to people watch high up above, take in the spectacular sunrise over canary wharf, or simply lounge back to browse the extensive entertainment options on the large wall-mounted television. or, of course, to take a nap after a long day pounding the pavements!
everything you need is close to hand, with a surprisingly spacious toilet/shower room pod protruding into the hotel room’s narrow footprint, and a wash basin just outside, both amply stocked with citizenM’s signature am/pm cleansing products.
if you are inclined to leave the room – and to be honest, shoreditch is calling – you’ll find the main hotel lobby centred around a large open-plan social space with a bar, with lots of lounging areas and ample space to set up your laptop at a co-working desk. the fun, contemporary decor, peppered with lashings of pop art, comic book action figures and plenty of vitra design classics, can be a little kitsch at times but makes for a welcoming, relaxed and creative atmosphere.
citizenM shoreditch, 6 holywell lane
right. let’s head out onto the street and explore, shall we..?
coffee / shop : modern society
modern society is always my first port of call when in the shoreditch area. describing itself as a ‘general store dedicated to bringing a selection of luxury products from around the globe’, i love browsing the boutique for unique denim brands, dreamy jewellery pieces and inspiring selection of print publications – including recent discoveries holiday and luncheon, which made their way home with me last week. i also make a point of stopping for an espresso at the bar, which serves assembly coffee‘s house blend, and perving over the homemade chocolate brownies..
33 redchurch street
one-stop shop : barber & parlour
barber & parlour is a great haunt if you’re after a one-stop shop for food, drink and pampering. the cheeky parlour is east london’s hottest spot for instant beauty fixes – think manis, pedis and waxing – while you can also get your hair styled at josh wood’s salon, or your beard trimmed at the neville barbourshop, the quintessence of a true gentlemen’s retreat. there’s also a shop stocking interiors, tableware and accessories, plus a café serving delicious breakfasts, coffee and cold-pressed juice throughout the day. oh, and did i mention the electric cinema was next door?
64-66 redchurch street
coffee : paper & cup
another worthwhile coffee stop – because you can never have too much coffee, right? – is paper and cup over on calvert avenue. a not-for-profit social enterprise created by the spitalfields crypt trust (a locally-based charity organisation), the cute-as-a-button coffee shop provides a cosy little a little hideaway to finish that gripping novel, or a place to catch up with friends over delectable coffee and sweet treats. to complete the picture, hand-picked items sourced from their network of charity shops fill the shelves, alongside artwork sourced from local artists and bespoke paper & cup merchandise, all available to purchase.
18 calvert avenue
shop : Monologue
monologue is a contemporary lifestyle store with a focus on conceptual design, emerging designers, interiors and homeware, founded by interior designer pavel klimczak.
the store has an ever-changing palette of objects, colours and ideas so is well worth poking your nose into each time you pass as the likelihood of spotting something new and inspiring is high! what ties all the pieces together is a clean, modern aesthetic peppered with playful patterns and hues that can be layered in a multitude of ways to create your own unique style.
93 redchurch street
eat : andina
andina is a modern ‘picanteria’: an all-day, pioneering restaurant serving healthy food and drinks from the peruvian andes, inspired by the love of ingredients and knowledge that founder martin morales inherited from his grandmother, mamita naty.
for brunch i recommend the camote pancakes (sweet potato spiced with chancaca honey and coconut whipped cream), while for dinner my go-to, aside from all of the cerviche, is always the calamar colorado (pork stuffed squid with quinoa). oh, and the picarones doughnuts for dessert are a given, natch..
1 redchurch street
work : forge & co
if you do find yourself needing to devote a few hours of downtime to catching up on your emails or checking in with the office then your best bet is to head to forge & co, which featured in my recent round-up of the best london workspaces for creative freelancers. the canteen on the ground floor is open to the public for drop-ins, with a cosy lounge area by the bar that is perfect for meetings, and rows of tables with wall socket access for when you’ve forgotten your portable charger. the menu is also pretty good too, if you find yourself there working over lunchtime.
154-158 shoreditch high st
see : street art
shoreditch is awash with ever-changing creative and colourful street art – turn down a side street and you never know what delights you might meet, nor when your favourite piece might be replaced overnight. because the designs are constantly changing it always pays to take a path less trodden and see what you might stumble upon.
some of my favourite streets include rivington street, chance street and turville street, where you will see anything from stunning murals and spray painted shutters, to hard-hitting political and environmental statements emblazoned around you.
looking for more?
aesop (beauty) 44 redchurch street • aida (lifestyle) 133 shoreditch high street • aimé (womenswear) 17 redchurch street • goodhood (lifestyle) 151 curtain road • labour and wait (homeware) 85 redchurch street • mast brothers (chocolate) • western assembly (menswear) 30 redchurch street • wonderound (womenswear) 16c calvert avenue
blixen (brasserie) 65a brushfield street • dishoom (indian street food) 7 boundary street • lyle’s (new british) tea building, 56 shoreditch high street • pho viet 68 (vietnamese) 147 shoreditch high street • voodoo ray’s (pizza) box park, 2 bethnal green road