NFT London Shoreditch / Brick Lane / Spitalfields

Shoreditch / Brick Lane / Spitalfields

Throbbing with trend-lords on single-speed bikes, great curry houses, and alternative-lifestyle vomit, the trick is to sample Brick Lane and Shoreditch on market days for pure colour and bustle, but to avoid it on weekend eves. Shopping is abundant: Rough Trade, Beyond Retro, and oodles of great little rag shacks. Head towards Jaguar Shoes or Catch for booze. For a dash of authenticity, leave your £1000 bike unlocked and see what happens.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Tatty Devine
When I first moved to London, Tatty Devine jewellery seemed to symbolise everything that was attractive about the city: shiny, colourful and witty. Ten years on and I'm not sure I still think of London being those things (maybe something else rhyming with 'witty'? I'm kidding!) but Tatty Devine certainly still has it's allure. It's a wonder then that the Tatty Devine workshop is only just now offering jewellery-making parties as it seems an obvious choice for such a playful brand. This week I sampled the joys of making one of their bunting necklaces at a breakfast workshop and I can't tell you how cute and fun it was. Playing with the colours and coming up with my own design was almost meditative and the TD girls were on hand to give helpful tips and make sure we didn't bodge things up. Even better was the sense of achievement I felt when people said, "Love the necklace," and I could respond, "Yeah, made it this morning." The party package includes material for 8-12 people to make a necklace or charm bracelet, Fentimans drinks or prosecco (depending on which package you choose), popcorn, sweet treats, and 15% off jewellery on the day plus you can make your own playlist to groove along to. I'd get your mates on board and organise a party even if it's no-one's birthday or hen.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Brooklyn Coffee
I generally resent paying for a cup of coffee--I'm a coffee fiend but I'd much rather make a brew at home with whatever bean I'm currently favouring (coffee of the moment is El Carmen from Pact if you're interested). I find it amusing that people baulk at the cost of a pack of freshly roasted coffee (around £6.90 for 250g) yet will happily pay approximately £2.50 a day for a potentially sub-standard coffee mainly so they can walk around with a drink-thru cup in their hand whilst on their iPhone being all, y'know, busy. I only stopped at Brooklyn Coffee because it's right by the 67 bus stop plus I had been craving oat cookies which I was eyeballing through the window whilst weighing up the chances of my bus arriving. Then I remembered that Caffeine magazine had said nice things about Brooklyn so I was like, "Hell, I'll give them a go." They use Caravan's Market Blend which gets them points straight off the bat. My flat white was perfect: creamy and smooth and the right temperature, kind of mellow but halfway through the cup, those familiar Market Blend flavour notes came through strong. I almost got so distracted that I missed my bus. The cookie also hit the spot and more excitingly--they stock Mast Brothers chocolate.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Dina and Olga came to London. Dina and Olga fell in love with London. Dina and Olga decided to bring Portugal to London. And so, A Portuguese Love Affair was born. Basically, there's a lot of love in this gorgeous little shop and a lot of sunshine. Although on the day I visit, Dina and Olga admit to feeling a little bit foggy after one of their monthly wine tastings which was held the night before (follow them on Facebook to make sure you don't miss one) Their enthusiasm for the brands they stock, both old and new, is palpable but what unites this wonderfully curated collection is the beautiful packaging design of every single item. I want to buy pretty much everything in the shop from the flor de sal to the soap and the tooth paste to the sardines; it's a great place for picking up gifts (for others and of course yourself). Come, fall in love with a piece of Portugal.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Courtesy of Chez Elles

Chez Elles
I don't like Brick Lane. I know, I know: it's "fun" and "vibrant" and all those things that we're supposed to like about the capital. I just don't like it though, too many people, too hectic. So where on earth to go for brunch on a Sunday after a visit to Whitechapel Gallery? Well thankfully, the quieter end of Brick Lane has Chez Elles. Chez Elles is so deliciously French; in fact more French than any bistro I've come across in France. The menu looks delicious and authentic with various seasonal specials as well as bistro standards such as goats' cheese and spinach tart and duck rillettes. We were here for breakfast though and the ubiquitous Eggs Benedict were calling my name. The eggs were perfectly cooked, the ham tender and fresh as opposed to the plasticky stuff some restaurateurs allow to pass for meat, and the salad wonderfully crisp and well dressed rather than a lank attempt at a garnish. We couldn't leave without trying one of the beautiful gourmandises from the spread of confections in the window. A pear and apricot tart hit the spot--sharp fruit with buttery sweet pastry. I will be visiting Brick Lane on a regular basis.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Courtesy of Dum Dum Donutterie

Dum Dum Donutterie
Dum Dum Doughnuts opened this week in London and boy are we glad there's a tastier, healthier alternative. That's right, healthier, because Dum Dum Doughnuts are baked not fried. Owner Paul has spent years perfecting his technique with stints in France and Italy, and the patissier's craftsmanship shows. The hardest part is choosing which one to have. You can't beat a good old regular jam doughnut but when vying for attention amongst cronuts (croissant-donut hybrid if you didn't know -- where have you been?), and something spectacularly called Peter Andre's Yum Yum Dum Dum, your brain may explode. I was thrilled to bits that they had a crème brûlée doughnut after eating one in Chicago last year and being transported to another dimension. Of course, the Americans will be laughing at us as they are way ahead in their doughnut creations. Dum Dum's unique selling point though, is baking rather than frying, and baking fresh every day (when they're gone, they're gone). It seems that baking does make for a better doughnut, who'dathunkit? While I was there they had a call from Selfridges so these guys are definitely in demand. Get down there now!



Posted By:  Michael Kasparis
Photo:  NFT

Bar Kick
Maybe your girlfriend's just dumped you for some sexual predator with a gym membership card and a bank balance in the black. Maybe your fiancé has left you at the altar while he's dangling from the ceiling in some medieval bondage device with a ping pong ball in his mouth. Or maybe you're just skint and thirsty. Whatever your malaise, us samaratins at NFT are here to pick you up, dust you off and snog you senseless. Yes, to celebrate our 2010 NFT LONDON GUIDE we'll be ensconced at BAR KICK on the 13th of November from 5-8 and we'll be giving away FREE BEER, FREE BOOKS and FREE CHAT. Like the office party of your wildest dreams we'll be on hand to bitch, laugh and listen but mostly to give out FREE STUFF. Just bring an invite!  BE THERE or be somewhere else. Sign up and get more details here.

Download the PDF invite here.




Posted By:  Chris 9N
Photo:  Chris 9N

Loungelover
Lounge Lover, my one true love. Eclectically designed, with each individual table charmingly mismatched, every time I go there, I yearn to take something home with me. Last time it was a slightly decrepit but beautiful grandfather clock in the nook opposite the bar. The time before a bookcase that would have been perfect to house my pretentious collection of cloth bound classics and kids books. But what of the drinks? They. Are. Absolutely. Fantastic. The bar staff knows the menu inside and out and can recommend delights such as the wasabi spiced Zatoichi and the Loungelover, with fig liqueur and Prosecco combining in a moutherwateringly addictive way. There's also a healthy wine list and snacks for those with less cocktail-based needs. The bad bit? It's a busy place and on weekends it's difficult to get in without a reservation. It's also not cheap and it's proximity to the City attracts besuited types convinced they are "roughing it" in big bad East London (it's hardly Hackney Central). But while they bray about credit crunches and their new diamond shoes, turn your back to them, sip your cocktail and enjoy one of the finest cocktail bars in London.



Posted By:  katy beale
Photo:  katy beale

The Pride of Spitalfields
It's location--just off bustling Brick Lane--would purport to it's regulars to be the crazy clothes wearing, Nathan Barley types that frequent the local coffee shops, tap-tapping on their iMacs. But no! This is a proper East End boozer--there are no pretensions here. A slightly formidable but friendly landlady rules the bar and will take no stick at chucking out time. Pie, mash and liquor is served for Sunday lunch, real ales (ESB, London Pride, Sharp's Doom Bar and Crouch Vale Brewer's Gold) are pumped out and shandies are only served to the ladies. On sunny days and warm evenings, drinkers pile out onto the cobbled side street in front of the pub, mixing and chatting. The area in and around Brick Lane has always harboured many different cultures over the centuries--from French Huguenots to Jewish immigrants to the recent wave of Bengalis whose culture now dominates the area. Yet still, Shoreditch and neighbouring Whitechapel have always had a strong white working class community many of which are regulars at this pub. Some of the best chats can be had in the often-long toilet queue, discovering the lowdown on the lucky couple whose engagement is being celebrated with a cold buffet spread. Now there's a proper English way of celebrating--ham sarnies, pineapple and cheese on sticks, mini sausages. A dollop of salad cream on the side.



Posted By:  katy beale
Photo:  katy beale

Hanoi Cafe
The Shoreditch end of Kingsland Road is a mini escape to the chilli-tinged delights of Vietnam. Song Que is famous for its pho--sensory delights of stock and spices; Tay Do squeezes them in for a full on experience of salty, sweet and sour and Hanoi Café has a reputation for honest, comforting food. To start things off at Hanoi, an enormous platter of mixed starters (£6.50) arrived groaning with crisp vegetable tempura, spring rolls, deep-fried tofu and prawn crackers. Dipped into the obligatory chilli and soy sauces, the flavours came alive. Mains we tried included excellent prawns, chicken and fresh veg but an unsatisfying and cloying coconut gravy. We sipped lychee juice and aptly named Hanoi beer. Their speciality are the so-called "sidewalk dishes" of the Vietnam capital including pho noodle soups and bun dishes--grilled meat with vermicelli, fresh herbs and tangy sauce. Roll your own summer rolls are a fun novelty--paper thin rice pancakes to stuff with fresh mint and coriander, feathery noodles and your choice of protein and veg. The restaurant's decor is trashy--cliched picture postcard black and white photography, paper lanterns and goldfish--but the family run element makes it somewhat enchanting.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Comfort Station
Comfort Station is the beautiful creation of Amy Anderson. Situated on Cheshire Street off Brick Lane, this little shop of curiosities is an absolute pleasure to the senses from the innovative displays (reworked wooden display cases made from apothecary cabinets and intriguingly, a piano as well as big ole books with their insides cut out to reveal a necklace) to the intricately designed jewellery which is inspired by amongst other things; "death by chocolate" and "poison in an English country garden." A delightful way with words and an interest in text means that you will find hidden messages engraved in silver, wood and printed on ceramics, and there is something of the Victorian keepsake to Comfort Station's designs. On a visit to the shop I was treated to a glimpse of the downstairs studio which is something akin to a laboratory where Amy comes up with the "recipes." Attracting customers and stockists from around the world, this is a very English artistic project with all the quirk and wit one would expect. How very comforting.



Posted By:  Jenny Wight
Photo:  Jenny Wight

Gourmet San
Don't come to this Szechuan sizzler on the Bethnal Green Road if you're squeamish. Or if you're after sanitised sweet-and-sour-pork-balls-egg-fried-rice fare. This is food with balls; one chicken dish looked like a pile of fleshy knuckles trying to hide in a rustling pile of dried chillies: salty, fatty, fiery heaven. It isn't a first date eatery either as by the end your greasy face will shine bright as you slurp the fragrant meat out of numerous crabs' legs and your brow will bead with sweat from a thousand Szechuan peppers. Authentic? Hell yes. Chinese first, English second on the menu, moody waitresses (even my friend ordering in Chinese didn't thaw the frost), more Chinese customers than anyone else despite the recent Observer review and rabbit saddle on the menu.




Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Daniel Kramb

The Last Days of Decadence
"Introducing a completely new concept to East London nightlife," is how the people behind Camden's Be at Proud describe their latest endeavor. Really? What they mean is turning the pretty mediocre Ditch Bar, on Shoreditch High Street, into a place called The Last Days of Decadence, which, from what we can tell from our recent visit, is just as mediocre. "We've tried to bring a taste of the exotic." Do they mean the food (burgers, steaks and salmon)? Or the stage (as small and dingy as in any East London basement)? There are two floors and two bars, with prices reassuringly Shoreditch and a decor as sterile as in Ditch times. But hey, they only just opened (and have just sent in the builders again) and if they manage to get together decent line-ups (like the pretty rocking Twisted Licks night we attended), we might still be convinced. They also promise not to close before 2.30 am. If they stick to that on days like Sundays: now that's "a completely new concept."



Posted By:  Rebecca Katherine Hirsch
Photo:  Norman Ibarra

Bar Kick
What ho! As proud new parents of a brand new NFT title, we're throwing a huge bash in celebration of our most foreign family addition: The Not For Tourists Guide to London. On Friday, November 21 from 6-9 pm, join us at Bar Kick (127 Shoreditch High St) to roister, rejoice and love without international borders. We'll be handing out FREE copies of NFT London and a FREE pint to anyone with an invite (while supplies last). So, come on down, canoodle with the creators, walk with the writers and be a part of the greatest achievement of Anglo-American solidarity since before 1776 (and disregarding 1812).

Click here to download and print the PDF invite.



Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Daniel Kramb

Lennies Mama Irene
This is the kind of restaurant you don't think exists. Or, at least not in this bit of Shoreditch, where it's either overpriced joints milking their trendy tag, or greasy ones milking your drunkenness. Tucked away off Shoreditch High Street (on Calvert Ave, leading to the pretty Victorian council houses of Arnold Circus), this is more of a living room than a restaurant (it's a caff during the day). Mama Irene herself cooks the Thai food in front of your eyes and, if it's not too busy, sits down next to you afterwards. The meat-fish-veggie menu is short, but varied and, crucially, inexpensive; the fun starts at a fiver. They don't sell alcohol, but allow you to bring your own (the off-license is across the road). My stir-fry vegetables were hot enough to make me sweat, but, in a way, that's what you want from a place like this, isn't it?



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

Prick Your Finger
The nights are drawing in, the days getting shorter and colder--there's no better time to take up those knitting needles and get working on a woolly project. Heck, you'd even be saving money in these credit crunchie times. Getting crafty is the way to be, something Rachel Matthews and Louise Harries have known since their studied at St Martin's. Yes, knitting has had a bit of a renaissance with models, actresses and the like whipping out their balls and needles at every given opportunity. But forget Kelley Deal and her Bags That Rock (that gal will dabble in anything) this is the real deal--born of the love of textiles and handmade, nice-looking thingamajigs. Based on Globe Road in Bethnal Green, Prick Your Finger hosts classes in knitting and crochet for beginners and pros in small groups of three to five, and the shop sells yarns, kits and patterns. There are also exhibitions held in the shop displaying innovative ways with wool. It's a darn good yarn...



Posted By:  Daniel Kramb
Photo:  Daniel Kramb

Hackney City Farm
"Mu-um, can we go and see the pig again, pleee-ase? Muu-uum!" Okay, don't come here if you don't like kids, but if you do (or even have them), Hackney's popular inner-city farm is a great place for breakfast. Where else can you claim that the eggs on your plate come courtesy of the hens hopping around in front of the door? The fry-ups are fresh and not too fatty (even though mine wasn't quite as hot as it could have been) and the self-styled "family cafe" also serves some interesting pasta, prepared by its three Italian chefs (hence the name). It's easy to linger (for waffles or ice cream), but you can also explore the actual farm; surely one of this area's prettiest spots. And, yes, go and see that pig again.



Posted By:  Claire Storrow
Photo:  Claire Storrow

A Child of The Jago
I noticed a new shop on Great Eastern Street some weeks ago, mainly because the name--A Child of The Jago--was so deliciously otherworldly yet perfectly matched to this part of the city. I found time to visit it recently and was richly rewarded. The shop is a "project" of Joseph Corre. I say project because the progeny of Queen Viv and McLaren can afford to do a little experiment to see how the shop evolves and establishes itself without web presence or PR; subversion's is in his blood. This was explained to me by the Deborah Harry-esque Sarah Jane, the hospitable shopkeeper. She gestured to the downstairs, a room of "artefacts" accessed by rickety Dickensian stairs. It is a museum of wonder where history has no boundaries--Teddy Boy jackets from Corre's Terrorist label (designed by Barnzley) vye with original Luftwaffe jackets (this is what Bryan Ferry meant when he perhaps unwisely said of Nazi aesthetics "just amazing. Really beautiful"). There are old copies of Penguin Classics by Kafka and Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Cliff and Jerry Lee Lewis records, vintage barber switchblade knives and trinkets. Counter-culture with intelligence; go now before everyone else does.




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