These days the East is where it’s at in London. Sure, the West and North and for some still the South, have their own little hot spots and happenings. But, for now at least, all hipsters are flocking to the East End’s vibrant selection of market stalls, Indian restaurants and trendy bars. Which, of course, has attracted a plethora of new openings.
With that in mind, we suggest you hunker down at one of the 26 small but perfectly formed rooms at Shoreditch House. Affordable enough for most and with its rooftop swimming pool (perfect for the summer months or, indeed, after hour shenanigans) and Cowshed spa additions, not to mention easier (we never said definite) access to the upper floor’s members’ club action. This place will give you a privileged d view of the city top – geographically and superficially speaking.
Then, create your own site-seeing itinerary with a Black Taxi Tour. Two-hour door-to-door runs can be arranged for up to five people at any time of the day or night. And cabbies train for several years to gain the know-how necessary to cart people around England’s capital. So make sure you take advantage of this personal chauffeur-like carriage. Many still have that legendary cockney charm too, which should offer some topical tit bits to keep you amused aboard the tourist trail.
Grab a Chinese in traditional style at China Town. Or head into the subversive corners of seedy Soho where eating at the Mexican cantina El Camino will allow access to the legendary drinking den, Dick’s – so called after the venerable granddaddy of cocktail creations.
Then, if you’re feeling up to the masses, take a shuffle down London’s most famous consumer district, Oxford Street, all the way ‘til you find peace at the other end; Hyde Park.
Those looking for a little more of a luxurious refresher should nip into Mayfair’s most distinguished of drinking dens – Claridge’s Bar. This elegant Art Deco-styled hotel might be out of reach for most stays but the cocktails and/or afternoon tea is worth the fee for a taste of such decadence.
Your home-from-home in Shoreditch should appease any evening appetite. Cargo caters to more gritty needs while The Big Chill Bar off Brick Lane is a suit-all accept-all kind of joint.
Yesterday was a bit of a whirlwind, so take it easy like Sunday morning.
Saunter slowly further east to the Olympics site. The grand event might yet be a few months off but it’s definitely worth catching a glimpse of those all-important stadium designs, even if it is just for a quick click of the camera. The Velodrome has been so highly regarded it’s actually added as part of the global 2012 Designs of the Year awards.
From there, hop on a trademark red bus back through Hackney – where all those Shoreditch cool kids really live – and into the slightly more relaxed Dalston.
Brunch definitely has to be had at A Little Bit Of What You Fancy. Locally-sourced and locally-liked, this British food outlet provides hearty dishes in a casual setting. The home-made jam would make a nice little lesser-known touristy take home too. Who knew London could be so down to earth?
Take you time here, people watch, labor over the Sunday papers (a true British tradition) then weave your way back through the residential side streets to Shoreditch’s shopping hub. The famed Spitalfields market (London’s oldest) should be in full swing by that time. Showcasing all sorts of jewels and junk, there are hand-stitched handbags from students, vintage art from serious collectors and everything in between. Nibble on some street stall delights and shop to your hearts content. But save some energy for the evening. Hoxton’s Circus Space has some seriously fun swinging action – in the true sense of the word. Slit-walking courses are also on offer for those who prefer terra firma. Or you could head to The Book Club for more traditional, though no less unique, entertainment options. Check the website for listings.
Given the Olympic organizers recent Brick Lane nickname – ‘Curry Capital 2012’ – your last meal has to be from one of these many outlets. As the center of London’s biggest Bangladeshi community (try reading Monica Ali’s Brick Lane for inspiration) cheap curry houses litter the street with hawkers plying their trades like an Indian strip. Those in the know, however, head to Bengal Village for a tried and tested thali.
(Image: Nupur Dasgupta)Pleasance Coddington