I clearly remember the theme tune to EastEnders from my childhood; it was only shown in Australia until 1991, long before Dame Barbara Windsor graced its screen, but that song still made an impression. Little did I know that I would end up spending over a decade living so close to its fictional location. This part of town has changed enormously since I arrived in London nearly 13 years ago but I still love it. From Whitechapel to Walthamstow, each area has its own character and style with an abundance of great places to eat, drink and party. In my opinion, the East End is the best part of London – but don’t just take my word for it. It’s filled with some of my most treasured people on the planet, and here are five of them in this East London locals’ guide letting you in on their own favourite places so you too can experience it #likealocal.
You can find all of these East London locals’ guide tips are on my map here!
I met this absolute stunner on the dance floor of Horse Meat Disco and couldn’t believe her ability to dance in killer heels all night – sober! Together with her husband, Matt, they make for an intimidatingly well-turned-out couple. That is until you’re welcomed by their high-voltage smiles and infectious Northern charm. Fayis a vintage screen siren living amongst us mere mortals – and a total badass to boot.
Check out her 5 favourite places in East London:
Mirth, Marvel and Maud, Hoe St: great bar in Walthamstow’s old EMD GENESIS cinema! They have great nights there and film screenings! They also do food!
Devran, Stoke Newington Rd: our ultimate place for a Turkish feast!! From a daily £6 stew to a family feast! Always hits the spot!!
Rio Cinema, Kingsland High St: always a constant provider of independent film and new releases. Its Art Deco exterior is amazing! Also has Little Nan’s bar in the basement!!
Sylvanian Families shop, Mountgrove Rd: who can ever deny the cute overload of Sylvanian families? A true testimony that London caters for all!
I would never have guessed when moving this gorgeous lady into my old share house that she would not only be the world’s best flatmate but a friend for life. Katie is so talented at everything she does: she’s a whizz with power tools, mixes a mean margarita, and makes anything she touches look effortlessly styled. She lives on a huge canal boat with her fiance Pete and her adorable dog Pilot and is Irish…. by way of Denmark and Texas. No matter where she is, she’ll always be Babes to me.
Pidgin, Wilton Way: I’m a bit biased because I work here and I think the team behind it are just the nicest bunch of guys, but it really is great. They received a Michelin star earlier this year, but have continued to be a welcoming neighbourhood restaurant serving incredible food, with a four-course set menu, cocktail and wine list that change every week. These guys do laid-back fine dining very well and cater for all dietary requirements if given advance notice.
Triangle Store, Chatsworth Road: if I had lots of money I would have one of everything in this shop. For now, I just go in regularly to ogle and dream, and occasionally pick up a gift for someone. The owner has an incredible eye for beautiful, minimalist homeware, clothing, and other nice things. (There’s also a lovely market on Chatsworth Road on Sundays, with stallholders selling everything from vintage clothes to fresh cut flowers, and, my favourite, the haggis toasties from Deeneys).
Lizzy’s at the Coalhouse and Lizzy’s on the Green: these two cafes are full of soul, evident by the diversity of the local regulars they both attract. The food is exactly what you’d want to cook at home if you could be arsed, and the coffee is just as good as all the best roasters in London but without the attitude. One is on a wildlife reserve and the other is in a neighbourhood green, and it’s such a luxury to sit outside in London and enjoy your brunch!
Stoke Newington Fruit & Veg – these guys have two fruit and veg shops, one on Church Street and one near Newington Green, and it’s where I always come when I’m in a cooking rut. The selection of fresh produce is next level, and I always walk away with huge bags of stuff I can’t wait to turn into something delicious, for a fraction of what you’d pay at the supermarkets.
Kia is my warrior queen: she’s here to change the world – just as long as she can have a lot of fun doing it. This amazing lady is all passion and power, with a healthy dose of nudity on the side. She’s the first person I call when I want a campy night out and my phone-a-friend when I feel like I’m losing my mind. A serial seducer of London ladies, she originally hails from Manchester and will be joining me on a trip there in March for Minka Guides. Stay tuned for that adventure.
In the meantime, here are her 5 East London faves:
Viva, Stoke Newington Rd: great Mexican tapas, and the jalapeño margaritas are next level. Spice up your life y’all. (Also, it’s a prime lesbian dating spot.)
Brunswick East, Gillett St: gorgeous coffee spot and worth watching out for their immense foodie pop-ups.
Below, Stoke Newington Rd: just by Pelicans and Parrots, this is the place to hire for private events in Dalston. Think rum and neon. Access to this space is by a secret door through the Hang-Up Gallery.
Brahms and Liszt, Chatsworth Rd: this isn’t your usual Off Licence with its retro style, beautiful furniture and a huge selection of your more unusual spirits. They specialise in mezcal and tequila and also have a tasting room. Don’t be surprised if you’re offered a gin cocktail on arrival.
This mega babe should be the mascot for Visit Scotland because no one makes being Scottish seem as awesome as Lucy does – simply by being her own beautiful self. We met while both working on London Film Festival together, many moons ago, and since then she’s made a huge space in my heart for her endless enthusiasm and Rod Stewart super-fan ways. She’s such a pal and confidant that I’m pretty sure the Golden Girls theme song was written about her. Check out my Stockholm guide for our adventure there together last July.
Here are her 5 favourite places in East London:
L’atelier, Stoke Newington Rd: the best brunch spot in East London. L’Atelier has bangin’ food, coffee and staff to boot. From incredible salads and open sandwiches to an impressive selection of tasty French pastries, L’Atelier never fails to hit le spot. (Try the Smoked Salmon & Rocket Omelette for brekkie… délicieux!) With a stylish rustic interior, walls adorned with the odd neon sign and piece of tasteful taxidermy, it’s the ideal spot to set up shop in a quiet corner on your own. In the summer, you can sit out the front with a gang of pals and a yummy fresh juice, just watching the chic Dalston in crowd trot by.
Broadway & Netil Markets: since moving to the area, wandering around Broadway Market has become a standard on a Saturday. Fuel yourself for a good hour of exploring by grabbing a coffee at Climpson & Sons and a BANG TIDY peanut butter brownie from the Bad Browniegang [**drools**]. If you love vintage ‘$h*t’, then amble around the market stalls and pick up some sexy – albeit overpriced – wee treats. Just watch where you’re stepping – you might just crush a tiny wee hipster dog in the crowds! If you’re a jewellery whore like me, make sure you visit Karin Andréasson and the Reo Jewels stalls to get your silver fix at really affordable prices (she says looking down at her Field Mouse Skull Ring). Then don’t forget to have a saunter round to neighbouring Netil Market to see ‘The Earls’ – Paul and Niko – from The Earl of East London and treat yourself to one of their incredible handmade candles. Wildflower smells like paradise. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to bag a table in winter, finish off your afternoon with a bevvy at The Dove. Pick a dark and cosy corner, grab Cranium from their board game shelves and stay put for the night!
Rasa, Stoke Newington Church St: being a pesky veggie can be tough in and around the meat-heavy Turkish stronghold of Stoke Newington – but head to Rasa for some delectable South Indian delights! It’s only wee so book ahead to avoid disappointment – especially if you’re going with a big group, which is how this place is best enjoyed. With curries for under a fiver, you can almost order everything on the menu to share and still walk away with some change. Try their beetroot curry which is pure, purple perfection. Oh, and make sure you go to the correct one as their sister restaurant, which has the same name, is directly across the road!
Columbia Road Flower Market: I would never have imagined I’d be the kind of person who buys fresh flowers every week – but move over Elton John as now I’m living behind Columbia Road, I’ve found myself addicted to filling my tiny wee flat with reams of plants. I realise it’ll be one of the top places in all London guidebooks and, as a result, it draws an intense crowd and gets ludicrously busy. However, peppered between the swarms of eager tourists, us East Londoners are picking up amazingly cheap cacti, succulents, herbs and greenery. If you wait until around 3.30pm you can get the real bargains from the badass Eastender sellers…”Three bunches for a fiver lav!”
Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Rd: I spend a lot of time at Rich Mix, mostly in their cinema. As an independent arts venue, you’ll normally get treated to an exhibition or a snippet of some performing arts as you head to watch a film. What’s more, Rich Mix is a charity that aims to provide access to culture for all in East London. Like all the indie spaces in premium Shoreditch, it’s been under threat for the past year and recently saved from closure… I like to think that’s a little to do with us heading to watch as many films as we can there! It may not be the most comfortable cinematic experience, depending on which cinema screen you end up in, but the staff are cracking, the food is top notch and you get to take your bevvy into the film from their reasonably priced bar. From independent movies to the big blockbusters, get your culture fix while supporting a local multi-arts centre.
One night, 8.3 years ago, I walked into a party, met this guy and my life changed forever. Robin is hands-down the bravest and most beautiful person I’ve ever encountered and I’m ridiculously proud to call him my partner. Over the years, his preferred mode of transport has varied between bicycles, skateboards, high heels and tanks, and having lived in East London for the best part of 20 years, he knows this area better than anyone.
Here are his 5 favourite places nearby:
Bourne and Hollingsworth, Northampton Rd: I work near Exmouth Market and there are LOADS of coffee shops nearby but Bourne and Hollingsworth is my favourite. For pretty much the same price as Cafe Nero, you can pretend you’re part of the landed gentry living it at your colonial members’ club.
Metropolis, Cambridge Heath Rd: during the week Metropolis is a traditional strip club, complete with perspex heels and city boys on cocaine. But come the weekend the two-story poles, beach buggy carwash and Sahara nights beach bar become the glorious playground of East London’s most colourful drag queens and club kids.
Hunter S, Southgate Rd: nice hipster pub named after the amazing author. There’s A LOT of dead things on the walls but it’s worth a visit for the gents toilets alone. Rolling Stones lips urinals and walls covered in Ellen Von Unwerth prints.
Mescal, Kingsland High St: for those days when you really, really need a dirty burrito, a strong Caipirinha and a belly full of nachos. There are probably better Mexican restaurants in East London, but this is by far my favourite, and I freakin’ love burritos.
Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Pollard Row: it’s got sticky carpets, toilet doors that don’t close properly and only half the lightbulbs work, but the BGWMC is a bloody institution. The spiritual home of Sink The Pink, I’ve never had a bad night out at this venue. The booze is cheap, the staff are lovely and the freaks of the world are not just welcome but embraced.
You can find all of these East London locals’ guide tips are on my map here!