London: Shoreditch & Spitalfields
For centuries, East London has been home to the working class and immigrants fresh off the boat. What’s new is that these recent arrivals are now as likely to hail from TriBeCa, or West Hollywood, or indeed Kensington (seven-odd miles away on a map; light years distant, socially), as from, say, Bangladesh. These blue-chip creative and cultural talents—hoteliers and chefs, art dealers and designers—have steadily worked themselves into the fabric of daily life. Here, our tips for two dynamic sections, Shoreditch and Spitalfields. —Maria Shollenbarger
Boundary: Terence Conran’s compound, located in a Victorian warehouse, comprises a proper French restaurant, a 17-room hotel, and a rooftop bar and brasserie that is always packed (English weather permitting). 2-4 Boundary St.; 44-20/7729-1051; theboundary.co.uk; doubles from $322.
Shoreditch House: The Soho House group’s East London club has a no-suits-or-ties clause in its dress code (smirk all you like, it’s strictly enforced) and a hotel with 26 small but gratifyingly affordable rooms. Great Value 1 Ebor St.; 44-20/7739-5040; shoreditchhouse.com; doubles from $137.
Pizza East: This sprawling pizzeria, part of the Shoreditch House complex, with an unreconstructed industrial interior serves a menu of rustic antipasti (fried baby artichokes; bone marrow; salumi) and wafer-thin pies. 56 Shoreditch High St.; 44-20/7729-1888; pizzaeast.com; lunch for two $40.
Dray Walk: Along this small pedestrian alley off Brick Lane, food stands peddle Japanese izakaya-style snacks, dosas, empanadas, kebabs, dolmas, and eye-watering Goan curries. Small fashion boutiques with provocatively arcane names enjoy fiercely loyal followings.
St. John Bread & Wine: Fergus Henderson’s simple dishes—Middlewhite pork with black cabbage; beets with lentils and yogurt—are prepared to unadorned perfection and served on bare wood tables to a stylish local crowd. 94-96 Commercial St.; 44-20/3301-8069; stjohnbreadandwine.com; dinner for two $90.
Rochelle Canteen: Margot (Mrs. Fergus) Henderson serves breakfast and lunch at this Victorian school turned artists’ space. Expect nose-to-tail cooking (rabbit rillettes; Arbroath smokies) on the ever-changing menu. Rochelle School, Arnold Circus; 44-20/7729-5677; arnoldandhenderson.com; lunch for two $75.
Whitechapel Gallery: Mums and dads from suburban Wimbledon venture in for world-class exhibitions and Sunday lunch at Whitechapel Gallery’s exquisite wood-paneled dining room. 77-82 Whitechapel High St.; 44-20/7522-7888; whitechapelgallery.org; lunch for two $57.
Jamme Masjid: The Great London Mosque was consecrated in 1976 in an early Georgian structure that, for a century prior, was known as the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. Before that, it had served as a Methodist church and the Huguenot Neuve Église, built in 1743. 59 Brick Lane; 44-20/7247-6052.
Aesop: The fashionable apothecary opened in slick, scented surroundings in winter 2010 on Redchurch Street, where art-exhibition spaces mix with shops and creative firms housed in former convenience stores and warehouses. 5A Redchurch St.; 44-20/7613-3793; aesop-europe.com.
Hostem: This men’s shop counts among its clients both fashion-forward gentlemen hailing from the City and locals sporting the East London hipster uniform of sockless brogues, rolled denim, whiskers, and the occasional waistcoat. 41-43 Redchurch St.; 44-20/7739-9733; hostem.co.uk.
Old Truman Brewery: Named for a family who started making ales here in the late 1600’s, the building is now home to almost 200 creative companies, including galleries, furniture showrooms, and recording studios. A variety of markets run Friday through Sunday. 91 Brick Lane; 44-20/7770-6000; trumanbrewery.com.
Old Spitalfields Market: Various stalls and stores sell everything from Venetian masks and Goth corsets to steak-and-Guinness pie at the storied 1887 covered market. Sundays are busiest, but Thursday is the connoisseur’s day for antiques. 16 Horner Square; 44-20/7247-8556; oldspitalfieldsmarket.com.