London or New York? For me that’s a bit like heads or tails… I love both cities and for lots of the same reasons. Mostly, I love the fact that they both feel less like huge cities and more like a conglomerate of villages that have organically grown into each other. Having been in New York earlier in the summer, last week it was the turn of London. And this time we chose the achingly hip “village” of Shoreditch as our base and here are my recommendations for how you might spend a very foodie 24 hours.
Arrival and Check In:
If you are one of thousands who arrive on a Ryanair flight into Stansted, then Shoreditch is an ideal location for you – just take the Stansted Express to Liverpool Street and drag your wheelie case around the corner and down Great Eastern Street… couldn’t be simpler.
And when in Shoreditch you could do a lot worse than to check into The Hoxton – just try to book well in advance for the best rates. The hotel itself is the epitome of cool, so cool that you will queue for drinks at the bar on a weekend night, as pretty young things sip cocktails to the laid back beats spinning on the decks. Mornings are a more chilled affair, but the lobby is perpetually filled with freelancers on their Macs sipping iced lattes. Has anyone else noticed that, after just one hot summer, “cold brew” has become a thing… I even read that Guinness are brewing a draft nitro coffee with the texture and flavour of a pint of stout. Does nothing in this world remain sacred? Or are we all just puppets having our strings pulled by those who dictate the latest trends?
But back to The Hoxton – the vibe is definitely trendy – the furnishings are mid-century modern (like the flats of millennial bloggers everywhere), there is a vintage photo booth in the lobby (of course!) and there are lots of cute touches everywhere to make you feel at home. For example, they hang a cute little breakfast bag on your door in the morning, there is proper fresh milk in the room for your tea (no UHT here) and the towels are massive!!!! All good, very good in fact. And if it’s your birthday they may even leave you some sour jellies, gin cocktails and balloons!!! Trust me, it’s a great hotel.
Dinner on Brick Lane:
I know you are logically thinking,“she’s off for a Friday night curry”, and of course Brick Lane is synonymous with a cheap and delicious “Ruby Murray”. However Indian food is not my personal favourite, so I broke with tradition and booked a Greek tapas style restaurant called Suvlaki instead and it was incredible!!
Altogether we ordered about eight dishes to share and they were all delicious. Highlights for us were Mediterranean baked feta, spicy lamb chops and a pulled pork wrap, but we literally devoured every single dish. It was the best food of the weekend and I would highly recommend dinner here or at the original Suvlaki in Soho. They take online reservations too, so you can book before you go – you can thank me later!!!!
Dessert at Box Park:
After dinner, it is just a short stroll back towards Shoreditch to Box Park, where a choice of sweet treats awaits. Box Park is like a little shopping arcade created from shipping containers and, although it was originally intended to host “pop-up” stores, most brands appear to have made it a permanent home – including Soft Serve Society who don’t appear to be going anywhere soon. And thank God for that, because who can tell when we might need to access an emergency Freakshake or a matcha cone.
Want something a little healthier? Then pop down a couple of doors to SNOG, for a scrumptious Fro-Yo, served in the most futuristic of setting – it’s a bit like The Matrix in technicolour but it tastes bloody great. If all first SNOGS were only as good!
Late Night Cocktails:
If packed pubs and trendy clubs are your religion, then Shoreditch is your mecca, but there is also plenty to entertain those of us who are older now (after a big birthday with a zero) and like to keep things a little more sedate. Those of us at that elderly stage of wanting to be able to hear what other people are saying and garnering just a smidgen of elbow room for ourselves. For us, there are elegant cocktail bars… and two to try in Shoreditch are Happiness Forgets (a basement bar with speakeasy vibes) and the Jabberwocky inspired Calloo Callay. Both bars make a mean cocktail and serve it up in beautiful glassware – not a plastic glass or a pint of lager to be seen. Dim lighting and well chosen background music create a sophisticated laid back atmosphere, perfectly suited to the consumption of a night-cap.
Breakfast & Single Origin Coffee (it’s a big thing in Shoreditch!):
There are no shortage of places in the area to reawaken your digestive system after a good night’s sleep. For great coffee and some delicious healthy options you could try Attendant. The Hoxton Grill serves a decent Full English, while the perpetually popular The Breakfast Club has American diner vibes. And if you are looking for something a little different, Andina garners great press for it’s healthy menu with a Peruvian twist. Just wander about and see what tickles the taste buds.
Snap some Street Art:
I do love a good mural….. I am not sure what it is about street art that I enjoy so much but I could spend many a happy hour perusing outdoor galleries like the walls of Shoreditch and East Berlin. It is so colourful and current and I really admire the effort that goes into pieces that are so transient they could literally be painted over by morning. Aretha Franklin died the week of our trip and what was a bare patch of bricks and mortar when we were heading to bed, became a vibrant tribute to the Queen of Soul by morning.
You can do street art tours of Shoreditch, but I just took my camera and wandered down Rivington Street, Shoreditch High Street, Redchurch Street and back up Great Eastern and I saw plenty to keep me entertained. These streets also have some great cafes, independent boutiques and homeware stores, if you are more into a little retail therapy. And if somehow your street art appetite is still not sated, just add in a meander down Brick Lane, where the feast of spray-painted delights continues.
Check out the Markets:
For me the best thing about Shoreditch is its proximity to some world class markets, and if all I did for a weekend was market hop around the area, I would be a very happy travel blogger. And the food blogger in me would also be doing a happy dance.
If you are lucky enough to be in the area on a Sunday morning be sure to wander through the the Columbia Road flower market – although be warned that you will struggle not to bring bunches of sunflowers and hydrangeas back to your hotel room. Impractical but irresistible.
From there head on over to Brick Lane, which on Sunday morning transforms into a giant market place, with a strong leaning towards food, vinyl and vintage clothing – I mean seriously, what is not to like?
On any other day of the week Spitalfields peddles some trendsetting pieces and is always worth a leisurely browse and, although not actually in Shoreditch, the king of all food markets – Borough Market at London Bridge – is still within walking distance. And trust me you do not want to miss it.
Swap Street Art for Street Food at Dinerama:
After a long day of walking, eating, shopping and taking quite frequent refreshment stops (for hydration purposes of course!) I don’t always feel like a full sit down meal in a fancy hostelry – but a girl still has to eat. And here is where spots like Dinerama and Eatyard come into their own. Describing itself as a “street food arena”, there are loads of street food vendors offering everything from pizza to curry and nachos to chicken wings. We sampled the exquisite pork belly soft buns from Yum Bun (best thing we tasted), delicious veggie tacos (with jack fruit masquerading as pulled pork!), a sublime LAMBUEL L. JACKSON kebab, halloumi fries (that were just a tad too salty) and some warm doughnut bites with chocolate sauce and salt caramel ice cream. All washed down with a tipple from Winerama for the lady and a pint of ale for her gentleman friend. And rest assured there are no shortage of boozy options if you are making Dinerama an integral part of your evening out in Shoreditch.
And there you have it – some recommendations for 24 hours in Shoreditch, one of Central London’s trendiest and most vibrant neighbourhoods.