Shopping off the beaten track
Bored of battling through hordes on a Saturday afternoon? Head off the beaten track. Time Out selects four sleepy shopping streets boasting leftfield boutiques, fine coffee shops and an atmosphere all of their own
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Camden PassageThe crooked alley linking Angel tube station with an incongruous Tesco is packed with lounge-around bars and cafés, antiques galleries and ramshackle stalls selling unique attic finds. The tiny (1) Kirt Holmes jewellery studio (No 16; www.kirtholmes.com) and London’s first standalone (2) Frost French boutique (No 22-26 ) ensure Camden Passage has enough fashion clout to pull in stylish locals. A new branch of eco-store Planet Organic on Essex Road will attract ethical shoppers who will love the area’s vintage feel. Eat at Latin American café (3) Macondo (No 20), drink at the (4) Elk in the Woods (No 39; www.the-elk-in-the-woods.co.uk) or outside at stallholders’ favourite the Camden Head (2 Camden Walk). Hit the antiques mall at 359 Upper Street (www.themallantiques.co.uk), with Jewels by Count Alexander (www.countalexander.co.uk), packed with tiaras and cubic zirconia and possibly the campest shop in north London. Explore a little further to the tiny Pierrepont Arcade selling vintage costume jewellery, books, crockery and clothes before heading a few steps to the long, manicured garden (5) between Duncan Terrace and Colebrooke Road. Wander down to the canal towpath (enter via Colebrooke Road) to share wild blackberries and views with local anglers and picnickers sprawled over the lock.
An urban oasis at Leathermarket Street Rose Garden
Bermondsey StreetA world away from the clatter and grime of Tooley Street, the first section of Bermondsey Street is a dark, dripping tunnel, with the sounds of trains grumbling into London Bridge station overhead. Stepping into the sunshine, Bermondsey Street feels like a secret, hidden village, and the jumble of buildings, from converted warehouses, residential homes and the huge pink and orange (1) Fashion and Textile Museum lends the street a quirky, mismatched feel. The museum (No 83; www.ftmlondon.org), commissoned by Zandra Rhodes and now a part of Newham College, houses a fashion academy, café and a full exhibition programme (‘Little Black Dress’ runs until August 25). On hot days, the small garden (2) on the corner of Tanner Street is packed with listless sunbathers and tennis players enjoying friendlies on one of the four courts. The (3) Leathermarket Street rose gardens are a local secret. Eat pastéis de nata at (4) Coffee @ Bermondsey Street (No 163) and browse gorgeous homewares at ex-Burberry designer Michael McGrath’s fashion and lifestyle emporium (5) Bermondsey 167 (No 167). At the south end of the street, opposite an old churchyard, sits the (6) Bermondsey Square development, by ‘socially responsible’ property developers Igloo (www.igloo.uk.net). Okay, so there’s a Sainsbury’s on its way, but there is also a site for Bermondsey’s antiques market (Fridays 4am-1pm) and low-cost family housing for a new generation to enjoy this sleepy south-London urban village.
Leila's Shop on Calvert Avenue
Calvert AvenueJust off Shoreditch High Street, lined with half-eaten kebabs, alt-drag performers and short-shorted fashion gays, lies Calvert Avenue. Leading up to Arnold Circus, its raised bandstand surrounded by wild garlic, sweet herbs and red-brick mansion blocks, the avenue’s recent gentrification sits obliquely with neighbouring streets – there are no sneaker boutiques, tattoo parlours or expensive bars: only a handful of select retailers, including bag queen Ally Capellino. Her cult fashion and accessories empire has been quietly bubbling away since 1980, and (1) Capellino’s store (No 9; www.allycapellino.co.uk) stocks her excellent unisex bags, from £55. Browse Moroccan-tinged design pieces (think recyled tin lamps and intricate beaded lounge chairs) in (2) LaRache boutique, pop into photographer Hassan Hajjaj’s store project (No 30-32) and visit deli-café (3) Leila’s Shop (No 17) for Monmouth coffee at a huge, shared wooden kitchen table or at one of the tables out on the street. Local café stalwart (4) Lennie’s Snack Bar (No 6) boasts friendly, unhurried service and the Rochelle School building on Arnold Circus, renovated into studios, houses designers Giles Deacon, Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier as well as secret lunchtime restaurant (5) Rochelle Canteen by Arnold & Henderson (www.arnoldandhenderson.com) overlooking a private courtyard. Locals can be found snoozing in the bandstand, where the Friends of Arnold Circus (www.friendsofarnoldcircus.wordpress.com) organises local events or watching their smalls go round at the (6) Boundary Estate Community Laundrette (No 28) offering a secondhand bookshelf and tasty local gossip.
Book browsing at the London Review Book Shop, Pied Bull Yard
Pied Bull YardBritish textile artist Margo Selby had been working in her spare bedroom until she discovered the site for her new gallery late last year. As hidden and subdued as her home workspace, the (1) Margo Selby Gallery, crammed full of Brit-made arts and crafts, quietly occupies a large, airy studio in Pied Bull Yard (www.margoselby.com). ‘It’s always a thrill to see someone’s reaction when they stumble upon us,’ explains Selby. ‘There are some really creative people living and working here, including an exclusive hairdresser’s hidden next door.’ In the shadow of the British Museum – but a world away from the tourist hordes and hot dog vendors – browse Selby’s collections of bold handmade textiles, wander across the courtyard to the (2) Leica Camera Store (www.theclassiccamera.com) for Billingham’s classic holdalls and 1930s Leica catalogues, and browse the excellent stock at the (3) London Review Book Shop (main entrance at 4 Bury Place; http://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk), stopping at the cake counter for speciality teas and a piece of rhubarb tart, or for early evening author talks. Make the most of the afternoon sun with a jug of Pimm’s or Davy’s Old Wallop (served, somewhat oddly, in a copper tankard) from (4) Truckles bar and restaurant (www.davy.co.uk). Back on Bury Place, pass hundreds of artisanal rubber stamps on display at (5) Blade Rubber Stamps (No 12; www.bladerubberstamps.co.uk) before rejoining the armies of Euro-trippers and roaring traffic on the main drag.
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