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Shoreditch area guide

Discover the best of Shoreditch, from indie shops to tasty cheap food

Photo: Rob Greig
Cereal Killer Cafe on Brick Lane
Some say Shoreditch has had its day, that London’s trendy brigade have moved on. If you go to Brick Lane Market, though, it doesn’t look that way. The weird and wonderfully dressed hordes keep coming to the rough triangle made up by Old Street, Great Eastern Street and Shoreditch High Street, packing into ramshackle bars and independent shops. Despite the spread of affluence, much of the area maintains its original gritty, urban edge; many of the walls and shop fronts are plastered with graffiti. Of course, for many the grime is all part of the appeal – if you want a big garden and posh schools, move to Muswell Hill.

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Restaurants

Beigel Shop

There's much debate over which of the Brick Lane bagel shops is better: The Yellow One (this one) or The White One (Beigel Bake). And you'll find patrons fiercey defending their choices with arguments including: The Yellow One has been here longer (over a century longer, in fact), but it sells bacon, which White One fans will dub un-Jewish and blasphemous on a bagel. The truth is, they're both as good as each other, especially when those hunger pangs surface in the early hours and can only be satiated by a salt beef bagel. We suggest simply joining the shorter queue.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Water Poet

Buried away off Bishopsgate in a cobbled corner close to Spitalfields Market where city suits and Shoreditch collide, the Water Poet is a multi-tasking gem with a bar, restaurant, pool parlour, a downstairs theatre and a sun-trap of a beer garden. The food offering includes small plates, large plates and sharing platters. 

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Embassy East

Breakfast, brunch and lunch café.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Shopping

Rough Trade East

Like its sister store in W11, the East End addition to the RT stable welcomes live performers of pretty much every persuasion and boasts not only more space and a café, but also – far more importantly – a purpose-built stage, with standing room in front sensibly factored into the planning. Gigs happen early in the evening (usually 7pm) and admission is more often than not free (with a pre-collected wristband) or free with purchase of the new album by whoever's playing. Sets are shorter than a regular gig and there can be long queues for bigger named acts, but then, who wouldn't queue to see free sets from the diverse likes of Blur, Marianne Faithful and Vampire Weekend? Rough Trade East is number 4 in our list of the 100 best shops in London.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Cinemas

Rich Mix

Recently saved from threatened closure, Shoreditch's independent cultural centre houses three cinema screens alongside exhibition and performance spaces and a cafe/bar. Run as a charity, it's a vibrant arts hub and any given week could see it hosting an assortment of music gigs, theatre shows, art exhibitions, themed festivals and all manner of workshops.  Families are well catered for with weekly parent and baby cinema screenings of the latest films, a family cinema club with affordable tickets, monthly StoryCraft workshops and the fortnightly Wiggly Jigglers active play session for under-twos. Local residents with a Tower Hamlets Libraries or Ideas Store card get discounted entry to cinema screenings.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in Shoreditch

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Tramshed

After a promising start, Mark Hix’s chicken and steak restaurant has lost some allure. The room remains a winning combination of fun, glamour and heritage: a Damien Hirst cow and chicken in formaldehyde suspended over the main dining room makes a striking first impression set against the backdrop of a building that once generated the power for east London’s trams. The child’s meal deal is generous, and the house wines are very drinkable. But the overly keen table-turning (we were moved on long before our slot was supposedly up) and variable food soon strip away any stardust. The short menu has steak (rib, sirloin or salad) or chicken as mains. Steak salad passed muster, though we’re unconvinced by the topping of battered onion rings. Whole roast chicken (barn-reared these days, rather than the free-range birds initially used) arrives at the table up-ended on a spike, and surrounded by fries; at £25 it easily serves two and can stretch to three, helped by seasonal sides such as (delicious) wild garlic mushrooms. Starters (just-so yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers) and desserts (super-sweet salted caramel fondue with marshmallows and doughnuts, £12.50 to share) had more wow factor. Staff are friendly yet stretched, leaving diners feeling more than a little processed.  

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Dishoom

In Bollywood, ‘dishoom dishoom’ is the sound effect of blows landing in a classic fight scene, and is usually followed by a hip-thrusting song-and-dance routine. And while the naans are the only things that get slapped about by the Dishoom restaurant group – there’s still plenty of spice, both on and off the plate. This King’s Cross Dishoom, the third, is the best-looking yet. A magnificent three-storey Victorian warehouse has been furnished with sepia prints, whirring fans and an oversized railway-station clock to recreate the elegant feel of 1930s Bombay, while the seating arrangement by the ground-floor cocktail bar looks as if it’s been lifted from Aunty Ji’s verandah. It’s a witty interpretation of urban India, tastefully updated for trendy, spice-loving Londoners. If romancing is on the agenda, we suggest the booths on the dimly lit mezzanine level. But for skewer-wielding action, head to the top floor for a front-row view of smoky kebabs cooking over charcoal. Dishes are affordable and consistently deliver great flavour. Besides the first-class breakfasts, fragrant biryanis and fabulous curries, we love the gingery slow-cooked black lentils simmered with cream, butter and tomatoes. It’s a classic party dahl and a marvellous match for garlicky chargrilled lamb chops and handkerchief-like roomali rotis. Even an everyday mattar paneer, studded with pillowy cubes of fresh cheese and tender peas, is notable for its cumin-scented onion and tomato masala. And, for between

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants

Hoi Polloi

The Ace Hotel in New York is deepest hipster territory, with a cavernous lobby used by every Midtown creative for its free wi-fi, Stumptown coffee bar and – for those who can get a booking – chef April Bloomfield’s outstanding Breslin restaurant. I was once marooned at the Ace for a couple of days during a snowstorm; there are few better places to be stuck. Shoreditch’s new Ace Hotel is not, however, a cookie-cutter copy of its Big Apple cousin, and Hoi Polloi – its all-day brasserie – exemplifies this. Access, for instance, is not from a vast lobby, but via a tiny flower shop. Walk straight through and the large restaurant (from the team behind Bistrotheque and Shrimpy’s) reveals itself with a mix of retro and contemporary styling that wouldn’t look out of place on a Scandinavian cruise ship circa 1950. The casual and sneaker-clad service is notably smooth and well informed. The music (a mix of retro ’80s pop and US alt electronic) isn’t too loud, allowing attention to focus instead on conversation – and the food. The menu looks like a college music paper, which gives the curious impression that other diners are reading up on the LCD Soundsystem back catalogue. It covers breakfast, lunch, snacks, cocktails and dinner. Dishes are British, very seasonal and juxtapose flavours in modern but not outlandish ways that will leave you craving more – and wondering why other kitchens can’t manage so deftly. A fresh, vibrant starter of braised celeriac is topped with a tangle of remo

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Lyle's

‘Wham-bam, thank you m’am’ – the new normal for London’s restaurants. Book ahead? You’re having a laugh. Queue? Of course. Meals come and go at breakneck speed, and before you can even settle into your faux-distressed school chair, the bill appears and you’re out on your ear, wondering if it was all just a dream. If that’s the kind of fast and furious that floats your boat, then you should probably give Lyle’s a swerve. Dinner here is a long, leisurely affair. You can book (they even have a telephone!) and stay as long as you like, as there’s no turning tables. The pricing is fair: the no-choice menu costs £39, which gets you seven small courses (plus bread, petits fours and filtered tap water), served in a drawn-out procession. The whole thing, from start to finish, takes a languorous two and a half hours or so. The chef is James Lowe, formerly one of the much-fêted ‘Young Turks Collective’ and still one of the most talented cooks in town. We were impressed by a terrific cube of blood ‘cake’ (baked pig’s head, blood, and semolina); mellow braised baby onions; and a hunk of fatty-edged mutton with an intense anchovy cream. Baked washed-rind British sheep’s cheese was lick-the-plate-clean moreish; as was a poached, slightly-tart rhubarb with a rich crème anglaise custard). In short, almost everything we ate was notably good. Only the bitter notes of charred dover sole in a somewhat over-seasoned broth disappointed. But the sweet staff knew their food; and the semi-industrial s

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in Shoreditch

Things to do

Red Market

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Things to do

National Centre for Circus Arts

Deep down, haven’t we all wondered if we’re secretly destined for the trapeze? Whether it’s juggling, tumbling, or pretty much anything in-between, the National Centre for Circus Arts (formerly known as Circus Space) has a class on it during their regular 12-week terms (but don’t expect to learn the art of throwing a custard pie: that’s just silly).

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Comments

6 comments
Snaz P
Snaz P

helen o is a bit freaked out. What she means is it's a hipster gentrification zone, like alot of areas are in cities around the world.

There's plenty to find on and off the beaten track and there's always alot of interesting stuff to see or try out. Despite hipsters being a bit of a pain they do like fun stuff so you'll find that kind of thing in mega quantities in the Shoreditch quater.

I always would say conventional visitors would enjoy that area and dilute the hipster crowds too - so why crap all over it ?

helen o
helen o

I'm sorry Shoreditch is a highly pretentious and not particularly attractive area that has been shoved down our throats by so called cool rags like Timeout and estate agent sponsored papers like the Evening Standard. Truth is that it is a commercially driven fantasy created by the media colluding with businesses to drive up commercial footfall of sheeple to the area. Sheeple are people who en mass, blindly follow trends proclaimed by the  media  as gospel truth and try to live out those fantasies en mass aka Hipsters et al. So a real shitty borough like Hackney suddenly becomes paradise in the eyes of sheeple, the same process can be seen in Peckham with its post nuclear habitat being proclaimed as the next cool thing by Time Out and other rags, ditto Brixton and Walthamstow and Deptford. I was in shoreditch the other day and stumbled into a so called cool gathering of hipsters at a streetfood pop-up event in a disused car park. I was concerned that the crowd had been easily deluded into believing that such an uncool dirty and harsh place could be cool. I guess the average individual can be psychologically brainwashed and convinced of anything by the media, hence  it is so-so cool to pay half a million pounds and incur a life times' debt to live on one of Shoreditch's or  Hoxton's numerous run down estates than to pay a third of that price to live in a fairly decent flat or house in an uncool area such as Catford or Morden. You have to ask yourself whatever happened to the former cool areas such as Notting Hill, Portobello Road, Camden, Clapham, Islington etc My guess is that they've become too cool to be Ice cool and hence frozen out of the anals of coolness by the likes of Timeout et al and it looks like Shoreditch is rapidly going that way from recent articles on the area. It makes you wonder why people believe in this charade in the first place?  

jon w
jon w

O helen I love you!!! Everything you say is absolutely correct. Only it's actually all good, exactly as it has been for ever... and will always be. Just dont be the sheep.

Marion W
Marion W

Oh wow. Just wow. I live in Homerton. Even more underrated, and granted, there isn't much to do there, but shoreditch, it's fun! It's become a bit of a trend to insult anything that alot of people enjoy. You have decided it is 'cool' to follow this trend... And omg look! You've joined the freaking sheeple! I don't know where you live, but I'd rather live in Hackney where not only can I buy jeans and a bag of chips for less than 5 pounds if I feel like going to that sort of place, but I can also visit a huge record store, buy bubble tea in a shop where I can also play table tennis and eat macaroons, and then go to a family farm with a classy italian restaraunt! To be honest, in the end it gets more interesting than constant chelsea coffee shops, as nice as they are. And I've been to the urban food fest. The food is nice, the people are nice , so the environment is old, is that not thrifty?! Making a fun place out of an otherwise boring urban environment into an interesting fun festival. Stop your prejudiced shit please? Thankyou.

Misch M
Misch M

Shoreditch is not good place for the clubbers  too costly / rubbish .. I was given excuse at some bars that there are too many guys in the bar / club so cant enter .. it's ridiculous in the name of London .. 

Sophie
Sophie

A great, comprehensive guide to this area - so it's not just full of posers after all! Tho anyone who actually uses the word 'Pho mile' is probably a bit of a poser...