Streets of London: Columbia Road, E2
Once a case of flowers on a dung heap, now Columbia Road is distinctly spruce, and attracting well-heeled young professionals
The sprays, sprigs and fountains of flowers that drench the famous Sunday flower market in colour, combined with the knot of hip homeware and accessory shops and olive stalls, have propelled Columbia Road into the upper echelons of desirability.
Shops like cupcake and tea store Treacle at number 106, vintage clothes emporium Marcos & Trump at 146 and lighting specialist Columbia Lights (142) are all well pitched to appeal to the area’s burgeoning newcomer community. Tapas restaurant Laxeiro (93), a longstanding local venue, has recently been joined by retro Flea Pit café (whose costly organic wine is a good indication of the area’s new demographic) and both are consistently thronged with the thirtysomething creatives and professionals who’ve made this street their home. The conversion of the Royal Oak pub on the corner of quaintly cobbled Ezra Street from banging Sunday morning hangout for spangled clubbers to stylish gastropub (wood panelling, trendy lighting and competent menu) completes the area’s des-res credentials.
Away from Sundays, the street has a markedly parochial feel. Everyday staples including supermarkets, butchers and utilitarian high-street shops are a 15-minute walk away on Bethnal Green Road, with Brick Lane a similar distance. During the week, activity centres on Joe Gulamali’s convenience store and newsagent – well stocked with organic brands.
A local resident of 18 years, Gulamali is a first-hand witness of the area’s metamorphosis: ‘When I moved in the majority of the population were OAPs, now there are tots and young parents everywhere. The change over the last decade has been amazing.’ It’s an unsurprising development given the location on the cusp of Zone 1, excellent transport links and variety of local schools including Columbia Road Primary School on the road itself. There are also two local parks, Jesus Green and Ravenscroft, nearby. While the latter’s grassy area, basketball court and playground could do with a makeover, Jesus Green is more attractive: a shady lawn encircled by iron railings where well-to-do toddlers make whoopee while local Asian teenagers hang out and gossip during the day. Columbia Road and the surrounding streets also benefit from their status as a designated conservation area.
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