Ah, lovely Leyton – home of everyone’s second favourite football team and, on a slightly grimmer note, final resting place of Mary Jane Kelly, Jack the Ripper’s last victim. As recently as a couple of years ago, the run-down high street with its peeling shopfronts was unlikely to keep you hanging around E10 after a Leyton Orient match. Fortunately, when Jan Kattein Architects was brought in to freshen up the area, it roped in an enthusiastic bunch of year 6 pupils from Newport Primary School to give Francis Road some TLC. And lately there’s been a bit of a buzz around the neighbourhood: a leafy, largely residential street lined with newly opened bars and eateries, which are turning ‘Leyton Village’ into something of a hip destination.
The nice thing about the East End is that it’s one of the few places in London where you can still chat to a stranger without provoking suspicion or looks of utter terror. There’s a sense of community among locals and you’ll notice that neighbours here actually use their front gardens.
So if you’re looking for an unpretentious, reasonably priced, not too messy way to while away the weekend – somewhere to have dinner with a bit of atmosphere or perhaps a cosy pub to settle down in after exploring some green and pleasant spaces – Leyton is your stop.
Delicious organic wine under Yardarm’s newly erected pergola in the herb garden. Mop it up with freshly baked bread, locally sourced charcuterie, cheese and pastries.
A few jars in Leyton Technical. Just minutes from Francis Road, this former town hall – complete with high ceilings, obligatory chandeliers, marble floors and very comfy chairs – has a brilliant selection of craft beers and a DJ who’ll have you dancing till dusk.
Gooey cherry brownies in tiny, travel-themed Café Nomadica. Photos taken by the owner and her customers of trips around the world decorate the walls, and travel tomes fill the shelves.
A wonderfully rich scotch egg and a haggis toastie in Deeney’s, the newly opened Scottish-inspired café nearby, on the High Road. It has a mouthwatering selection of regional meats, cheeses and broths.
Street food that’s cosmopolitan enough to impress Phileas Fogg. Dishes from Vietnam, South Africa, Thailand and the Middle East are all represented at the Coronation Gardens Saturday market a few minutes away. And a local Signature Brew beer goes well with all of them.
See a drag show on a Sunday evening at The Northcote. This community boozer boasts friendly, outgoing staff and entertainment aplenty, including Edinburgh fringe preview shows, quiz nights and toddler-and-tea Mondays.
Hang with cute critters at Brooks Farm, the local petting zoo just north of Francis Road. It’s home to all manner of farmyard animals, as well as a couple of local cats.
Head over to Leyton Marshes for a walk along the River Lea. Get back to nature and indulge in some birdwatching while you pretend that you’re far, far away from the city.
Clothes, jewellery and preserves made by local designers and chefs at The Northcote’s Sunday market which is run by makers’ collective Leyton & Stone Designers.
African baskets from Afar Crafts and Zambian-inspired clothes and accessories from Bold Stitch Handmade at the Coronation Gardens market.
If you only do one thing…
Scoff a roast at the charming Marmelo Kitchen. Portion sizes are generous, staff are friendly and there’s a veggie option that even the bloodthirstiest of carnivores would consider.
By Kyra Hanson, who happily talks to strangers all over London
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