Sandwiched between busy Old Street and the culture-vulture crowds at the Barbican, Whitecross Street doesn’t often get a look-in. But it’s a bit of a shame that such a charming area is so under-the-radar, because it’s got everything a Londoner could want: dutty greasy spoons, old man pubs, chaotic charity shops, quality restaurants, a boss street food market and plenty of lovely, bomb-dodging Victorian architecture.
If you’ve just arrived from its brutalist big brother down the road, Whitecross Street makes for an excellent scenic stroll. The Whitecross Street Estate, with its handsome façades and sash windows, is a lovely reminder of the area’s pre-Blitz landscape. Weekday afternoons see lunching office workers descend on one of the best food markets anywhere in London and, what’s more, there’s a proper pub that lets you enjoy your eats inside with a pint. (If it’s sunny, you can also sit in the nearby Bunhill Fields and pay your respects at the graves of three literary big dogs: William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan.)
Whitecross Street has that rare balance of craft ale gentility and lovable, down-to-earth grunginess, with its pie and mash and pale ale, fried bread and flat whites, trendy galleries and boisterous local boozers. It’s a glorious, scaled-down London in miniature, with everything in its right place.
A venison and red wine pie from Kennedy’s, a proper chippy with cockle-warmingly naff decor.
Padron peppers and cider-marinated chorizo at Sabor Iberico, a friendly Spanish food joint.
A coma-inducing fry-up from Elite Café. They say you should never eat at places that have pictures of the food on display, but this caff is an exception.
Kleftiko (lamb shank) or aubergine with Charleston peppers from The Iskele, an authentic Turkish restaurant with a sumptuous Ottoman vibe.
Crunchy tuna rolls at Pham Sushi. Get down early to beat the lunch crowd – or if you’re in a rush they’ve got a takeaway counter up the road.
A pint of gloriously warm ale from The Two Brewers. This non-gastro pub lets you BYO food, so grab something from the market and nab one of the few tables.
A velvety flat white from Fix Coffee: serious coffee, friendly staff, comfortable sofas.
Craft beer at The Trader, with a selection just that little bit posher than The Two Brewers.
Dance in the street at Whitecross Street Party, the annual summer street art and urban culture shindig featuring music, exhibitions, comedy and kid-friendly fun stuff.
Scratch your chin in front of modern and contemporary painting and sculpture at Modern Art gallery, on Helmet Row just across Old Street.
A piece of art from Curious Duke, a commercial gallery showing sculpture, painting, street art and photography: anything from still lives to surrealist dreamscapes.
A frame for your newly purchased artwork at Taylored Framing, located in the same building as Curious Duke. Handy!
An absolute bargain from one of London’s best (and worst-named) charity shops: EMWWOUL (Ethnic Minorities Widows/Widowers Organisation UK Ltd, if you must know). They’ve got loads of high-end newish stuff donated by affluent locals, as well as your classic broken Yamaha keyboards and box sets of ‘24’.
And if you only do one thing…
Hit up Whitecross Street Market on any weekday for some of London’s best street food, with fewer tourists than Borough or Broadway – though do try and get there before the hordes of lunching office workers.