Running east from the centre of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green Road is the place to go if you fancy a goggle at east London’s transformation from no-go neighbourhood to hip heartland. You’ll spot plenty of the tensions that often accompany rapid change in a formerly working-class area, like coffee shops and cocktail pubs next door to branches of Iceland and budget homeware stores. But what’s important is that Bethnal Green Road and its environs also show London at its best. Its many watering holes run the full gamut from ultra-trendy to old-man-friendly. While Rich Mix arts centre showcases the best of local Asian and African culture, just yards away Boxpark is at the forefront of new-London cool.
If there’s one place that captures the essence of the area (and London itself, to be honest) it’s E Pellicci, a genuine institution in a city that loves to overuse the term. This Grade-II listed caff not only serves up the finest breakfasts anywhere in London – I’ll personally fight anyone who disagrees – but you’re almost invariably forced to squeeze on the end of a table and chat to strangers. It’s awkward at first, but by the end of it E Pellicci manages what no edgy bar could: it makes you enjoy meeting strangers. It’s a riot of energy, a melting pot of people and the food is damn tasty: London in a glorious, greasy nutshell.
After-work pints at the Star of Bethnal Green, a capacious boozer with its own private karaoke room.
Craft beer on tap in born-again boozer The Well & Bucket.
Yet more pints at proper pub The Old George, a watering hole that’s been here in one form or another for more than 200 years. Some of the regulars look about the same age.
A spicy Tom & Jerry cocktail from Cocktail Trading Company, with droolworthy salted-chestnut gelato.
A feelgood flat white from crusading coffee shop Second Shot, where London’s homeless are barista trained to help them back into work.
Torreznos fritos and steamed octopus with smoked paprika from quality Spanish restaurant Tapas Revolution.
A heaped plate of steaming pie, mash and liquor from G Kelly. In the heart of the East End, it would be rude not to.
New sounds from Flashback Records, where you can give your potential purchases a spin in store.
Forward-thinking fashion for women of all ages at stylish independent boutique Pam Pam.
Wavey garms for guys and girls at vintage and retro fashion retailer Nordic Poetry in Boxpark.
Laugh your head off to new and established spoken word performers at Tongue Fu, every month at Rich Mix.
Chill with a bunch of pussies at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, known to everyone everywhere as the ‘Cat Café’.
Regress at the V&A Museum of Childhood, home to the world’s finest collection of toys, dolls’ houses, games and costumes.
Party at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, a minute away. It’s a back-to-basics, unpretentious riot of unhinged good times.
And if you only do one thing…
Go for a fry-up at E Pellicci (see above), and tell Nevio Jr we sent you.