There are three things you need to know about Commercial Street. First: it’s not the same thing as Commercial Road. The two thoroughfares almost touch by Aldgate East tube, but whereas the Road is a four-lane monster roaring out towards Essex, the Street takes a civilised swerve through some of the best eating, drinking and shopping spots to be found anywhere in London.
Second: apart from a tiny bit at the top, it’s not really in Shoreditch (anyone who says it is must be selling something). With the historic market on one side and the spectacular church on the other, Commercial Street should probably have been called Spitalfields High Street when it was carved out of slums in the mid-nineteenth century. It was soon made notorious by Jack the Ripper and until very recently was best known for streetwalkers. Nowadays stockbrokers outnumber sex workers, but Commercial Street’s pitch – exactly halfway between Brick Lane scuzz and City money – makes it still as much of a place of trade as you’d expect from its name.
The third thing you need to know about Commercial Street is that later this year it’ll become home to London’s first Time Out Market: a new way to discover the best of the city under one roof. Until then, here are some of the other places that make Commercial Street great.
A cuppa at Café from Crisis, which helps homeless people and ex-offenders back into employment (and serves a mean frittata).
Crafty beers at the Commercial Tavern, a boho East End stalwart-turned-Tinder date hotspot.
Lager and a house white from The Ten Bells: once a Jack the Ripper shrine (he drank here, maybe), now a buzzy local.
A pint at The Golden Heart, once the place to eavesdrop on YBAs.
Flat whites and long blacks at the lovingly designed and independent Trade coffee shop.
Spot-on cocktails at Discount Suit Company round the corner on Wentworth Street.
The best damn Thai food in London at Som Saa. The deep-fried sea bass is a life-changer.
Explosively good Indian dishes at the unpretentious Gunpowder, two steps away on White’s Row, which goes way beyond Brick Lane ‘bucket curries’.
Something big and meaty at the first Hawksmoor restaurant, named after the man who built Christ Church Spitalfields (see below).
Nose-to-tail glory at St John Bread & Wine, which was the first expansion of the Clerkenwell meat mecca.
Pork bao buns and poké fish salad – surrounded by eye-popping, manga-inspired original art – at the newly opened Yuu Kitchen.
Take a look around Nicholas Hawksmoor’s baroque masterpiece, Christ Church Spitalfields, then go for a tea at the Café in the Crypt.
Catch an acoustic sesh or a comedy bill at three-storey bar and venue Blessing’s.
Second-hand designer garms, shoes and handbags from Blondie Vintage.
Posh groceries and health stuff from organic mini-chain As Nature Intended.
Paper bags and sundries from Gardners, a family business since 1870. It supplies the Brick Lane Beigel Bake with up to a million paper bags each year.
And if you only do one thing…
Pay a visit to Old Spitalfields Market for antiques, vinyl, street food, cheese, wine, chocolate, coffee and designer clothes and eyewear. Oh, and the East End’s only Wagamama.