When I first moved to London, ten years ago, East London was just coming up. It already had some of the best independent shops, cafes and restaurants and some of the quieter, but equally stunning, museums and galleries. It’s transformation over these years has been phenomenal and it has cemented its role in the unique heart of the city. It’s now on the tourist trail, but it manages this with style.
East London: An Opinionated Guide is not really a guide book. It’s a skewed list – by the publisher’s own admission – of favoured places in East London. The kind of places they’d take you to if stayed with them and, looking through, that’s exactly the sense you get. It’s a beautiful book to sit and look at, soaking up the information – which does not overburden you, like most guidebooks – so that’s exactly what I did.
Equally valuable for visitors and long-term residents, it reads like conversations with friends – recommending places that they love. I’ve never actually lived in East London but was pleased to see that I’d been to a fair few places – I feel looped in! – but also to see so many intriguing things I’d never heard of. Having lived here so long I didn’t really think I needed a ‘guide’ book any more but I thoroughly enjoyed leafing through and learning about Hoxton Mini Press‘s 57 exquisite suggestions.
The book features a phenomenal selection bookshops (which we clearly have to put first), coffee places, museums and galleries, restaurants and assorted eateries, music venues, pubs and bars, home and lifestyle shops, hotels, parks and markets.
Of the places I’d already been and loved, highlights include: The Geffrye, a museum dedicated to the home through the ages, the William Morris Gallery, Dennis Severs’ House, Crate Brewery, the Brick Lane Beigel shops, Broadway Market, Columbia Flower Market, Victoria Park and, obviously, all the bookshop.
Immediately upon acquiring a copy of East London: An Opinionated Guide I went to no.26 – Bún Bún Bún, a Vietnamese restaurant. I had to: in the name of research! It was so good I recommended it to my sister and she went two days later. I suggested The Culpeper Hotel to a friend, who loved it. I visited Labour and Wait – a homeware shop – and could have quite happily and far too easily have spent all my money there. I also went to Dalston’s Eastern Curve Garden, which I’d passed before but didn’t really know what it was. It’s beyond lovely.
I’d like to add that I’ve only had this book for a week…
Next up I’m going to try Lahpet, a Burmese pop-up restaurant, or Berber & Q, a grill house. Or maybe Sodo’s pizzeria. I also want to revisit so many of the places I’ve already been too and forgotten about.
Hoxton Mini Press are, no shock, based in East London but I personally, and selfishly, hope they extend their delightfully opinionated opinions to other parts of London (especially South East, as I’m about to move there! ) as I could do with more recommendations with which to impress my friends and family and spend my money on.