The Idealist

Insider City Guide: Shoreditch

In recent times, Shoreditch has undeservedly developed a Marmite-like reputation amongst Londoners. Since the nineties, the area has become an epicentre of hipster culture and creative industries alike, in the process becoming a byword for gentrification. However, to take this stance is to misunderstand the inclusiveness and playful inventiveness that can be argued as characterising Shoreditch. With graffiti ornamenting the walls of late Victorian buildings, which themselves sit next to new developments, the area thrives on its many identities and the impact of their juxtaposition.

There’s no denying that Shoreditch exudes a unique cool, capable of offering options just as vibrant for your home as much as it can your wardrobe. We’ve shortlisted some of Shoreditch’s finest to make the most of your visit to the world-renowned London district.

Labour and Wait. Clad in resplendent emerald green tile, you’ll find Labour and Wait on Redchurch Street. For the past seventeen years, Labour and Wait have offered wide range from kitchenware, to books, to stationery. All of the shop’s wares exude a mature and timeless elegance, making Labour and Wait a must for those desiring midcentury colours and a retro look for their homes.

Two Columbia Road. Since 1995, Two Columbia road has specialised in offering Londoners a broad range of furniture, photography and art. With the work of designers such as Charles Eames, Hans Wenger and Poul Kjærholm in their catalogues, Two Columbia Road is a fantastic option for those seeking to inject their homes with a notably midcentury definition of modernity. Their collection of art is also outstanding and exhibits no shortage of character. From monochrome prints to vivid painted works, finding something for every home can be done with ease.

Elemental. On Shoreditch High Street you’ll find Elemental. Spread across two floors of a converted iron works, Elemental offer an array of sympathetically restored vintage and antique furniture. From sofas, to lighting, to a whole assortment of wildcard curiosities, Elemental is a must for admirers of all things vintage and the adventurous. You’re sure to find that something with spades of character here.

House of Hackney. If big, vibrant and unapologetic prints are on the cards, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than House of Hackney. Located at 131 Shoreditch High Street, House of Hackney’s flagship store is a cathedral to the tradition of Great British print houses of the past. From furniture to lighting to fashion, items are made in England sport the brand’s signature prints. Playful and modern, House of Hackney’s iconic interiors are nonetheless steeped in tradition and make a tasteful match with both modern any classically inflected home designs.

Wawa
The brainchild of designer Richard Ward, Wawa can be found on Ezra Street. Wawa offer bespoke sofas that are all handmade and hand-upholstered with artisan sense, care and detail. Their designs are bold imaginative, but are nonetheless evocative of the traditions that inspired them. If you so wish, Wawa are capable of making a sofa that not only fits your home, but also makes a statement in accordance to your own personal specifications.

Fuel Up

It’s impossible to come to Shoreditch and not sample the food on offer. From street vendors to haute cuisine, the district covers the full culinary spectrum. Steeped in a rich multicultural history, Shoreditch’s food scene is as diverse as the art culture its so famous for.

Dishoom
The name Dishoom comes from the onomatopoeic sound effect signifying an impact of sorts in Bollywood culture. Think: the bad guy getting right hooked by the hero – dishoom! The food of Dishoom Shoreditch similarly packs a punch. Styled on the Bombay Cafes of old, themselves a cultural melting pot, Dishoom offers a wholly authentic Indian and Iranian dining experience. The menu is speckled with the food that kept India’s capital ticking for generations.

Brick Lane Beigel Bake, is an East-London institution, having been a feature of the Shoreditch scene since 1977. Found on iconic Brick Lane, the restaurant serves up New-York style bagels 24 hours a day. From tourists, residents, workers and late-night clubbers, the Brick Lane Beigel Bake is a favourite amongst all. If option paralysis strikes, we’ve yet to hear a bad thing said about their salmon and cream cheese or their salt beef and mustard bagels.

Hoi Polloi. Hoi Polloi, found at the Ace Hotel, and has attracted much acclaim for its seasonal British cuisine. Not overdressed, fashionable and intelligent, the all-day brasserie offers imaginative twists of classic British cuisine. To enter, one must travel through a quaint flower shop, after which Hoi Polloi’s 1970’s Scandinavian interior can be admired in its full splendour. The food carries a youthful energy, but its flavours are crafted with precision and are expertly articulated.

These are just the options in an entire ocean of culinary possibilities that Shoreditch can offer. To really take advantage of Shoreditch, taking to the streets is never a bad idea. Besides being immersed in the gritty, rough-around-the-edges charm of Shoreditch, you can find a variety of delicious and quick eats here also-leading us nicely on…

Diving into Shoreditch

Market culture is a mainstay of Shoreditch, and the Columbia Road and Brick Lane markets are absolute musts. From both, you can get a feel of East London, and the area’s heritage. Brick Lane is littered with bargains from furniture, to books, to music. Covering such a broad area, this can easily become a daytrip in and of itself. The streets of Shoreditch are also tapestries of modern art, and while you can get guided tours, losing yourself in its many streets with that foolhardy, ‘carpe diem’ spirit makes for more enjoyable and more personal memories.

For lovers of live music, The Blues Kitchen on Curtain Road has been tremendously popular with Londoners since its opening, eight years ago. Like it’s bigger Camden-based sibling, The Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch is a restaurant by day, bar and live venue by night. The stateside influence is huge, from its décor to the menus. A variety of acts deliver killer renditions of classic funk, soul, rock n’ roll and blues.

Electric Cinema is a great haunt for film lovers. The Redchurch Street cinema offers a unique movie-going experience. Film buffs can watch their favourite of current film titles from the comfort of a personal armchair with a cashmere blanket to match. A deli bar and coffee station means that you’re able to enjoy light meals and a selection of drinks that include draught beers, wines, cocktails and coffee, either before or during the film.

Getting Here & Places to Stay

Shoreditch is a central district of London, and by that token, is tremendously well connected by the city’s bus and tube networks. With over 15 bus routs connecting Shoreditch to the rest of the capital, and a tube station right at its beating heart, a journey here is just a quick Google search and an Oyster top-up away.

If you desire to be immersed in the twenty four-seven bustle of Shoreditch, a fantastic range of hotels mean that you’re never too far away from the madness.

The Hoxton is synonymous with London’s, and naturally, Shoreditch’s hipster culture. It’s Great Eastern Street location means that you’re minutes away from both Columbia Road and Brick Lane. Dressed down and sporting a modern-industrial, no-fuss cool, the Hoxton makes for an uncluttered and streamlined hotel experience. The Hoxton Grill has been a favourite haunt amongst Londoners for a while now, which is always a welcomed bonus.

Staying at Boundary is also another fantastic option for the complete Shoreditch experience. Its rooms are inspired by designers and design movements such as Ray and Charles Eames, Bauhaus, and Josef Hoffman, to name a few. Staying at Boundary, you’ll also be able to jump the queue for one of London’s most serene and in-demand rooftop bars. Adorned with various citrus trees, the Boundary Rooftop Bar has become a prime East London haunt for the young and creative, often commanding queues that zip round the corner of its Red Church Street location. Sharing the same postcode with other Shoreditch institutions, like Dishoom, means that you’re never too far away from the action.

The Courthouse Hotel can be found on Old Street, opposite Shoreditch Town Hall. Its location means that much that Shoreditch has to offer is within walking distance. The hotel’s motto of ‘West End service and culture in Shoreditch’ leaves you under illusion as to the type of hospitality on offer. The Grade II listed Baroque style building, formerly the Old Street Magistrates Court and Station, is reconfigured into 128 luxurious rooms. Paired with facilities like a spa, pool, rooftop bar, bowling lanes and screening room, the Courthouse Hotel exudes the luxurious air that it promises.

Shoreditch carries a sublime sense of self-confidence in its complex identity, and by that token, is truly unique. It epitomises artistic expression while also maintaining a connection with its multicultural and blue-collar history. This raw, ‘gritty’, but inherently human energy resonates in all aspects of the district, with furniture and interior design pieces being no acceptation to this rule. An experience in the truest sense of the word, Shoreditch is a must for both Londoners and visitors.

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All photos courtesy of respective locations.

  • Nigel is a writer and journalist living in London. He loves music, literature and architecture. Since moving to London to study, he’s yet to kick his honeymoon phase with the city, and when not working, can consequently be found making the most of what London has to offer. He maintains that Billy Joel is one of the greatest and most critically misunderstood singer-songwriters of our time. So far, he has found 3 other people that agree with him.

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