East London – out of my comfort zone

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As a frequent London visitor, and one time resident, I have to confess that most of my time has been spent staying in hotels/apartments that are a radius of no more than a 5 minute walk, tube or taxi ride from Harvey Nichols and its surrounds. When I lived here it was Richmond and its royal environs.

So it was with some trepidation that I departed out of my comfort zone and headed east to stay in Bethnal Green – a world away in so many ways from what I am used to! In saying that, it has been a great experience, with a different vibe and cultural feel, some excellent restaurants, bars and places to shop.

To me it is the British equivalent to the Lower East Side in New York: still grungy, but slowly being gentrified, with big brands starting to make their presence felt. There is a huge mix of cultures and nationalities in this area so the experience is quite something and great fun.

The benefit of this locale is that you get more bang for your buck. London is a very expensive city to stay in, with small rooms and big rates. Here you get lower rates and a lot more space which is great for getting the most out of your holiday funds – there are many places to stay and below are just a few of the options available!
NB: I would stay in Shoreditch as opposed to Bethnal Green, as there is more choice for shopping and eating at the moment.

Town Hall Hotel & Apartments
This is where we stayed. This is a converted town hall that is now a comfortable hotel offering rooms and apartments. They are spacious and the staff are really lovely and helpful. There is an in-house restaurant offering food throughout the day.
NB: you will spend more on transport if you want to get back to Oxford Street and those areas, as it is about 7 stops away on the tube, which is about GBP 8 round trip. www.townhallhotel.com

One Fine Stay Apartments
We love an apartment and One Fine Stay offer excellent properties in areas such as Shoreditch, one of the coolest parts of East London at the moment, Hackney and Tower Hill. Check them out and enjoy luxury short term apartments at a fraction of the Knightsbridge equivalent! www.onefinestay.com

Boundary Hotel
A Jasper Conran luxury boutique offering. Larger rooms than normal, chic and contemporary decor, and well located for everything you need to do in this part of the city. Three restaurants including a rooftop grill/bar with a view…..very delicious on a good summer’s evening (and yes they do occur). www.theboundary.co.uk

Shoreditch House
The East London outpost of the Uber-cool group who started the Soho clubs that now span several cities around the world. Rooms here are small and limited in number, however whilst in residence you can access the club’s member facilities including rooftop pool, Cowshed spa, restaurant, bar and its other public spaces that will more than make up for the space issue. Style on a budget…. www.shoreditchhouse.com

There are a myriad of eating options available and here are a few that we like (although the days of Brick Lane’s Indian food domination have well and truly disappeared – you will need to go further afield for the best Indian on offer). Here are a few we tried and think are well-worth a visit.

Old Spitalfields Markets
Offers a variety of eating options including Wagamama, Wright Bros Seafood and a lovely cheese (excellent range of French offerings) and wine bar, Androuet, that we rated big time. If you are not sure what you feel like then this is a great place to start. www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com

Rochelle Canteen
Hidden away in Arnold Circus, Shoreditch, this converted bike shed offers lovely creative food options. The peach cobbler is without a doubt the best dessert we have ever eaten – and there have been a few consumed all in the name of research. You need to keep an eye out for it on the street, as there is a plaque on the wall with a buzzer you need to press to get in – byo if you want a wine. www.arnoldandhenderson.com

Story Deli
Small and rather rustic deli that serves lovely pizzas and 100% organic ingredients. Communal tables are half the fun (and the garlic bread is divine!) www.storydeli.com

The Cat & Mutton
You have to eat at a Pub when you are in London and this one has been around since the 1600�s. It is firmly established as the place to eat, drink and be merry so check it out if you are around Broadway Market. www.catandmutton.com

The Dove Pub
Another good one on the pub front with good reviews as well. Also at Broadway Market, it has a great selection of beers and wines, plus good food to ensure you are not drinking on an empty stomach – it is worth a visit. www.dovepubs.com/dove

Dans Le Noir
This restaurant is in Clerkenwell Green (not quite East London but close) – a nice part of London with pubs and restaurants that look inviting clustered around the square. But we were not there for those. We had heard of a restaurant where you eat in the dark, and decided we had to try it. It was quite an experience as you dine in pitch black darkness, your hosts and waiters are blind or sight-impaired and you cannot see a thing. Every other sense you have will be heightened, including taste, sound, touch and smell. We made friends with our neighbours – but I cannot tell you what they looked like. The food was nice, not great, but it is an experience – just be prepared to be challenged completely out of your comfort zone! www.london.danslenoir.com

In the next installment I reveal ideas on where to shop and what you can do in East London – a lot as it turns out!
Chief Diva, Andrea xo

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