Shoreditch is the creative heart of East London, where design studios and tech start-ups jostle for space among concept stores, coffee shops and restaurants. Famed for its Victorian warehouses, most of which have been converted into apartments and workspaces, the neighbourhood is transforming at a lightening pace. Bishopsgate Goodsyard – a 10-acre brownfield site that’s been lying largely derelict for decades – has become a key battleground between developers and campaign groups fighting to preserve the area’s character. Seven towers of up to 46 storeys could spring up as part of a proposed £800m redevelopment plan, which would dramatically alter the streetscape’s DNA, for better or for worse.
As the war continues, we look at the anchors and innovators who’ve shaped the area to date.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Labour & Wait has firmly established itself as the go-to destination for timeless homewares in the East End. Originally menswear designers, Whyte-Moran and Watkins conceived the store as the antidote to the disposable design movement of the 1990s and early 2000s with simplicity, functionality and beauty being order of the day. Staples include enamel lampshades, canvas bags and leather satchels.
Leila’s Cafe on Calvert Avenue is the perfect spot to grab a no-fuss breakfast or a simple cup of coffee. Packed with quality ingredients sourced from around the world, you can find ingredients from its menu stocked in its grocery store next door. On this check-list drawn from proprietor Leila McAlister’s personal travels, favourites products include Polish sausages and Ucal chocolate milk from Portugal, as well as jars of horseradish and locally grown vegetables.
3. Ace Hotel
The Ace group opened their first UK outpost in 2013, quickly establishing it as the go-to destination to eat, work and play – not to mention stay. They enlisted Shoreditch practice Universal Design Studio to embed it in the surrounding landscape, who drew on the local material heritage and craftsmanship traditions to design the space. Bespoke furniture, custom copper lighting and artwork by local names are just some of the features that give it its distinctly local character. A brasserie, flower shop, juice bar and desk spaces help pull in the crowds.
Originally a 1930s bacon factory, the Tea Building is now something of a Shoreditch institution. As well as housing media companies, artists and fashion brands within its converted industrial space, its top two floors host private members club, Shoreditch House. Last year its rooftop underwent major refurbishment, which included work to its open-air pool. Here, you can take a dip while enjoying spectacular views of the neighbouring Gherkin, Heron Tower and East London skyline.
Secluded behind the walls of a former school, the Rochelle Canteen on Arnold Circus is a restaurant that feels like a discovery every time you go. Unassumingly housed in a former bike shed, the canteen is accessed via a discreet buzzer on the Victorian school’s wall. The brainchild of chefs Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold, it has won a loyal following for its seasonal menu of British and continental staples. From the simple to the sublime, egg and soldiers to Shellfish Bisque, each dish hits a high note.
Pitched as an ‘urban laboratory’ and a ‘legal squat’ by its Chilean founder Ernesto Leal, Red Gallery took over a formerly derelict 30,000 sq ft space in central Shoreditch, transforming it into a mash-up space for the arts. Since opening in 2010, Red has hosted exhibitions, live art, literary salons and symposiums as well as club and music events, resident artists and a regular summer market.
Trend hunter, publisher, gallery space and cafe – Protein wears a lot of hats. This forward-thinking creative agency work with some of the world’s biggest brands, and publish a daily platform reporting on global trends, behaviours and tastes. Its 1,500 sq ft event space is one of the best places to find new product and magazine launches, and pop up art exhibitions. And did we mention its serves a good cup of coffee?
East London has a plethora of markets – most famously Brick Lane – but none are quite so storied as Columbia Road’s Sunday Flower Market. Running since the late 19th century, it’s the best and most beautiful place to source flowers, plants and gardening supplies on a street packed with independent boutiques, cafes, perfumeries and artisan stores. Get there early for first dibs, or rock up late for a late afternoon bargain bouquet.
Music emporium Rough Trade East is housed in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. Between its stacks of vinyls, CDs and books, you’ll find a real cross section of Londoners perusing its vinyls. In-store gigs and events take place on an evening, drawing in big name and upcoming acts from the furthest reaches of the musical world.
Created by Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton, Second Home is tech-hub with a difference. A stone’s throw from Brick Lane, the co-working space is a collaborative hub where interior walls have been done away with in favour of ‘roaming zones’, sweeping acrylic curves and more than 1,000 plants. An informal restaurant space serves food from ex-Ottolenghi chef, Louis Solley, while the main space hosts an impressive roster of talks, events and performances.
11. Barber & Parlour
Barber & Parlour is an all-day hangout on Redchurch Street where you can eat, drink, get a haircut or even catch a movie. Walk in off the street and get a trim at men’s barber shop Neville, or pop upstairs for a pedicure at The Cheeky Parlour. Portobello Road’s Electric Cinema has also taken over the former Aubin & Wills screening room in the basement, putting on an eclectic film programme of new releases and cult classics.
Now in its 30th year, Sheridan Coakley’s SCP remains one of the UK’s most innovative furniture manufacturers, teaming up with the likes of Jasper Morrison, Donna Wilson and Matthew Hilton to create future ‘classic’ design products. At its flagship store on Curtain Road, you’ll find contemporary pieces alongside 20th century classics.
Dinerama is the latest pop-up market from street food maestros, Street Feast. Their 1,000 person capacity space takes over a disused bullion and armoury truck depot in the heart of Shoreditch, turning it into a gastronomical mecca with traders serving everything from Caribbean soul food to Korean fusion, lobster to salt beef.
Shoreditch is fabled for its nightlife, with dozens of bars, pubs and clubs lining its main streets and back alleys. Village Underground is one of the most notable hubs, hosting everything from club nights to art and theatre performances in its space, which is partly formed from four recycled train carriages.
15. James Brown, Hostem
Launched by James Brown in 2009, Hostem has played a huge role in making Redchurch Street one of London’s best fashion destinations. Started as a menswear store – and touting the work of designers including Casely-Hayford, Dries Van Noten and Sebastian Tarek – Hostem has since evolved into womenswear too. Husband-and-wife duo JamesPlumb are responsible for the store’s interiors, including the current renovation works of the former factory’s top-floors. Among these is a new rooftop space, opening in July, which will host events and installations. Previously, Hostem has also hosted projects including a One Room Hotel – hosted during London Design Week 2011 – and a residency by designer Faye Toogood.