To be honest, I’m not the world’s most skillful shopper. So those in search of some real expertise should head over to the beautifully designed and written blog of Wee Birdy – that girl knows her stuff. But here is a guide to the best areas for shopping in East London (that’s shopping as an activity, not a chore) and some of my favourite shops.
Pages of Hackney – lovely bookshop, also holds regular readings and author events
Broadway Bookshop – also lots of readings and a focus on local authors.
Eastside Books – lots of books about East London, author events and writing groups, smack bang in the middle of Brick Lane
Centerprise Currently closed for refurbishment, this bookshop and cafe opposite the Rio Cinema on Kingsland High Street specialises in Afro-Caribbean, spiritual, historical, political and women’s writing, and also has Caribbean food, plus readings and events – Bonnie Greer was there recently.
Oxfam Dalston – good turnover of books, and lots of them, all priced at 99p. Feel free to recycle your books here too!
Luminous Books – fiction, philosophy, art and curiosities; also runs literary events. Based on Frederick Terrace just behind Kingsland Road every Saturday.
Markets & Streets worth a wander….
East London is famous for its street markets, and they are part of what makes it so popular on weekends. From Somerset bacon and stuffed owls to halal beef and pound-a-bowl pomegranates, you’ll find it all here somewhere. Here are the ones that I visit:
Broadway Market This is a Saturday market, but the street is buzzing the rest of the week with pubs, restaurants and cafes.
Brick Lane A market runs along the whole street on Sundays, as well as spilling into surrounding lanes, and stretching towards Columbia Road Flower Market and Spitalfields (look out for author Jeanette Winterson’s shop, Verde. There are lots of retro furniture and clothing shops, plus some good independent jewellery, food and clothing shops.
Cheshire Street, just off Brick Lane, has some great shops, including Shop, Ella Doran, Mimi for beautiful, classic leather bags, Labour & Wait for traditional English homeware, such as leather aprons, heritage tomato seeds and dibbers, and MarMarCo for gorgeous Danish baby clothes, lamps and jewellery. You’ve also got the old stalwart, Beyond Retro, and opposite it, the newly jazzed-up, cosy Carpenters Arms, that does mussels on Sundays (and other days), for when the shopping gets too much.
And if you’re in Brick Lane you may as well check out some of the shops and cafes around Redchurch Street, such as the beautiful gift shop, Caravan, Jude’s furniture shop, Leila’s Shop (breakfast and gourmet food) and The Boundary Project (British food, cafe and bakery).
Ridley Road is a more traditional, far less trendy market, open every day (not all open on Sundays) – with good-value meat, fish and veggies, lots of pound-a-bowl deals on fresh fruit for that all important vitamin kick. There is also, tucked away, a rather brilliant, cavernous fabric shop, Dalston Mill Fabrics, a haunt of local fashion students. There is also the wonderful TFC Turkish supermarket here.