I ♥ East London

I have to confess that I never really wanted to move to East London. 

7 years ago I was a South-West London girl through and through. My ‘high street’ was the then-grotty Wandsworth shopping centre (and the Kings Road on payday). I had a highly developed Cab Radar as I took taxis literally everywhere – I was legendary in my ability to find a taxi in Putney at 11.45pm on a Friday night. I was happy knowing I could pop to Northcote Road to buy a handmade cupcake sold by a yummy mummy in a lilac cashmere pashmina. I gave little thought to whether I wanted to spend the rest of my days in a place where Starbucks was inaccessible due to the queue of shiny-haired, double-buggied 30-somethings waiting for a Skinny Latte for them and a Babyccino for little Amelia. And I certainly never thought that I was the sort of girl who would consider the moving to the mythical East.  

At the time, East London was a mysterious place where people wore short-sleeved tee-shirts over long-sleeved t-shirts, listened to shouty music and where, inexplicably, no-one wore fake tan or anything in a colour. A little bit like a massive student union bar for people who dabbled in performance art. Surely it was no place for someone like me? Someone who likes to have a nice glass of prosecco in a bar where they can actually sit down? Someone who wears sunglasses on their head just to keep their hair back and, yes, someone who has The Sound of Music on their Ipod? 

So, when my boyfriend suggested we consider moving East, I gritted my teeth and prepared for the worst – I would have to start skateboarding to work while wearing a peruvian poncho and leg-warmers and listening to a Nirvana/Pan Pipes ‘Mash Up’ on my Ipod. Urgh. My boyfriend now says there was only one way he could persuade me to make the move – focus on the markets. So he embarked on a campaign of taking me to all the markets in East London – week after week we visited Spitalfields Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Brick Lane Sunday Market, Broadway Market, Whitecross Road Food Market. Of course, I was completely charmed by them all and head over heels in love with East London. I couldn’t wait to move! Fickle? Moi? 

Happily, seven years later, I’m still delighted we made the move. I love where we live – it’s full of interesting and different sorts of people, shops and restaurants – I love that it’s hard to spot a ‘type’ of person who lives round here (although there are still one or two Nathan Barleys but they just provide entertainment). And of course there’s a significant Bangladeshi community round here who have created the Brick Lane curry empire. Brick Lane is now synonymous with the Post Pub Curry – the neon stretch of road that beckons after a couple of post-work lagers. Unfortunately my experience with Brick Lane curries has been decidedly average, but there are a couple of genuinely fantastic places for curry slightly off the Lane itself. We’re lucky enough to live in the middle of four amazing Pakistani places: Needoo Grill, Tayyabs, Lahore Kebab House and, our regular haunt, Mirch Masala – ‘shall we have a Mirch” is heard on a weekly basis in our house! Mirch Masala is actually a small chain – they have restaurants in Southall and Tooting in London and one or two in the suburbs – it’s very informal, almost canteen-y in style and, as with all these places, you need to bring your own booze if you want a drink.  

But really it’s all about the food. The food is fantastic – simple but delicious – lots of grilled and spiced meat, interesting pulses (a sweet, spicy butter bean dish which is delicious) and charred breads. We love their mixed grill with lentil dhal and garlic naan bread pictured above – the mixed grill contains chicken pieces, little spiced drumsticks, lamb chops and little kofta-type sausages – it’s certainly too much food for 2 people, although we do try!

Anyway, it’s worth a trip East to try any one of these restaurants and I’d try and get here as quickly as you can because things are definitely changing around here – I’m sad to say that the Babyccino has now made its way here too so it’s only a matter of time before canteen-style spiced lamb chops are replaced by organic, free-range rose petal macaroons.  Although actually they sound pretty good too…


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