Monday, October 10, 2016

Wandering amongst hipsters in Shoreditch

Street art near Brick Lane

Street art on Rivington st.

The very first trip to London, I stayed in Shoreditch and was a bit lost wandering around. Only the last few days of that trip, I walked to Brick Lane a couple times and discovered really cool pockets of bars, restaurants, and of course the ubiquitous Beigel Bake. After that trip, I vowed to return and check out this neighborhood.

I did recall that the neighborhood was changing on my last trip. People were telling me that the neighborhood was once a grunge capital and tattoo and body piercing parlors were rampant. The equivalent of East Village/Williamsburg/Bushwick in New York. I was craving this kind of grittiness that is rare in sunny, pristine, and cleaned up Singapore. What I discovered on that first trip was that the grunginess was making room for hipsters, designers, already there artists. In contrast, my most recent trip, I found this area to be the start-up capital for said hipsters, designers, artists. With trendy bars and restaurants, pop-up shops, trendy hotels like Ace Hotel, Citizen M, and of course the Hoxton hotel making the neighborhood a visit for the wannabe-rockstar-hipster-turned coffee and craft beer start up.

Korean fried chicken served in a cone from a street food collective. @Maki Mayo
This was a gas station! Now its turned into a permanent food truck collective!
Entrance to Pump Shoreditch - the food truck collective

The pop-up food trucks, food stalls, small eclectic boutiques, and of course the exciting bar scene in the area really come alive in the evening and working professionals along with hipsters rub elbows with each other during the happy hours after work. This area has merged with the Spitalfields market with its proximity to Brick Lane, Old Truman Brewery, and Commercial street. I found this area great to hang around, take yoga class, drink hipster Brooklyn Coffee, eat at a pop-up food truck, drink at one of the cool cocktail bars.

This drink was awesome at Hawksmoor Bar 
I don't really like going to bars alone to drink unless I know that the drink is going to be mixed well and the ambiance isn't going to be pretentious. I went to the Hawksmoor Bar in Spitalfields after dinner in PUMP Shoreditch on my way back. It is located in the basement of their restaurant and the entrance felt like you're going into a private basement. Awesome. These are the kind of places that surprise me in more ways than one. Previously, I had walked by the place and checked out the cocktail list which saliva-inducing. I wanted a cocktail from this bar.
The ambiance was chill, I was served a special punch on the house from a previous house that was leftover from a private event they hosted earlier. It was strong and potent with rum but sweetened with the cocktail of juices. My drink had a refreshing honey tea appeal to it and was so good and smooth.  

Bar behind a wardrobe at Callooh Callay
Negroni at Callooh Callay

Another I visited in the area with a couple friends is Callooh Callay on Rivington street. There's an inner room behind the main area. Its rated as one of the best cocktail bars in the world so there's quite a bit of expectation for this place to blow me away. Was I blown away? Not really but the place was beautifully designed and the designer was inspired by Alice and Wonderland to create this space. I crave a negroni at least once a week but so many places mess this seemingly simple cocktail. Campari, Gin, Sweet Vermouth and an orange peel. I like my negroni served with a 1 giant cube of block of ice. The flavours of the negroni at Callooh Callay were all there and a good negroni yin my opinion trickles down your throat smooth as opposed to a sharp taste.

I love wandering around the Brick Lane area and discovering little shops and the street art or the shops themselves feels like one big art project! The vibrancy of the area that is bursting with creative expressions makes me feel inspired.

A duck wrap from #theducktruck at Boxpark Shoreditch 

When there's a hashtag for the sign of your little eatery, you know that people are Instagramming their food, writing reviews on Yelp, and sharing pictures of their food to their social media network. Oh wait.. hahahahaha.... I have no shame in sharing awesome pics of #foodporn
London is crazy about duck. I think almost every single eatery, restaurant I've patronised during my trip had a dish with duck in it. When I entered the trendy Boxpark Shoreditch there was a small eatery that specialised in duck appropriately named #theducktruck ! A food trend and a hashtag! How millennial hipster can you get!? I was curious and ordered the wrap. It was delicious and filled with lots of duck meat.
Chocolate shop on Brick Lane
The AWESOME Beigel Bake that sells hot salt beef buns (kind of like pastrami)

I highly recommend spending a couple days roaming the streets of Shoreditch in East London. I stayed near the area on the last leg of my trip and walked around Shoreditch almost every single day. I would in a heartbeat stay near there again because there's so much to see, eat, shop, do in this neighborhood. One of my favourite things to do while traveling is to stay in a great area where local residents hang out. Though becoming increasingly popular amongst visitors and newly arrived London residents as well as hipsters, Shoreditch has something for everyone without the overcrowded-cheesy tourist traps lining the streets of Convent Garden. 

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