27 Jul The MAPPETITE Mile: SHOREDITCH OLYMPIC EATS
Ah, the athletics of it all in getting to the Olympic games: the airports, the buses snarled thorough London’s narrow medieval streets and the Underground, a web of subways burrowed underneath the city that, even on a non-Olympic summer day swells to capacity with locals and tourists. Phewww, am I working up an appetite! The games are starting and it’s time to find some Olympic eats!
Ahead of competing in the trials of the Eatathon that is going to engulf the crowds in the Olympic food court, make your way to Shoreditch, London’s hipster East End hood, not much more than a long jump from Olympic Park.
Hit the indoor extravaganza that is SPITALFIELDS for a branded mall meets flea market moment and then it’s off for the cooler and varied BRICK LANE where cafes, vintage and retro shops are the retail mainstay. On weekends you’ll feel the squeeze, especially on Sundays in buildings from the old TRUMAN BREWERY packed with vendors selling bric-a-brac, collectables and clothing, not to mention the food-of-nations display that makes for one serious street eats fest. Factor in the produce vendors and junk stalls and it’s a super engaging retail-free-for-all.
Once you’ve hit Bethnal Green, take a ride on the BOXPARK for a pop-up shop bonanza of niche brands selling their goods in former shipping containers put to a new use. Take a stroll to REDCHURCH STREET where retailers selling cool housewares, vintage furniture and clothing have begun to set up shop.
London’s East End’s tough industrial streetscapes of factories, warehouses and downtrodden 19th century houses have lost much of their gritty, this-could-be-dangerous edge in Shoreditch, where close to a decade of gentrification has layered accessible cool into a very urban fabric. The TRUMAN BREWERY forms the anchor of Brick Lane, its aged smokestack prominent on the neighborhood’s skyline. To the largely gray streetscapes the 1714 English Baroque CHRIST CHURCH SPITALFIELDS from architect Nicholas Hawksmoor’s is an elegant sight, it’s clock tower and steeple in sharp contrast to the surrounding buildings.
bagel (or beigel in London town) with salt beef or cream cheese and lox? You’re in luck at BEIGEL BAKE (159 Brick Lane open 24/7), an East End institutioin where lines have been forming for decades one of London’s last purveyors of Jewish deli, English style. If the traditional is more your speed then by all means you’re in the right place for a nose-to-tail dine at ST. JOHN BREAD & WINE (94 Commercial Street, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, tel. 020.7251.0848, reservations suggested). Here, it’s everything British in great public-eating house style along with a bakery counter of artisanal breads, Eccles cake and, worth-the-wait baked-to-order madeleines.
Is it fish & chips that you fancy? If so, POPPIES (6-8 Hanbury Street, no reservations) is the new kid on the block that, while a bit faux kitsch with it’s Johnny Rockets style, has really great fish and chips. All this English food has me thinking of pies. Umm, no doubts about it, PIEMINISTER (Unit 60, top level, Boxpark) makes some of Britain’s best. If the pie you’re craving is the Italian kind then make your way to PIZZA EAST (56 Shoreditch High Street, tel. 020.7729.1888 eservations suggested) where traditional ingredients merge together with a modern edge to create exceptional pies.
Cross over Bethnal Green and up the culinary chic quotient with a stop at the ALBION(2-4 Boundary Street, Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, no reservations) where a grocery shop and an exceptional selection of bakes front a rustic-hip English eatery from restauranteur Terence Conran, As expected, Sir Terence delivers on great food and the eats experience. Same holds for the BOUNDARY RESTAURANT (2-4 Boundary Street, 020.7729.1051, reservations where suggested) with its British seasonal-centric menu on the lower level of the Boundary Hotel. Oh, and if the rain gives way to a bit of sunshine the Boundary’s rooftop will do just fine for a drink or a glass of wine – the perfect way to take the edge off re-entry into the din of the Olympic Games.
A portion of this article appeared on thedailymeal.com, Friday July 20, 2012.