For 15 years, the gritty neighborhoods of London’s rough-and-tumble East End have been steadily gentrifying. It has proceeded logically from the west, starting with Spitalfields, then to Hoxton and Shoreditch, and finally to Whitechapel. As is often the case, artists led the way; art dealers, young chefs, hip hoteliers, imaginative merchants, and their affluent customers gradually followed. In 2000, when White Cube—the most influential contemporary gallery in London—opened an outpost on Hoxton Square, Shoreditch became the vibrant heart of the East End, a position it has never relinquished. Geographically defined by the Old Street roundabout to the west, the curry houses of Brick Lane to the east, übercool Hoxton Square to the north, and noisy Spitalfields Market to the south, today’s Shoreditch is a savory mélange of creative tribes, commercial interests, and cultural influences: the art and fashion crowd; business and digital entrepreneurs; hipsters and bohemians; and Cockneys, the original blue-collar inhabitants who ensure that the East End will never fall into arty pretentiousness or comfortable respectability. As a result, Shoreditch is a district of contrasts. Divey bars and louche watering holes sit cheek by jowl with elegant boîtes and chic boutique hotels. Case in point: Terence Conran’s expansive Boundary development. Housed in a former Victorian warehouse, it incorporates a hotel as well as three restaurants and bars, including a lovely roof terrace. The Andaz Liverpool Street is another luxury hotel housed in a Victorian building, this one a former railway hotel. And Shoreditch House, an exclusive private club, also in a renovated warehouse, has 26 stylish and affordable rooms available to nonmembers. Shoreditch offers diverse dining possibilities. On the high end, there’s Tramshed on Rivington Street, which serves only two main-course options: chicken or steak, both sensationally good. Damien Hirst’s monumental Cock and Bull (a vitrine containing a rooster riding a cow) floats above the main room. If you prefer the low-key route, opt for a plate of pasta and a pint of Guinness at hipsterish Jaguar Shoes on Kingsland Road. For an English breakfast made from fresh local produce, head to Albion, a street-front bakery and café on the ground floor of the Boundary hotel. If you’re looking to splurge on stylish menswear, Shoreditch has a profusion of offerings including the English heritage brand, Sunspel, on trendy Redchurch Street; the understated Parisian label, A.P.C., also on Redchurch; and A Child of the Jago, on Great Eastern Street, where the tailored clothing shows the influence of Vivienne Westwood—unsurprisingly, since the owner, Joe Corre, is her son. Shoreditch is rich in other types of stores, such as Labour and Wait on Redchurch, which sells “timeless, functional products for everyday life”; Ally Capellino, also on Redchurch, for waxed cotton, canvas, and leather bags; and Tokyo Bike on Tabernacle Street, the outpost of a Japanese company famed for its eye-catching urban bicycles—perfect for getting around this unpretentious neighborhood.
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Restaurants Story Deli There’s no sign on the door of this pizzeria. The artfully unassuming, urban-rustic interior features plain wood communal tables, white-painted walls and floors, and seashell mobiles hanging from the rafters. And there are no fancy wood-fire or brick ovens. But with its commitment to “100-percent certified organically grown ingredients,” which it combines in imaginative ways, Story Deli takes the thin-crust pizza to mouth- wateringly healthy heights. Each wafer-thin Italian-flour base is piled high with inventive toppings: The Fico (goat cheese, Parma ham, salad leaves, fig- and-olive tapenade, red onion, capers, and thyme) and the Mushroom (garlic-and-thyme–roasted mushrooms, mascarpone, roasted sweet red onion, garlic, salad leaves, buffalo mozzarella, and basil pesto) were two of our favorites from the extensive menu. Most of the pizzas are $26, and wine is $39 a bottle. Save room for the mixed-berry cheesecake—it’s surprisingly light.
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Shops Hostem’s exterior is so nondescript it’s easy to overlook. Once inside, you’ll soon discover why London’s fashion-forward brigade has been raving about this temple of menswear ever since British style guru James Brown opened it in 2010. Hostem’s modern-meets-heritage interior features reclaimed Victorian-era pine floors, burlap-covered walls, and squirrel-cage lightbulbs hanging on black cables. However, the clothes take center stage. The lower level showcases street and work-wear collections, such as Adam Kimmel and Visvim, along with several Japanese brands previously unavailable internationally and exclusive to Hostem; the main floor focuses on high-fashion labels like Geoffrey B. Small, S.N.S. Herning, and MA+; the third room is an ever-evolving space for the dis- play of up-and-coming designers. Even checkout is a special: Receipts are artfully handwritten by the store staff. The bill will run you a pretty penny, but the intimate shopping experience makes it worth- while. And don’t forget to pick up the in-house magazine, Sebastian, on your way out.