London’s East End has historically been home to famous artists and musicians as well as infamous gangsters. After a wave of gentrification in the 2000s, much of the area’s dubious characteristics have been wiped out and replaced with a host of trendy bars, bike shops and converted warehouse apartments. This evolution is best epitomised by the Broadway Market, Hackney’s most famous community street market, which has survived two world wars and several recessions since the 1890s.
You and your companion embark on your East End adventure as a local would: by bike, cycling east along the canal towpath from Angel, Islington. You get there at 9 a.m. and watch the original “barrow boys” selling fruits and vegetables from their market barrows. To your left you spot F. Cooke’s Pie & Mash Shop, a restaurant that used to serve shepherds who would allegedly drive their flocks to the City of London from the countryside. It has been selling hot jellied eels, a Cockney tradition, since 1900. Although it’s too early in the day for jellied eels, it’s definitely not too early for a cup of coffee.
You keep walking along the market until you reach Cà Phê VN, where you stop to pick up a delicious Vietnamese coffee and a sweet seasonal cupcake from Violet Cakes. Your friend is after something healthier and grabs a freshly pressed juice from Little Francesca’s Juice stall. As you walk along the market, admiring the splashes of colour and breathing in the heady aromas, you can’t believe you haven’t come here before. The 100+ stalls sell everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, organic meat, fish, smoked salmon and oysters, to mouth-watering cakes, bread and cheese. For lunch, you can’t resist a freshly grilled burger from Northfield Farm’s stall; your companion snaffles up a salt beef sandwich from The Jewish Deli.
But it’s not just food here — Broadway Market is a rummager’s paradise. You spend a good hour scanning the market’s clothes racks for vintage bargains, old Vogue patterns, lingerie, buttons, Ladybird books, flowers and crafts. And once you’ve exhausted the stalls, you hit the shops, dipping into the beautiful Broadway Books, where you browse their second-hand collectibles. You pick up a handmade greeting card at Fabrications and some fresh flowers from the scent-filled Rebel Rebel flower shop. You realise that you’re parched, so you settle into the traditional East London pub the Cat & Mutton for a pint. As your East End adventure comes to a close, you hop back on your bikes to cycle home.