The grown up guide to Dalston

E8 isn’t a London postcode usually associated with exciting retail, but ever since the Guardian declared Dalston to be the coolest place in Britain, there has been a growing number of uber fashionable shops and venues popping up. You have to look hard to find them, as often, like the exclusive clothing shop LNCC, they are hidden behind a secret door and by appointment only.

Those who have lived in the area for years have watched with a amazement as the scene grows and rents go up. A friend was telling me recently that the local Turkish shop keepers and restaurant owners are amazed as trade has never been so good.

Visiting ‘the Dalston strip’ on a Friday or Saturday night is sight to behold, with hipsters staggering from underground bar to club, before heading home to the safety of Notting Hill!  My son and his friends were hanging out in a pool club recently, with various young ‘in crowd’ celebs’ who were telling them how much they loved the area, to which teen and his mates replied,  ‘we grew up round here, it’s shit, we want to live in Primrose Hill, when we have enough money’.

As the Hoxton scene moves up Kingsland Road, even the desolate area near the Saturday waste market market has a smattering of interesting shops and cafes. It is home to WAH and Bleach, London’s coolest nail bar and hairdresser, and has its very own neighbourhood restaurant, A Little of What You Fancy.

There is however, a whole world away from the boys with Jesus beards and creepers and girls with lilac hair, wearing capes. While I am more than happy to check out the new exciting shops, I’m equally keen to keep supporting the local businesses that have been serving the people of Dalston for years.

Number one on my list of places to visit, has to be Ridley Road market. There is a fascinating array of produce for sale (some which I have never heard of) and it’s great if you need specialist food from Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. But be warned, do not visit with a sensitive vegetarian, sheeps heads and massive pigs trotters are not for everyone!

If you are planning a party, Halloween, Christmas or baking any kind of cake, you simply have to visit Party Party, Dalston’s premier party shop, which is situated at the beginning of the market. Downstairs is a party emporium selling everything from helium balloons, sparklers and fancy dress costumes, to every possible colour of paper plate and tablecloth. Upstairs the cake department has been described as ‘the best cake decorating outlet in the universe’ and you name it they have it, with rows and rows of products devoted to everything to do with cakes and decorating. They also have a hire service and decorating classes.

The fabric stalls on the market sell prints from around the world and Dalston Mill fabrics has the best selection of every type of fabric and trims.

I  love the the west Indian hair dressers and various slightly dodgy nail bars, which are much cheaper and far more interesting than a visit to WAH. If you need anything hair related, the famous Paks at the entrance to the market, is a hair experience not be missed, selling every shade and brand of hair dye imaginable.

If Dalston was in America it would be re named Little Turkey, as it’s home to a large Turkish community, meaning there are lots of great Turkish restaurants and cafes in the area.

The Stone Cave (which has fake stone walls to look like a cave!) is great for a quick bite before a visit to the Rio cinema, which is right next door. And if you are a Gilbert and George fan, it’s worth checking out the Mangal 2, as they eat dinner there most nights. This is not to be confused with the Mangal Ocakbasi in Arcola Street, which is also excellent. You can take you own drinks and the food is simple, but delicious, vast plates of beautifully cooked barbecued meat and huge fresh salads.

The iconic online arts and culture magazine HUH, recently opened a new store, selling a range of their favourite men’s and women’s brands, including Orlebar Brown, Happy Socks, Carhartt, WeSC, Swedish Hasbeens, Armor Lux, and Herschel. They also stock sky planters from Boskke, publications from Gestalten and coffee by Caravan.

The area where Kingsland Road it turns into Stoke Newington High street is fast becoming an interesting area and is home to the wonderfully curated vintage shop Pelicans and Parrots. They recently opened a second shop nearby, called  Black.  This is a more edited version of Parrots and Pelicans and sells an amazing collection of vintage furniture, objects, clothing and African atrifacts. It is one of the most inspiring shops I have visited for a long time. Situated right across the road from Beyond Retro, it’s worth a trip to Dalston solely to visit Black.

Venture further North up Stoke Newington Road and you are in Stoke Newington, but that’s a whole new post!

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