By Naomi Lewis
There are so many quirky London neighbourhoods to explore but if you are visiting the capital you’ll definitely want to step off the tourist trail and discover the wonders of Stoke Newington in the north east of the city. If you’re looking for authentic and creative vibes and a strong community feel, you’ll find them here. You may notice that us Londoners are loud and proud about which of the city's characteristic areas we call home, and this just so happens to be mine. I absolutely love living in this multicultural city, but Stoke Newington has a special place in my heart. Next time you’re looking for things to do in London, I would suggest you take time to explore this unique spot. To kickstart your adventure, or to inspire you to visit, here’s my local’s list of all the things to do in Stoke Newington.
A multicultural hub
Stoke Newington is in the borough of Hackney, which is turning more and more into the coolest places to be in the city; there is a vibrant energy that flows over into the streets here. And within that, Stoke Newington, or ‘Stokey’ as the locals call it is the new buzzing hotspot, above hipster Dalston. There are no tube stations nearby, but lots of buses to get you to Stoke Newington from the centre of London. But it’s the lack of tube which has kept it off the radar of 99% of tourists, and has meant its yet to have been gentrified like a lot of other Hackney neighbourhoods. Quick history lesson - Stokey used to be a somewhat derelict area after the second world war, and was also associated with the Krays (famed London gangsters in the 1960s). However, this London neighbourhood has become a hotpot of ethnicities including Muslim, Turkish and orthodox Jewish communities. You're likely to encounter ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews with enormous furry hats and curled side locks if you head a little north on a bus.
As with the rest of the city, in Stoke Newington, London cuisine is abundant - but forget the usual bangers and mash, Here you’ll find a fusion of flavours from all corners of the globe. There are a myriad of eateries lining the streets of this London neighbourhood but I have a handful of favourites that are worth visiting. The Haberdashery is a Hackney resident's favourite for brunch, often with a queue pouring out onto the High Street on weekends. With eclectic and vintage decor, this eatery has a Danish feel when it comes to food. Get your dose of English muffins and sourdough bread here together with scrumptious sides whilst listening to Hackney residents gossip. An alternative and quieter option in the Stoke Newington area is La Duchesse; an underrated spot with a splendid brunch menu and the best individual cake slices and tarts on Church Street. Coffee and tea is great here too, and the prices are a lot more reasonable than other places.
And Eat Some More
While you are out and about, tackling the many things to do in Stoke Newington, you’ll work up a mammoth appetite (hopefully, because the food is worth indulging in so it’s better to arrive hungry!). Ditch the traditional menu and instead line your stomach with something a little different from authentic venues that capture the essence of Stoke Newington, and London. There's a handful of great places in the area, but for the best grilled kebabs, grilled onions covered in pomegranate sauce and yummy hot and cold sides head to Testi. Stare at the huge grill ovens and ventilators and dare to try lamb's testicles, a Turkish speciality! For fast food; Stokey Bears. Of all the London neighbourhoods, you’ll find the best gourmet burgers, and a hipster vibe, at Stokey Bears. This is where the cool kids gather to plan their night out. If you’re dreaming of Ottolenghi style fusion food perfect for sharing with friends at dinner, and you’ve got The Good Egg. And finally fish and chips: don’t order them at any old pub, go to Sutton and Sons! The family run shop is fast becoming a small chain in East London due to popularity. Spot the super-friendly and lively fishmonger and owner on the High Street during the day.
Next to Stokey Bears find your gateway (a stairwell adorned by two chandeliers) to superb cocktails made by mixologists. What you'll see in this Stoke Newington bar is bare brick walls, soft cushioned booths and a classic pool table, all of which make Original Sin a classy joint. Head here for after-work drinking hours and the bar staff will recommend you what to order depending on your wants and needs. For no-nonsense, real ales and ciders head to The Jolly Butchers on the High Street and mingle with the locals. Some of the best ales, ciders, craft beers and lagers can be found in the Stoke Newington area and if you want to taste it all then this joint is it! From the best breweries to the smaller specialists - go on a beer drinking journey from the comfort of your table at The Jolly Butchers.
There are so many things to do in Stoke Newington that you’ll never get bored. My favourite though is to simply wander the streets and browse the shops. Just be warned, you're likely to be carrying paper bags at the end of your day. For food shopping, try to avoid Whole Foods (although their Gail's bread corner is a regular addiction for residents) and browse both local and exotic groceries from “Green fruits and vegetables” - a wonderfully laid out grocery store across the road on Church Street. If you're renting an apartment in the Stoke Newington area and want to cook up some serious meat; head to The Cookery on the High Street for discount chicken, and for something posher and more traditional, head to Meat N16 on Church Street for condiment souvenirs. There's also a Farmers' Market on Saturdays. Walk down Church Street (between Clissold Park and the junction with High Street) for quirky and tasteful homeware, hand-made beautifully scented candles, cushions, covers, greeting cards, and flower pots. Pop by the second hand furniture shop (Retrohub) for a browse, this is where local residents find a retro bargain to decorate their homes.
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