Columbia Road is the definition of a local gem.
Lined with independent shops, cafés and bars, it’s a picturesque throwback to the area’s Victorian history, with hand-painted shop signs and brick terraced houses lining the street. And it’s famously the home of Columbia Road Flower Market, the weekly bazaar that sees the street flooded with bartering flower sellers; musicians and – ugh – day trippers.
It’s well worth braving, of course, but to enjoy the rest of Columbia Road’s charms… you should visit on pretty much any other day. Here’s our take on where to go…
The most important meal of the day, to be duly taken at the most important spot in the neighbourhood: the co-op on Hackney Road… from whence you’ll purchase your newspaper of choice, and head across the street.
Sitting on the corner of Hackney Road and Horatio Street, The Marksman is a modern classic; a laid-back gastropub from former St. John chefs Jon Rotherham and Tom Harris. It’s won legions of fans for its Sunday roast, but, truth be told, this is a winner at any time of day – particularly on a Saturday, when the kitchen fires up at 11am. Head up to the first floor terrace for an obscenely decadent brunch of curried lamb buns with salted lime yoghurt; Dorset crab kedgeree or a Tamworth bacon chop with hash brown and a fried egg; accompanied by a glass of crémant or a Black Velvet for the hardy of constitution.
Mason & Painter
Time for a little shopping, and honestly – you don’t need our input on this. Heading down Horatio Road, swinging a left on Shipton and then a right will take you to the end of Columbia Road, where you can work your way along to the other end dipping in to whatever takes your fancy. Highlights include In Bloom (and its twin, In Habit, a few doors down), whose shelves are lined with plants, pots, hangers and more; Artisans & Adventurers, who sell ethically sourced & sustainable homeware; Mason & Painter for trinkets, antiques and quirky decor; Milagros for Mexican hojalata, a 400-year old craft of beaten tin artwork; Straw, an entire emporium dedicated to vintage baskets; and World of Echo, a breezy, minimalist vinyl haven.
Building up a thirst? Stop off at Pavilion en route for an iced coffee (made with beans from their house collab with Origin) and a cardamom bun.
Pot plants: look great, absolute nightmare to carry. Time to take a load off. Peel off onto Ezra Street and grab a table outside Printers & Stationers; a ramshackle bar operating out of an old, shuttered shopfront on a particularly picturesque courtyard complete with ghost signs, Victorian streetlamps and cobbled paving. Cidre breton, wine and spritzes all go down a treat here, particularly as the sunset catches the glassware. Drink up, and head next door for…
AN EARLY DINNER
Benvenuto a Campania, an irresistibly charming Italian restaurant crammed into an old dairy (remnants of which can be seen in the outdoor tiling, battered old doors and unchanged shop sign – you’re looking for S. Jones). Dining here is one of Shoreditch’s great, unadulterated pleasures. The food – plucked from the south of Italy and prepared, mostly, by a genuine nonna in the backroom – is worthy of the gods: whole fish tossed into a sizzling pan, hand-made pasta, meatballs the size of your fist. Washed down with a glass or two of good wine, there can be no finer way to end your day.
Eat heartily, and without restraint. You’ll need to get your strength up to lug those plant pots home.
The Marksman | 254 Hackney Road, London E2 7SJ
Printers & Stationers | 21A Ezra Street, London E2 7RH | Open Wed-Sun
Campania | 23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH
Want to carry on the evening? Check out our guide to the best bars in Shoreditch…