Cheap and cheerful: Roman Road

London 2012, G Kelly eels, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

To continue my countdown to London 2012, I cycled to Roman Road in London’s Mile End on Saturday. My clever little iPhone took me past Well Street Common and through Victoria Park where the paths are lined with lime trees giving off the most intoxicating scent. Roman Road is a long old road, so to avoid confusion, I visited the easternmost section, sandwiched between St Stephen’s Road and Parnell Road.

The Eastenders are a friendly bunch. Admittedly we had the world’s cutest almost-seven-month-old in tow, which tends to make people smile and chuck indulgently, and gets you more free samples of smoked sausage than you can shake a stick at, but baby or no baby, Roman Road is a wonderful place to rediscover your faith in humanity and to fall in love with the marvellous melting pot that is London all over again. It’s not the prettiest of places, but therein lies its charm. The gentrifying upper-middles haven’t moved in en-masse — yet — and the cool creatives are too busy working their magic on Dalston. This feels like real London. And if that’s too much for you, then retreat to The Morgan Arms just off Tredegar Square and you’ll be back in Kansas.

Roman Road is a foodie paradise, but utterly unpretentious—here, delis are still about the food and less about the Farrow & Ball colour schemes, although that is not far off… it’s already changed considerably in the past few years if Google Streetview is anything to go by. Fact checking was tough for this one – I really must carry a notebook wherever I go.

Here’s my top 5:

1) Roman Road market

Fruit and vegetables, plants, home-wares and clothes all at rock-bottom prices sold by friendly stallholders more than willing to engage in a bit of banter. Oh, and you can nip into one of the many salons along this road and get your eyebrows threaded for £3. Beat that!

London 2012, Roman Road market, Bethnal Green

2) Polskie Delikatesy

Run by a lovely, smiley mother and daughter duo, this exceptional Polish delicatessen sells everything from specialty breads to jars full of pickled cabbage and smoked sausages. In a word: yum.

London 2012, Polskie Delikatesy, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

3) G Kelly Noted Eel & Pie Shop.

You can’t get more East-End than a pie and eel shop and the queues stretch out of the door and on to the street for this Roman Road institution. LoveRichCashPoor had a job getting a photo.

London 2012, G Kelly eels and pie shop, Roman Road, Bethnal Green

4) Bangla Halal Grocers

Looking for a catfish that is bigger than a 10-year-old child? You have come to the right place. This little gem of a shop also sells every spice under the sun.

5) Old-skool confectionary delights at Mickey’s Sweets

London 2012, Mickey's sweets, Roman Road market, Bethnal Green

    • Wow thank you Bettina. I am honoured *initiate gushy Oscars-style speech*.
      As the least technical person in the world, I have absolutely no idea how to get the award on my blog? Is there some sort of code I need for the picture?
      Thanks again x

      • No worries (I’m waiting for the speech)! Haha! To be honest I have no idea… aside from displaying a photo in a post, I’m in the same boat in terms of being technically challenged.

      • Check out this blog (it’s an awesome one that I wanted to nominate but noticed she already won one)! She has the Versatile Blogger Award pic in her sidebar so you can ask how she did it 🙂

      • Perfect!! Thank you 🙂

  1. Margaret said:

    What a great old photo!! Thanks for writing about this, I love going to London and seeking out the less touristy places so will definitely look to visit Roman Road, the market sounds brilliant.

    • I think the market is on every Saturday. Great combined with a walk in Victoria Park, or the Olympic park of course!

  2. When I first moved to London 7 years ago I lived just off Roman Road – even in that time it has changed loads – but what I love about it when I go there every now and then is that there’s still this nice East-End authenticity and the people are really friendly. Great post.

    • Thank you! I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere in London where people are more chatty. Admittedly I don’t normally travel around with a cute baby, but still!

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