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!
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.
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.
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