Twenty years ago East London was regarded as a poverty stricken part of the city that you generally tried to avoid unless it was all your budget could stretch to. Now, thoughts of East London conjure up images of trendy restaurants and hipsters. But why are more and more fine dining restaurants opening up in this part of the city?
Words: Toni Hart, Subeditor: Denisa Rosca
Photo Source: Toni Hart
Fine dining and good quality food is becoming increasingly popular in East London and it is surprisingly affordable. Lunch at Lyles in Shoreditch, who recently got their first Michelin star, costs just under £10. And as we know, when something goes trendy, it goes East.
Parts of East London such as Shoreditch and Hoxton are renowned for the hipster lifestyle and all things popular. So it’s no surprise that fine dining has edged its way East. Richard McLellan, head chef at the Typing Room in Bethnal Green, said: “East London has changed in many ways over the last ten years and with this change brings a new lease of life; it was only a matter of time before the food scene branched out.”
Richard first started his career in fine dining after studying architecture at college. He decided to go travelling across Europe and the Middle East, where he had his first experiences of kitchen life. After returning to the UK he applied for an apprenticeship at a local restaurant in Suffolk called Chimneys, working under head chef Sam Charmers. He then decided to move to London after a year, where his life as a chef really began.
After a successful career in the kitchen spanning 14 years and working in some of London’s finest restaurants, he has decided to venture even further into the world of cooking and open his own restaurant next April. The Soho based restaurant will offer a spin on British cooking, with modern techniques. Although Richard has worked in Michelin star restaurants, he said his own enterprise will not be a fine dining experience.
“Although it won’t be a fine dining experience, the quality of cooking and ingredients will not be compromised,” he said.
Michelin star chef, Jason Atherton, first opened Typing Room last year with Lee Westcott as executive head chef and Richard McLellan as head chef. Typing Room is based inside Bethnal Green’s old town hall which opened in 1910; the room that holds the restaurant was in fact used as the old typing room – hence the name. Though the restaurant is still in its teething stages it was previously a Michelin star restaurant called Viajante, operating under Chef Nuno Mendez. Viajante first opened in 2010 and Mendez led the restaurant on a four year journey, sparking the trend of fine dining in East London and paving the way for other restaurants such as Typing Room to follow suit.
Along with the birth of Viajante, it seems that fine dining is moving further East as a result of the growing hipster culture that is spreading across the city. Even Eastenders’ bosses have admitted that hipsters need to move to Walford to keep up with the growing changes. Somehow I can’t see a bearded, tattooed, skinny jeans wearer fitting in amongst the squares residents.
Hipster culture has brought various restaurants and bars to East London, some celebrated and others not so well received. Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch is one of these hipster hotspots and it is clear to see why. Offering various themed nights through the week, ranging from Jazz Night on a Thursday to Rib Night on a Monday, the restaurant is quite often fully booked.
Although Blues Kitchen is one of the many beauties that have emerged from the growth of the hipster, the Cereal Killer Café isn’t. Up until a few months ago, they would regularly have queues of tourist lining the street outside, waiting to sample the eccentricities of the café. However, in early October protesters stormed the building in a plight against gentrification in the area.
Despite the negative reactions to some eateries in East London, it still remains to be one of the most popular places to eat at the moment. With the rise of hipster culture, we are likely to see more incredible restaurants opening in the area. Richard McLellan said “there’s some exciting chefs cooking East and I believe this will only increase over time”. The food scene is changing immensely across London and it is an exciting time for foodies and chefs alike.
So it seems that if hipsters are good for one thing, it would have to be bringing amazing food to East London. And as an Eastender, I’m allowed to say that this is definitely a welcome change.