Nabeelah Shabbir is a London-born Pakistani and now, accidental Parisian. She’s a tuned-in journalist and editor as well as a Balkans and Turkey aficionado. Loves London. Wants to be a writer when she grows up. This is her guide to strolling around London, innit.
Hackney for the warehouse fiestas and video shop clubs. Colombia Road for the flower market. Whitechapel for the galleries. Brick Lane for the markets. Dalston for the little pubs. It’s probably not what the cool East London kids would do, but I’ve been away for a while, so it’s still a bit of a tourist experience for me when I come home. I love the little corner of Maida Vale/ Edgeware Road with bog standard cafés that open really early, it’s so peaceful, with the little Regent’s Canal winking at you. Passive-aggressive sheesha smoke follows you as you wind down to Marble Arch, at all times of the day. It’s as distressing as it is novel. Plus, its so multicultural around here, headscarfs ahoy.
I like walking past the department stores on Bond Street to ‘catch up’ on London life and I get that thrill out of walking among those insane crowds, dodging the wide angle buses as I walk down towards Oxford Street, and marvelling at how the Brits handle heavy rain in July: wellies and tiny summer dresses.
If I decide to move past the dramatic stoned walls of curving Regents Street and on to the rather stressful Picadilly Circus, I usually pay a visit to a huge Turkish cafe called Kahve Dunyasi. In Istanbul the chain is everywhere like Starbucks and thus less easy to be a fan of but in London it feels niche. Oh and the waitresses don’t have a clue of its founder, at least when I polled them this summer.
Oxford Street leads on to Tottenham Court Road which seems like this constantly changing face and then a swift right to Covent Garden beyond; just before the transition, there is a small tiny Seoul Bakery, a Korean restaurant the size of a box, seating perhaps 6-7 (and its even tight at that) with a hairdressers in the next room. It’s delightful and cheap and does a delicious bibimbap (a pop dish which has yet to take off in Paris).
Charing Cross Road is lined with bookshops. Enough said, but the one I really like exploring is Stanfords on Long Acre; its a map and travel shop and makes me dream. If I know I am going to an exotic destination I will always buy my literature or related book gifts from there.
The girly climax: the shopping. I like two oriental inspired stores. One unfortunately closed down next to Stanfords in the new year. The other is nestled along or near Earlham Street in Covent Garden if I am not mistaken. The fabrics and prices of the shirts, hats, tops and dresses might not be the most desirable but they are 100% unique.
Londoners I know trying to ‘move out’ are starting to head south again, Brixton etc, it’s cheaper, and there is this fad of Guardian squatting or something, providing cheap rents in broken down places on the legal side. A friend who is looking to buy rejects the north/east because whilst it’s trendy, it’s frikking ugly.