How far does £100 go in a day in London?
I head to Shoreditch to find out…
Over the bank holiday, I took on a challenge: Head to London with £100 and see what you can do (and eat) in Shoreditch. The brief came from Hotels.com, a booking engine useful for booking hotels near Shoreditch. Since I was just making a day trip, there was no need for a hotel, just an off-peak travelcard (£17.70) to get me up and around London.
Blixen, Old Spitalfields Market – £23.63
My first stop was Old Spitalfields Market, which is technically not in Shoreditch but is close enough to the area to warrant a mention. It’s a huge indoor market and packed with stalls from local creatives, artisans, small producers, and street food sellers – including one that originally started out in my hometown – Flank.
Before I tell you about Flank I will begin with my boozy brunch at Blixen – located right on the edge of the market.
The restaurant was once a bank but it has now been converted into a restaurant with three separate indoor dining areas and a terrace for dining alfresco.
As you enter, you come through to the conservatory. Here there are hanging planters and rattan lampshades shaped like tagines dangling from the ceiling as well as Bamboo screens and beaded curtains, which serve as privacy divides between diners.
Past the conservatory lies the main dining area, which feels more formal. At the back of the room, there’s a stunning back-lit gold bar and another area to dine at.
In the centre, there’s a very large, rounded yellow ochre leather sofa that bends it’s way around four curved wooden tables and seats 12 comfortably.
The walls are a rich, jade green and arched floor-to-ceiling lead panel windows allow light to flood into the room.
Looking at the menu I’m tempted by the bottomless brunch for £35 but as I’m dining solo, it feels a bit indulgent for one. I go for the Bloody Mary Cocktail (£9) instead and after fancying pretty much everything on the menu, I decide on Blixen’s take on dippy eggs (£12) — Instagram told this was a good option.
The dish comes out and it’s filled to the brim with a rich, thick tomato sauce, generous chunks of chorizo, beans & baked eggs, all mixed together with a dollop of crème fraîche and topped with fresh coriander. Dunked in the melting pot are two thick cut slices of toast.
Smokey, silky, rich and warming it’s just what I need after getting caught in the rain en route.
I finish the bread quickly but still have plenty of sauce left to mop up. Intuitively the waiter offers me another basket of bread (for no extra charge).
Verdict: Blixen is a glorious discovery and next time I up this way I’m bringing the girls to help me tackle the bottomless brunch.
We Love Print, Old Spitalfields Market – £12
After breakfast, I feel the need to walk off my food so I take a wander around Old Spitalfields Market. I come across a gorgeous leather bag stall that I could have easily blown my entire budget at but somehow manage to resist.
As I meander through the bustling stalls, I spot traders touting all sorts: belts and clothes, handmade jewellery, artist’s prints, vinyl and inde magazines. It’s a snooper’s paradise.
One trader “We Love Print” catches my attention so I stop and spend a while leafing through the magazine collections, some of which are vintage, others newer.
I end up buying two beautiful magazines (£6 each) which, as well as being useful to read on the train home, will serve as great editorial design references for work.
Flank, Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield St, £19.50
At this point, I tot up in my head how much I’ve spent so far and I realise — I need to start eating again if I am to have anything noteworthy to report back.
I make a beeline for the food quarter and to Flank – the whole reason for coming to Spitalfields.
For those that don’t know, Flank originally started out as a pop-up restaurant at The Sovereign Pub in Brighton where Head Chef Tom Griffiths, catered for the conscience diner through nose-to-tail and plant-based cooking.
Now, the pop-up’s home is Spitalfield’s food quarter and the focus is modern British street food, cooked over an open flame barbecue.
As I turn up there’s a queue of people placing orders and Tom is rolling out flat breads, brushed with buttermilk and cooking it fresh in front of my eyes.
I notice he has two Big Green Eggs behind his worktop and I’m impressed. These are the like the Ferrari of BBQ’s, with precision temperature control and the ability to cook meat with all the flavour of a charcoal barbecue in just 12 minutes.
Flank’s menu has just had just had a refresh so Tom kindly lets me have a taster of a little bit of everything.
I try the Brisket lava warp kebab first, which is filled with tender smokey beef, garlic mayonnaise, spicy chilli, herbs, pickle and salad – all wrapped up in one of the freshly baked flatbreads.
Then there are the potato chips, double cooked and baked in dripping which are to die for. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys the crispy ends in a chip packet, these are going to be right up your street.
The showstopper though is the fried chicken, topped with chilli sambal (hot sauce), gherkin and coriander. This dish ordinarily comes served in a soft brioche bun but since I had a lot of eating to do I reluctantly downsized my portion.
Verdict: Flank’s menu makes we wish I had two stomachs and lived up in the East End. It’s well worth a trip up from Brighton.
*Pop up on a Friday (until November) and you can pop in for their limited time dinner menu (including smoked duck) and wine pairings.
Walking Tour East End, Liverpool Street Station – £12
My next idea is to learn a little more about London and sightsee some of the incredible street art, so I head off a walking tour that begins at Liverpool Street Station.
Unfortunately, in true English style the rain does not let up and I’m forced to run to Boots and part with £28 for an umbrella – absolute daylight robbery!
Incredibly the rain doesn’t dampen our guide’s spirits in the slightest and she spends a full two hours animatedly telling us historic tales of the city, including how what is now a McDonald’s was once Bethlehem Hospital (England’s first mental health institution).
The tour is brilliant and includes sights such as Jack the Ripper’s crime scenes as well “Elder Street” which served as inspiration for Harry Potter.
One of my biggest highlights was Brick Lane, which is a hub for ever-changing graffiti and street art. There’s an original Banksy piece here by The Old Truman Brewery, which is protected by a Perspex box. Originally there was a skeleton behind the window of the car but it’s since been taken off and replaced with a wooden board.
Ace Hotel Lobby – Shoreditch High St, £9.75
My final stop of the day is the Ace Hotel Lobby to put my feet up with a drink or two and do a little bit of work. If you’re up in London and need somewhere to focus this is the ideal place to head to with its sixteen-seat communal work table, full bar, plenty of powerpoints, free WiFi and comfy seats. Best of all it’s open 24-7.
I loved being a tourist in London for the day but I didn’t make it to half the foodie hotspots I planned to. If like me you have grand eating ambitions. I suggest an overnight stay in Shoreditch (and three times my budget) so you can get around all the great spots it has to offer.
*Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Hotels.com and the spending money was gifted, but all views are my own.
Whilst you’re here… let me know if you like the post by clicking the little heart below. Or, leave me a comment and let me know what other great places I need to go to in London.