Welcome to East London’s naughty little secret – not Shoreditch, no, not even Hoxton. Step right up to the electric jambalaya that is Dalston.
Follow our Dalston taxi driver’s guide to unearth the achingly hip, the chillest of the chill and also a few of the areas’ more colourful spots.
Just like no-one really know where Dalston ends and Haggerston or Stoke Newington begin. No-one is completely sure exactly when Dalston became so utterly cool – although common knowledge holds it was probably sometime around 2009.
And because London and her many denizens are such a fickle crowd, it also stands to reason it stopped being cool about five minutes later. But fear not intrepid traveller because although some of the darling hipsters may have long since scattered, we have it on good authority that Dalston most definitely is still cool.
From the end of Kingsland Road down to Ridley Road Market (the supposed inspiration for “Eastenders” own fictional ‘Walford Market’), this lively area of East London has an absolute wealth of great bars, clubs, restaurants and pop-ups to satisfy even the most discerning of trendsetters.
Dalston – if you’re not sure – sits somewhere in the borough of Hackney. It began life as a hamlet on the Roman road we now know as the Kingsland Rd and was most likely at some stage, little more than a farm.
Today it includes two overground services (Kingsland & Junction), both of which provide transport links that reach all across London. Making it not only trendy, but uncharacteristically accessible also.
A lot of Dalston’s kudos – much like neighbouring Shoreditch – came from the fact that it was a bit run down (and therefore cheap to live in), but still in possession of a vibrant and multicultural demographic. It housed (and still does) a group of people who were completely proud of their corner of London, regardless of outside opinion.
Sadly – like all ‘gentrified’ areas – the first to react to its rising popularity were the gluttonous minds behind London’s infamous property market. Which is why Dalston now costs approximately 8% more than the average London district to live in.
Like anywhere though, you shouldn’t let the chatter bother you. Follow our Dalston taxi driver’s guide to uncover as many local treats and hotspots as you can during your time here. All you’ll need is an Addison Lee to get you started.
Where to drink
Quick disclaimer before we go any further, a lot of the places we’re about to suggest are – as the current trend dictates – as much bars as they are restaurants, and vice versa. So if you end up with a terrific cocktail over dinner, or scoffing down a fancy burger with your Chablis, you can feel free to blame us. Honestly, we can handle it. Rotorino may paint itself as a wine bar, but is actually just as much a restaurant (shock!). Lushly decorated in wood panelling and retro furniture booths, this place serves an elegant sidebar to the rowdier pubs you tend to find across most of Dalston. Come to try their excellent wine list or go one step further and indulge in the excellent menu.
434 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AA
If you’re in the market for a ‘proper’ east London pub then the closest you’ll probably manage round here has to be the Three Compasses. Retaining all of its classic features; old bar stools, original back bar etc, this elegant old boozer blends the traditional with the new with effortless style. The ales are all typically unusual but it’s the food (again!) that helps it really stand out. Rather than employing their own kitchen, the guys here invite in pop-up merchants for guest spots serving up their own fodder. It’s not a new idea but it’s certainly one that seems to work. Check their website to see what’s in right now.
99 Dalston Ln, E8 1NH
Kind of a bar… kind of a restaurant.. (you get the idea by now), but also an events space, gallery and club too. POND is brought to Dalston by the guys behind the exceptionally popular Duke’s Brew & Queue. The theme seems to be Hawaiian-tiki but it’s unlike any tiki bar we’ve been to before. The focus being more on creating quality drinks and food than it is on getting drunk and setting things on fire. Set in an industrial warehouse space, it’s worth checking ahead to see what’s going on as it seems these guys are completely quixotic and utterly changeable. Worth exploring though as the drinks are sensational.
Unit G2, Stamford Works, 3 Gillett St, N16 8JH
Where to eat
If you’ve been lucky enough to eat at Voodoo Ray’s in nearby Shoreditch then you’ll already be familiar with what we believe could very well be the best pizza in London. Unlike the pop-up in SW9 though, this is their original home. A proper, established restaurant that serves up those same hefty slices en masse for their adoring customers. The delicious slices in question are each about the size of a pizza in their own right and yet are sold at a remarkable £4 a go. Come here later on and you can enjoy beers and cocktails to go with. Well, you can enjoy them in the day too if you like it’s just… haven’t you got to go to work?
95 Kingsland High St, E8 2PB
Chick ‘n’ Sours
In a part of town that’s become renowned for its pop-ups, it’s a bit of a surprise to find the kings of perpetual pop-ups putting down roots with an actual restaurant. Started by the guys behind some of London’s best known temporary eateries, Chick ‘n’ Sours is their first stab at making a place that serves up the very best in everything poultry. The fried chicken here is off the scale. So delicious you’ll be hankering for more just as soon as you’re hungry again. And of course, to complete the catchy name, they also serve all manner of cocktails that are sour. Also totally delicious.
390 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AA
Something for the more discerning diner now. The Richmond is Dalston’s finest (and possibly only) oyster bar. Sitting on the corner of Queensbridge Road, this den of all things fishy was set up as an outlet for the owner’s Borough Market seafood stall. So unlike some inland fish restaurants, you can 100% guarantee the quality of what you’ll be eating. The menu is all about raw and cooked fish served up in new and fascinating ways. Yes, there’s a big emphasis on the separate oyster menu but is that really a problem? If it is, this might not be the place for you.
316 Queensbridge Rd, E8 3NH
What to do
Roll down the ramp from Dalston Junction overground station, out onto Kingsland Road in front of you and you’ll pretty much bump noses with the stunning Rio Cinema. A Grade II listed art deco palace, the Rio has been showing the very best in Indy flicks and Hollywood blockbusters for over 100 years. It’s been repeatedly named as one of the best cinemas in London by a number of publications and it’s not hard to tell why. For a place with only one screen they have to be quite careful about what they show. Come at the right time and you may catch one of their special screenings or even festivals.
107 Kingsland High St, E8 2PB
Take a quick look outside… is it sunny? Is it warm? If the answer to either of those is no, then it may well not be summer. In which case you can’t visit Street Feast’s largest street food market this side of the Thames, Dalston Yard. But swing by in the warmer months and you’ll find an enormous car park hollowed out to create a weekend of proper feasting. The food stalls are remarkably diverse so there should be something here for everybody. While the bars offer up a Gin Parlour, Tiki Bar and a Whisky Den, to name but a few. It doesn’t hurt that the whole place looks like a grown-up’s dystopian tree-house either.
Hartwell St, E8 3DU
Dalston Roof Park
Once again, you’re going to need to find yourself out in the fairer months to take advantage of this little beauty, but then what were you really expecting? The clue’s in the name. Allowing itself to be curated by any number of different hosts each year, this trendy little spot on top of a local office block is a great place to stop by to get some sun while enjoying a spot of street food and some terrific cocktails. Sound familiar? Yes, we know but unfortunately pop-ups and cocktail bars are what Dalston do best. We’re certain a delicious smoked old fashioned will help you get over it.
18 Ashwin St, E8 3DL