On Sunday mornings, Columbia Road is a buzz with the spectacle of flower traders hawking some of the best blooms in London — all to the cry of “everthin’ for a fiver”. However, Saturday is the best day to visit this small corner of E2. The pace of the street is slower making it the ideal destination for an unhurried lunch before exploring its famed vintage and home-wares stores, bars and galleries.
For me, a trip to Columbia Road begins with lunch at Printers & Stationers. Hidden behind the main thoroughfare on Ezra Street, this converted warehouse has all the charm of a French village bistro. Its improvised bar, artful interior, menu of must-order charcuterie and cheese platters, and outdoor tricolour seating is perfect for a lunch for one. If the mood strikes, I order a shot of Armagnac as an excuse to laze a little longer before dropping into nearby grocer, Jones Dairy, for some British artisanal produce. If I am looking for a more social affair, a table at Brawn is perfect for a group.
Columbia Road’s creative, independent and quirky style offers some of the best shopping in London. Typical of the neighbourhood is Oliver & Emma. Located at no. 134 Columbia Road, this literal hole-in-the-wall is the smallest coffee bar in the owners’ hallway. (They live upstairs.) Oliver & Emma’s coffee “any style” is close to perfection; if no-one is there, follow the instructions and ring the bell.
At nearby, A Portuguese Love Affair, Dina and Olga’s collection of traditional and contemporary handcrafted wares pays a heartfelt homage to their homeland. From the hand-wrapped tins of canned fish (textbook classic design) to artisan olive oil, ceramics and Castelbel Porto luxury soap, everything is beautifully made and crafted. Down the road at no. 84, Pot Luck specializes in all things white china and at Vintage Heaven, any bowerbird will find something among the dinner sets, kitchenalia and books of this aptly named store.
For a touch of the Welsh countryside, Jessie Chorley & Buddug Humphreys has handcrafted sentiments, jewellery and ornaments; while Choosing Keeping is devoted to the art of the written word and is where I go for my stationery.
And then there is The Fox’s Knocker — a store specializing in natural, organic and biodynamic wines as well as local craft beer like Pressure Drop and Hoxton Stout from redchurch brewery. I always find something to take home, including a recent discovery — an aperitif called Stellacello made nearby in Bethnal Green that’s just heavenly when added to Prosecco.
With its cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, and independent stores, Columbia Road on a Saturday offers the perfect day out in London.
Printers & Stationers 21a Ezra Street, E2 7RH
Jones Dairy 23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH
Brawn 49 Columbia Road E2 7RG Tel. 0207 729 5692
Oliver & Emma 134 Columbia Road, E2 7RG
A Portuguese Love Affair 142 Columbia Road E2 7RG Tel. 0207 613 1482
Pot Luck 84 Columbia Road E2 7QB Tel. 0207 722 6892
Vintage Heaven 82 Columbia Road, E2 7QB Tel. 01277 215968
Jessie Chorley & Buddug Humphreys 158a Columbia Road, E2 7RG
Choosing Keeping 128 Columbia Road E2 72G Tel. 0207 613 3842
The Fox’s Knocker 110-112 Columbia Road, London E2 7RG Tel 0207 729 0538
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