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Area Guide: Dalston

Dalston has attitude, grime and plenty of soul. And here’s where to get your fill of it all.

Dalston is loud. It’s a chaotic mix of open air food markets, endless pound-shops and unjustifiable bus stop queues, making the pavement impossible to navigate. Dalston is also busy. It’s got shopping to do, acrylic extensions to be redone and public breakdowns to have on the street. Dalston doesn’t sleep. It’s up at 6am and that’s just the kids who haven’t finished the party yet. But Dalston is also home to a vibrant mix of families, art students, freelancers and City slickers. It’s where vape cafes rub shoulders with Turkish restaurants and cocktail bars. It’s where you can eat well, cheaply and late, where you can stay up past your bed time and cure it the next morning without queuing for your avocado and eggs. 

Coffee and Croissants
Whether you’re an early riser or pulling an all-nighter, Dalston has plenty of options for that first drink of the day. For a healthy start grab a fresh juice from Harvest E8 on Kingsland Road and perch along the window seat to watch the morning hustle begin. Down at Reilly Rocket food and coffee has a distinctive antipodean twist with a breakfast and brunch menu bustling with seasonal ingredients, plenty of avocado and baristas who know their piccolo from their espresso.

For a hearty fix of bacon butties, a full English breakfast or a classic order of beans on toast, Coffee Is My Cup Of Tea is a delightful modern take on a traditional café, as is Hash E8 – another great spot for all things bacon and filling.

If your morning starts off with the ping of demanding emails, take yourself out of the rat race and off to All Press on Dalston Lane. Surprisingly tranquil this place offers small bites and great sandwiches with their famed artisan single origin coffee from house-roasted beans. You won’t be judged for pairing this with a laptop and logging onto the wifi, which sadly we all have to do from time to time.

Up for a New York-style slice? Voodoo Rays is where you’ll want to head for lunch, whether you’re on-the-go or have time to sit down and enjoy your crusts with some chilli oil. For gorgeous salads and lunch plates grab yourself a table at the cosy L’atelier up Kingsland Road. It’s a hotspot for freelancers on Macs but don’t let that dissuade you, this trendy café makes some of the best food in E8.

Shopping & Culture
Dalston isn’t exactly a destination shopping district for London, however its Ridely Road Market, there everyday but Sunday, is a vibrant place to pick up everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood and meat to bold Indian and African fabrics and household goods. The market has been running since the 1880s and is well worth exploring. Expect reggae beats and heady smells.

Just up Kingsland Road you’ll also discover Grade II listed independent Art Deco Rio Cinema. The original building was an auctioneer's shop and was converted into one of London's very first cinemas in 1909, called the Kingsland Palace of Animated Pictures. Today the beautiful cinema features new releases, screens live theatre and brings back films from the past to delight locals once again.

You haven’t experienced Dalston until you’ve eaten at Mangal 1. Opening 25 years ago, Mangal 1’s consistent formula of fresh meat, bread and salads, has made the place a local institution. Loyal customers (including Ken Livingstone, Rowan Atkinson and Elijah Wood) will merrily queue for 45 minutes for a seat. Mangal 2, on Stoke Newington Road, you’d think would be it’s sister but the relationship is more complicated, however the food is equally tasty (try not to get drawn in on comparison argues with the locals – trust us, the debate is endless). Joing the Turkish barbeque restaurant collection is 19 Numara Bos Cirrik which stands out for its feather-light, smoky and flavoursome bread and delicate sucuklu yumurtali pide. No matter which you prefer, these three venues have become legendary for a reason.

When you’re not feasting on barbequed meats Dalston’s other specality has to be chicken. Most of it is cheap and not so cheerful but Chick N Sours on Kingsland Road is far more up our alley. This buzzy venue, which now has a much larger sibling in central London, is the original spot. Your poultry can come in sandwich form, on the bone, as tender strips, wings, delicious breast fillet or even in nacho form. And don’t skimp on the dips or cocktails either.

For fresher fare treat yourself to some wine, tunes and Japanese cuisine at Brilliant Corners, which specialises in sashimi and maki turns out a tasty tataki. Just be prepared for the loud music, this isn’t tranquil Asian dining, after all it’s been themed for Dalstonites don’t forget.

Finally we’d be doing you all a disservice if we didn’t send you off to Jones & Sons on Gillett Street. This is classic British food done with the ultimate dedication of love, talent and a good understanding of balance. Think poached pollock loin, 12 hour short rib, grilled steaks, fish cheeks and rosemary fat fries. Best of all this can be washed down with well-made classic cocktails or a bottle of wine. Or perhaps both?

No matter which way you turn out of Dalston Junction Station, you’re in for a treat when it comes to cocktails and wine. South on Kingsland Road you’ll find Tony Conigliaro’s Untitled, an unusual space which appears at first glance to be more of a gallery than bar. But then the drinks come, and you’ll never want them to stop, with each ingredient, glass and garnish a new talking point and delicious exploration of an idea. Doors down is the very small Three Sheets, opened by one of Tony’s old bartenders, Max Venning, and his brother Noel. Drinks here are ludicrously tasty, paired back and expertly balanced. You won’t find more quaffable liquid in all of London.

Along the same strip is the aforementioned Brilliant Corners who deserve a second mention for their booze offerings alone.  Think white port and tonics, Negronis, agricole rums and a seriously concise and impressive wine list, from pet nats to magnums and skin-contact roses. Throw in the fact it’s open till 1.30am on the weekends and is famed for its tunes and you have the perfect recipe for a killer night out.

Heading north up Kingsland Road you’ll need to stop for a classic cocktail at High Water, a charming and cosy bar that have mastered the craft of drinks. Think sours, fizzes and some serious stirred-down and boozy libations.  Across the road and down a flight of stairs is the expanded Ruby’s, finding its home in former Chinese takeaway. This cocktail bar is a maze of glazed brick walls, wooden floors and a mish-mash of tables, chairs and lampshades. The party continues late into the night and the drinks don’t stop flowing.

Along Dalston Lane, and reopening under new ownership, is another flagship of classic drinks, Silk Stockings. Having been closed for a good year the once idle bar now has its ice wells filled and booze bottles back on the shelf.

Of course Dalston isn’t all about the craft of the cocktail, this is an area best known for its late nights. From the famed Dalston Superstore which attracts a varied crowd and well-loved local DJs to Birthdays with its great live music basement to the more drinks-focused Ray’s Bar, beneath Voodoo Rays, a lively and dark space playing epic beats – this is the area to stay up all night in, or at least till 3am. Just remember to loop back to the beginning of this guide the next day when the bacon butty craving hits. How to do it Dalston style, eat, drink, dance, rinse and repeat.