Thursday, 6 May 2010

Shoreditch secret shopper strikes sullenly...


I have railed against ‘Whoreditch’ and the Max Wall impersonators that seem to teem all over it (skinny jeans, ballet pumps, birds-nest hair) so much I know I am becoming tedious. However I am only really picking at one one layer of the East End Onion. There are other peelings that annoy me: the BNP-voting lumpen elements of Plaistow, the monoculturalism of bits of Tower Hamlets and the effluential Dalston. At the same time there are tasty bits of the Onion. I have a strong family association with the City itself and particularly Smithfield. I love the architectural elements of Spitalfields, the grubby old mercantile buildings and some of the good restaurants. Although the area has never been the same since the demise of Blooms and it's gefilte fish and the slip into mediocrity of the local Indian canteens is lamentable there are good nibbles to be had.


On Sunday we ambled over to Spitalfields market. I know it should make me spit to think of what has happened to the place but I am more than aware that the only way to save a market or it’s architecture is to gentrify and artify it. The alternative is the bulldozer and the advance of more belligerent office buildings. It was the same with Borough Market which was saved by posh Spanish cheeses and pies that cost a tenner. So if Spitalfields is overrun by Hoxton Twatkids, tourists and divvy trendy mums with children called Otis so be it. But is there a reason for creatures like me, and possibly like you to traipse over there?


Well yes. If only because it is something to do, which can involve quite painless transport links. It has to be said also that there is plenty to eat and drink. It is most definitely good for food. We had brunch at Giraffe, the chain that promises ‘world food and music’ and does actually provide a very tasty Mexican breakfast. We discovered this just as the chain cannily went for the yummy mummy rah demographic and started to give balloons out. Every Giraffe is now spoilt by babies, and babies do spoil lunch, and dinner, and everything else for everyone who…well doesn’t have their own baby. However we got there early enough to miss the first baby ‘surge’. Shame that human babies are so ugly compared to other infant mammals. Now if they all looked like puppies or kittens or baby meerkats the screeching and screaming and dribbling might just be ok.


The main market was largely full of stuff of no interest, there seemed to be a lot of Chinese people selling pared down Vivien Westwoodesque jackets and cannibalised tweed seemed particularly popular as a material. There were some interesting (and if I recall long-established) stalls selling paperbacks. The shops around the market were full of up-market tat. Dolly Dagger looked to have some ok frocks and undies although a little frou frou for me. The bars and restaurants looked expensive and banal. A drink at the Ten Bells would be a better and more atmospheric option than any of the bars we saw.


On Sunday however, across the road from the main market heading in the direction of the Truman Brewery is the Sunday market. I prefer this inordinately even though it is the homeland of the ironic porkpie hat. It reminds me of Design Festa, the huge market/art exhibition/happening/concert I used to go to in Tokyo. Located in a big old empty white building it always has a couple of vintage stalls that include vintage clothes (rarer than hen’s teeth) and the chap selling Balkan music. And Balkan music makes you smile. The food here, though not necessarily the most comfortable eating experience always looks absolutely delicious and is a far better bet than anything across the road, Mexican breakfasts not withstanding.


Did I buy anything? Surely the real mark of a market is this? Well no, but that was more down to my state of advanced boracity. If I had more than basic beer money I would have. The sellers I was taken by were:


In the main market a jeweller called 'Eat Your Feet' with some witty plasticky jewellery using vintage and pop-culture motifs. In the Sunday market, food and Balkan beats aside, I liked Dan Hilliers stall of prints of his Ernst-like surreal illustrations and designs. Victorian octopus people rule. A stall called Orizu was selling the most wonderful 30’s and 40’s inspired hats, really superb and good value at £120 -£180 (if you think that is expensive have a look at how much hand made millinery costs). She wasn’t giving out cards and does not have a website and would not let me take a photograph. But hopefully she will stick it out because her tiles were absolutely lovely.



Eat your feet necklace.


Dan Hillier illustration (copyright Dan Hillier)

Eat your feet jewellery homepage: http://www.eatyourfeet.com/

Dan Hillier: www.danhillier.com

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