5 independent cafes: must tries in East London

With life full back to normal in London, the choice of places to try can be overwhelming.

That’s particularly true for those who tip their toes in the sea of options and perhaps are looking for good tasting treats in not too crowded settings.

The following five cafes show how can you be in the know, eat and drink well at cool spots, not break the bank and leave with the appetite to return for more.

1. CINNAMON CAFE, Wapping:

On Cinamon Street, facing an original crane glad warehouse in the still very much cobblestones Wapping, the Cinammon Cafe offers sweet vegan treats and tasty cold brews amongst other flavours that get regular 5 star ratings.

With old wooden school desks and chairs, on a suntrap of a side street, against yellow bricked walls, Cinammon Cafe is a very special and warm corner of the London world to visit.

Coffee brews and vegan cakes for £5 for the lot.

103 Wapping Ln, London E1W 2RW

2. 21 WEST, Smithfield:

Wall to wall windows give way for views of the Barbican towers from this chilled out disco vibing cafe/kitchen. With a typical clean white and beech furniture and light green plants, 21 West provides a sacred feel like escape from the rich backdrop of Smithfield Market, the Georgian town places and brutalist architecture of the East. Perhaps a bit pricier than your average trendy looking kitchen, and with a good reason for it, the beet oat latte and vegan pistachio cake were out of this world.

21 west
020 7248 3339
https://maps.app.goo.gl/bnwfenGZss6xZtVX6

3. ARTFIX, Greenwich Market:

Right from the peak of summer through to the deep winter, ARTFIX is a hide out on a side alley from the busyness of Greenwich Market itself. It has revolving art on the wall, and attracts regularly a unusual/ethical/green/political crowd. The chai latte is to die for as much as the super comfy sofas whilst you’re people watching locals and visitors alike strolling through the market. Management is student friendly offering discounts and a quiet study room at the back. I love this place because I’ve personally had many memorable moments here working away, bumbing into and meeting friends. I am a big fan and pleased Greenwich got this uniquely colourful calm addition to its cafe portfolio.

4. DOCK Cafe, Blackwall:

In one of the new developments next to Blackwall Dlr, right by the bus terminal, you’ll find Dock Coffee across the plaza, next to the playground. What’s special about this place is the delicious Vietnamese sandwiches (bah-min), coffees, friendly service and we’ll brewed lattes in addition to the usual sugary snacks you’ll find in other brew serving joints. I love this place because it’s a suntrap, has a cozy upstairs space and can always find savoury food.

Unit 9 Elligood Court, 21 Goddard Way, London E14 0RG

5. GELATO A CASA, Republic, East India

Homemade gelato in all delicious and non traditional, vegan and for doggie flavours, Greek baklava and sweets, tsoureki and mean protein shakes and coffee. Gelato a Casa is known for the 5 star ratings, uber friendly hosts and beautiful surroundings. In the summer you can bask under the sun surrounded by greenery and view of the dock. In the winter, the lit trees and cozy passage offers a cool spot to chill out in the evening. They are open til late which is an extra bonus. Try once and you’ll be hooked.

1 Clove Cres, London E14 2BA

Green list picking: Madeira

One thing is for certain. Summer in the UK has been a super mini version of hot summers we got used to in the past two years.

By August, and a very wet one, I begun deliberating when the next two hour slot of timid sun would pop its head through the clouds. Even on the lucky occasions work wasn’t tying me to the desk and I caught some of it, the cooling breeze and the inconsistency of it made the decision much easier than expected. I needed out.

After two years of no international travel and no proper holiday, I had to go.

So in all good pandemic manner of things, here I was looking at green and amber options.

Still too out of habit, Amber became the elephant in the room.. Will anyone notice and switch or do I risk it?

And no, my money and time were too precious to gamble so I made the safe bet.

Madeira

And what would have I known if I knew?

Stunning green covered volcanic mountains dipping straight into the sea, accompanied by plenty of flowy waters splashing on the roads from high up the dark and rocky walls.

In the Atlantic, sort of Portuguese sort of north African, Madeira was the humid medicine I didn’t know existed so close to home.

Mild temperatures, sun and warm waters make up a perfect hike to the beach, swim and hike up mix.

Locals are warm. Daily life is super affordable to many other European hotpots and I can’t think of a single thing that I miss.

If not convinced yet, take a look.

Plenty of cute little or the larger kind of surprises too

Of course, the local fresh produce offers loads of culinary delights.

Octopus and chips, dinner for two 18 euro, I think with the drinks it came to 22 euro

Faith, culture and iconic representation:

Whether early in the morning to start the day, or in the afternoon for a little pick me up, there’s another place where locals will be seen religiously. The cafe.

And of course, lunch on, there’s always time to taste the local ‘poncha’

Poncha with ginger
Poncha as it comes

I believe the Madeiran experience is made up of hikes, coffee, levada walks, fish dishes and poncha. For tourists and locals, living the moment is all about these flavours.

With the subtropical climate blending it all together, the Madeiran experience makes an irresistible ‘poncha’.

Go have a taste!

Bernie’s mittens

The POTUS Inaguration will be remembered amongst other things for the memes that followed, most memorably Bernie Sanders sat on a chair in the bitter cold wearing a pair of hand-knitted mittens.

Most following the story will know Jen Ellis made them and how inundated with requests Jen was following that very memorable day.

Three days after that, having followed the story, I bought them online from Jen Ellis’ shop. All proceeds go to charity in Vermont and the mittens are made in partnership with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

In London, I received the mittens this week, over three months later and despite being 15C outside, I am super happy to have them to the point of being tempted to strut them out in the street.

After all, it’s still chilly in the evenings.

Thames River Apprentiships

A few months into the latest UK covid related lockdown it’s a good time to highlight some fantastic opportunities connected to the river Thames.

Charities AHOY Centre and London Youth Rowing both have coaching apprenticeship opportunities listed here: https://www.lifetimetraining.co.uk/apprenticeship-vacancies/sport,london,,/, supported by Coach Core.

The Thames Skills Academy support two Level 3 apprenticeships (Boatmaster and Maritime Engineering). There’s an impressive range of career opportunitiesin the Maritime sector, adding more to the economy than rail and aviation combined. 

Spread the word & hopefully some teens will be perkier as a result on top of having the opportunity to experience a slice of cockney history.

Amanda Gorman’s nod to Derek Walcott

It’s hard to imagine Gorman not growing up with Walcott being recited at home.

The opening lines referencing time, the internalisation of the challenge ahead, the humility of looking introvertily at one’s weaknesses and embracing the imperfections of oneself echoe Walcott’s Love after Love.

I could almost go as far as to say Walcott’s self healing treatment laid bare a platform on which Gorman was able to accelerate this message out of oneself and into the wider healing sense sought in community.

I’ll say no more.

Both poems are copied for your enjoyment.

Derek Walcott’s Love after Love (1940’s)

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Amanda Gorman’s Biden inauguration poem The Hill We Climb (2021)

When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

This effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared it at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:

A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the west.

We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realised revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked south.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Random stories in metal

Andrew Baldwin’s open air metalworks automaton exhibits are warmly welcomed at a time when everything is in lockdown in London.

The playful sculptures, moving parts and colourful lighting tell fantasy stories, a parallel universe within deep winter’s energy of colourful skies.

Located in Trinity Buoy Wharf, earthbound figures matrix into a melting pot of sensations made in fairy tales.

Winter wonderland materialised.

Things I would have done differently if I knew we’d have covid-19.

Ibiza – a beautiful island, full of hidden gems. Sunsets by the lapping water, jumping off the rocks. I would have gone to raves and danced til the morning.

Oman, Malaysia and Myanmar – I should have jumped on a plane in November 2019/January 2020 to see a couple of familiar faces and smell the sweetness in the air.

Friends and parks and parties – could have gathered together more, drunk more together and danced, dropping the pressure of prioritising what we now know are very unimportant things in life.

Philosophy – read more ancient Greeks and a lot more Edward Said, a whole lot more of Said. They are good for the soul and got it all worked out. If everyone spent one hour a week doing this, the world would be much more prepared for this than it is now.

Notting Hill Carnival 2019 – I would have gotten out of bed at 7, arrive by 9 and put that big costume on offer to me to dance the day away. Still got to dance, but not in the band bc couldn’t get there due to overcrowding which also led to soundsystems being switched off early. Hot days in London…my carnival family which I miss so much.

It’s a tough time for everyone looking ahead from 2020.

May all your moments and wishes evolve into your reality.

Love to you all for a peaceful quiet Christmas and a kinder year ahead.