Dec 06, 2018 | By Quentin Humphrey
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After passing on a job writing for Seinfeld to pursue a career in music, James Murphy went on to co-found DFA Records – whose roster includes The Rapture, Hot Chip, Free Energy, YACHT and the recently retired and critically acclaimed band fronted by Murphy himself, LCD Soundsystem. LCD’s unwavering popularity in the UK has turned Murphy into a London tour guide of sorts; you know, the kind of tour guide with weird feet, espresso cravings and trousers for days.
The London Particular
399 New Cross Road SE14 6LA / 44 (0)20 8692 6149
Neighborhood: New Cross
When I’m in London, I normally stay in Hackney – meaning that before they built the Overground rail in the east, New Cross (or South London in general) was just not going to happen. Now, it takes 10 minutes to get there on a nice, aboveground train, so you can even text your idiot friends along the way. Basically, London Particular f**king rules and is worth the trip. It’s tiny – like absurd tiny – like, how do you stay in business tiny. But they have their own brilliant espresso roast (roasted by the same roasters as Her Majesty The Whatever) that is smoother and more “Italian” tasting than the Australian espresso sweeping across London. I would still go there even if all they did was sell me the beans and bags of the house-made granola.
11 Dray Walk E1 6QL / 44 (0)20 7375 2844
Neighborhood: Spitalfields/Brick Lane
Right near Rough Trade Records and just off Brick Lane is the place I go to stand in what passes for the sun in London, whilst I try on shoes that do not fit my weird, too-wide feet, and then buy a load of pants. Folk makes pretty simple men’s clothes with great materials and interesting cuts that make you feel like you have something nice and a little different, but do not make you feel like an asshole. That’s kind of a tightrope, and they walk it nicely, I think. I went into this store the other day and bought three pairs of pants. That should be a pretty good testimonial, right? Like, ‘I bought a bunch of pants at this place. Go there.’ Seems simple to me. Although there, they say ‘trousers.’ Pants are actually underwear over there. You say tomato, I say aubergine, etc. Be prepared to buy a lot of shoes if your feet are normal. And sweaters. Sweaters out the yin-yang.
49 Columbia Road E2 7RG / 44 (0)20 7729 5692
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You heard about Brawn, but screw you. All I’m saying is that the last time I was in London, everyone was falling all over themselves talking about the place, wanting to go there, couldn’t get a reservation, blah blah. So my friends and I just sort of wandered up out of curiosity. There weren’t any tables available, but we got to sit at the bar and have snacks and drinks from what I think is one of the best wine lists I’ve ever seen. It has all this f**king awesome natural French and Italian wine that I only typically get to drink at Verre Vole in Paris (or at, well, my friend’s house who is a sommelier…). The food is lovely, but I just wanted to pick things that went with the wines, which was easy. Puzelat by the glass, Mosse by the glass, everything made me happy. And you know it’s a good place when you nerd out hard enough that one of the dudes pouring you wine and his girlfriend wind up at your apartment getting wasted until 5 am on sh*t he took from the cellar. I think I passed out with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s that night. I guess you can take the man out of the States, but you can’t take the States out of the man…
32 Hanbury Street E1 6QR / 44 (0)20 7247 4735
Neighborhood: Spitalfields/Brick Lane
My most recent stay in London lasted ten days, and I ate here four times. It’s small and honest and serves very authentic, spicy-as-sh*t Sichuan food. The cucumbers in chili sauce is absurd. I wanted to punch it the face, but I was too busy ordering rice just to pour the sauce over. The front-of-house guy – who knows at least my face by now – gives great recommendations, including fair warnings about dishes he thinks your not-Chineseness can’t hang with. He was wrong, of course, and the “numbing” chicken wings he was worried I wouldn’t like are now my very favorite comfort food. So there, condescending Chinese man.
140 Shoreditch High Street E1 6JE / 44(0)20 7033 0500
Present has great clothes and books about street artists yadda yadda yadda, but I don’t give a sh*t. I have yet to buy a single clever wallet or a lumberjack tie. One of these days I’ll actually buy the Brooks leather bicycle handgrips, or maybe a mint candle by Kitsuné. But I go there almost every day to get the best espresso in London. In the front of the clothing section, at the till, sits a single espresso machine, a grinder and – on certain days – a world champion barista. Not kidding. £2 for a double espresso. I get the 6oz in my to-go cup and then happily trundle around doing London-y things like ride my Barclays bike to the Tube station or something.
The George & Vulture
63 Pitfield Street N1 6BU / 44 (0)20 7253 3988
I almost don’t want to mention this place because it’ll get ruined. It kind of sucks, actually. DO NOT get coffee there. I haven’t tried any of the food, so I can’t say anything about it. What I CAN say is that it’s smack in the middle of Shoreditch (read: Williamsburg), plays great music, has the perfect amount of beers on tap (including San Miguel!?) and isn’t overrun by horrifying bankers or hordes of nightmarish hipsters or worse: the combination of the two, drinking loudly in accord. It’s boring, the way I like a pub. It has awesome outdoor seating for a sunny day and you can people watch like you’re at Bar Italia. I just love that place, for no good reason. Is that a good recommendation? I kind of think so.
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