A friend pointed out the massive impropriety of there now being a Prada outlet in Stratford East, but I’m not surprised. The rebirth of the East End is unavoidable now that the Olympics are set there (Another etiquette note for Olympic visitors – go for a walk around Bethnal Green, preferably in February in the rain, and decide if you still like London). Indeed, there are pockets starting to look as glitzy as Russian nightclubs.
After bars like Loungelover changed Shoreditch, Bethnal Green Town Hall is now the home of an El Bulli chef, who runs the restaurant ‘Viajante’, where style-conscious gastronauts sip frozen marzipan with celery and lime, in probably the most unlikely high-end dining spot ever to be plonked down in the an area where the social workers still hand out mismatched shoes to alcoholics. Hoxton’s cool has slowed down a bit, but the ripple effect of art galleries, organic bakeries and hipster bars is hitting the unlikeliest spots.
The proliferation of Westfields and other shiny new shopping malls also points to a taming of the Wild East, with the new Indian communities seeking to raise their family status and not a loveable Cockney in sight. Yet it’s surprising that most books and films set between Whitechapel and Bermondsey are still obsessed with the kind of wide-boy gunsters who moved out to Essex long ago. Nowadays the new Town Hall Hotel in the East End has its own roaming tea lady who serves martinis.
Plan B is one of the few artists upgrading the stereotypes (although he writes about Forest Gate), but the chances of hearing the Viz character Cockney Wanker anywhere within the sound of Bow Bells has long gone.