Take a stroll in Shoreditch, the creative hotbed of London

Above and beyond its reputation as a hip neighborhood full of artists and startup founders, London’s Shoreditch neighborhood has also become a thriving center for the advertising business in recent years. For those looking to get to know the area and soak up some of the creative culture, the typical tour guide might not cut it. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

Poke’s founding partner Nick Farnhill’s has seen the area develop from what used to be a run-down part of the city when his agency moved in nine years ago. As such, he’s got a lot of insight into the best hangouts and businesses to visit. So whether you’re an out-of-work creative director looking to bump into the potential employers or a marketer looking to expand your portfolio of suppliers, here’s his guide to the area.

What makes Shoreditch worth a visit?
Shoreditch is becoming more and more of a destination because of its variety of businesses. Agencies, star-ups, architects, tech shops, production, fashion, printers and model-makers are all here. There’s a concentrated community of creative technologists who operate here, but what sets the area apart is the way it celebrates difference — business, entertainment, fashion and community projects are all encouraged, supported and accepted.

How did it get so diverse?
The London Borough of Hackney has an entrepreneurial band of merrymakers within the Council Regeneration Team who work tirelessly to bring the business community closer together and encourage partnerships. Projects like Hackney House and BL-NK have both encouraged inward investment into the area. Then there are independent projects like 
Space Studios, which gives artists affordable places to base themselves and not be pushed out. The area has a progressive business community working well together, things to do things that wouldn’t normally be possible.

Who are the people who make up that community?
From an advertising standpoint, there’s Mother, W+K London, DigitasLBi, Creature, Hometown and UsTwo, as well as startups like Moo, Protein, Berg and Surgu amongst others.

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Any regular meetups?
The long-established MiniBar throws a regular Friday-night session. BL-NK offers its space for weekly meetups, including dotdotdot from Shane and the team at onedotzero. There’s also Richard Fearn’s Friday Sessions, where the good, bad and the ugly of startups meet the good, the bad and the ugly of marketers.

Where do you get your best brainstorming done?
The team at Central Working have created something very good as a co-working environment. Based next door to Google Campus, the café area downstairs seems to be a breeding ground for new ventures and schemes. I also like the upstairs dining room of The English Restaurant in Spitalfields. If there’s a few of you just wanting to get out of office, this is a perfect place to hide, with no reservation needed, just keep on ordering coffees and sandwiches. Temporary galleries come and go with a high frequency, and the hotel space is filling up: The Ace has done well to establish a lobby scene, and Citizen M and Gansevoort are opening up soon too.

Best coffee in the area?
For fancy coffee go to AllPress, New Zealand’s finest on Redchurch Street. For no frills coffee, try The Doughnut Hatch at Bird – £1 filter coffees and doughnuts while they last.

And lunch?
Rochelle Canteen is a lunch-only place and a real favorite of mine. It’s run by Margot Henderson – wife of Fergus who runs the another great restaurant called St.John. The experience is easily comparable to St. John. It’s great British food in an elegantly understated venue. I’ve also had some personal involvement in the launch of Bird, a fried-chicken shop at the bottom of Kingsland Road. The chicken and waffle burger is a lunch win!

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golden heartAnd after work? Where do you go for a pint?
I like the Golden Heart opposite Spitalfields a lot, but often get into trouble for recommending it as the no-nonsense landlady can sometimes be a little much for some. I just like seeing her deal with the Hoxtonite buffoonism from time to time. But if we’re talking about “best pubs in the world,” I have to throw in the Southampton Arms in Kentish Town, which is not that far from Shoreditch. Also, like any self-respecting hipster- and artisan-branded area, Hackney has its own craft breweries too — try Crate brewery or Five Points Brewing.

And if the weather is nice?
It’s not green as such, but Arnold Circus has a certain rural charm to it. Dog shows, midnight picnics, leaf clearing and bark spreading all end up as big local events.

Any celeb sightings?
I spotted DJ and producer Andy Weatherall next to the Leyland trade store last week.

For more ideas on places to meet (or avoid) the working stiffs of London’s ad industry, agency Red Brick road assembled this map. Click on the agency to find out where they’re likely to be seen drinking.

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