Central Leytonstone

This guide is lovingly written by the area’s popular long-running online title Leytonstoner.

Did you know that Leytonstone tube station is home to a unique outdoor art gallery? If you pause in the subway, you can admire the sixteen intricately detailed mosaics – composed of 80,000 tiny tiles – dedicated to legendary local film director Alfred Hitchcock. Commissioned in 1999 to mark the centenary of his birth, look out for scenes from his best-loved films including Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest.

When you emerge from the tunnel, there’s another local landmark, Independent Buildings. Once the site of a Victorian post office, and later a cinema, this deco building dates back to 1934, a parade that’s also home to Central Estates’ new office. Follow the curve of Church Lane to historic St John’s Church, which has dominated Leytonstone for nearly two hundred years. It’s easy to overlook the churchyard itself, a surprisingly bucolic retreat in the town centre: follow its short trail for illuminating local stories in a succession of fascinating plaques, from the tale of two yew trees to the landmine that fell in the Second World War.

This part of E11 is its beating heart. Break for coffee in the leafy pocket park outside Wild Goose Bakery (also a useful pit-stop for zero-waste refills), or in busy brunch haunt San Marino. Moments away is the Gothic splendour of the Red Lion pub, which dates back to 1891 – although this corner site has actually been a pub since 1670. There’s a secret walled beer garden, quirky rough-luxe interior, boutique hotel and even a renowned ballroom: look out for one-off gigs, DJ nights, parties and shows. And speaking of boozers, this patch is very well-served: work your way up the High Road to vegan-focused cocktails ‘n’ craft beer haunt The Birds, named after – you guessed – one of Hitchcock’s most famous films. Five minutes’ further is sleepy Bushwood village, with its rows of 19th century cottages and picture-postcard pub The North Star (where, incidentally, the wood-fired pizza is as good as the Thai menu). And ten minutes’ amble further north is the imposing Sir Alfred Hitchcock pub itself, overlooking Leyton Flats, whose glam Rear Window cocktail bar and restaurant was taken over last year by a team formerly at The Ivy.

Some culture, perhaps? Independent not-for-profit gallery Stone Space, which opened in 2011, hosts monthly changing exhibitions on Church Lane; next door is Grade II-listed 1930s Library, the hub of regular community events, its ground floor a useful free co-workspace for those bored of wfh. Directly opposite is artist Russell Frost’s letterpress gallery-store Hooksmith, whose idiosyncratic artworks celebrate the uniqueness of the neighbourhood and East London. And for something rowdier, Luna Lounge is the go-to for free gigs, late libations and open mic, with live music every evening, plus craft beer on tap courtesy of hip King’s Cross brewery Two Tribes. Nearby is the lesser-known Ex-Serviceman’s Club, a members-only space that’s also open to everyone for its regulars live music and cabaret shows. Hungry? A wealth of eating options reflects the diversity of the area: it’s hard to pick between vegan curryhouse SpiceBox, contemporary Turkish grill The Olive (whose terrace is a real sun-trap), tagines at Marrakech Delight, chic Italian Bocca Bocca, East London pizza dons Yard Sale, new Hong Kong kitchen Aquila, and BYOB dim sum specialists Panda. And, speaking of food and drink, three essential stores for groceries on the High Road are Stone Mini Market, which sells all manner of organic produce, craft beers and refills –with a beer garden out back – the Continental Food Exchange, whose wide aisles are piled with towering displays of fruit and veg, and the highly knowledgeable Theatre Of Wine, our top pick to buy a decent bottle in the area.

Need to work it off? Yep, us too, In this part of town you can exercise mind and body, whether it’s yoga, pilates or kickboxing at the new Fitness Hub East London, or a good old-fashioned workout at Pure Gym.