London's Iron Curtain

posted on: Thursday, 20 June 2013

West side story: outside Granger & Co in Notting Hill

The quinoa falafel starter at Granger & Co

East side: Inside Pizza East in Shoreditch

Pizza East's huge dining banquettes

Salami and chilli was a winner at Pizza East

When Winston Churchill famously proclaimed that an 'Iron Curtain' had descended on Europe - such was the divide between Communist Eastern Europe and democratic Western Europe - he would not have guessed how aptly it would describe modern day London.

The east and west divide is so pronounced in London that you could be living in different countries. It's not just the considerable time it takes to get from one side of the city to the other, but also the opposing sensibilities of each side.

If you're living East in Hackney, Bethnal Green or Shoreditch and decide to travel West to Notting Hill, Kensington or Westbourne Grove for dinner: you're going to need to change.

Swap your rolled-up jeans, flannelette shirt, beanie and nikes for a tailored blazer, leather handbag and glossy hair. And don't even think about coming East into the hipster heartland unless you muss up your hair, throw on a beat-up leather jacket and swap the BMW for a bike.

Coincidentally, my top picks for a dinner out in East and West London both reference their side in their name.

Pizza East in Shoreditch is a study in cool. The huge interior is all exposed beams, industrial fittings and distressed hardwood floors. Along with the pared back, but good quality pizzas - I had the salami with chilli - it's a great place to be seen and to meet with a large group.

On the other side of town, Granger & Co on Westbourne Grove is all about understated affluence. From the polished light wood interiors to the staff in light blue linen shirts and classic jeans, it speaks of fresh, refined quality. I started with the super light quinoa falafel with nigella seeds and tahini, followed by the yellow fish curry with jasmine rice. There was also crisp white wine and later, fresh mint tea.

While both sides offer stellar options in their particular brand of dining, I'm yet to choose a definitive side. I wonder where Winston's London loyalties would lie?

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