A proper guide to East London with Sef Kombo & Kitty Amor
You have 24 hours with the Afro-House duo. Spend them well.
What is the city but the people? Life has been on ice, but fear not, the end is in sight! Pubs are open and city spirit is back – just in time for the Great British Summer. THE FACE has teamed up with Beefeater, a gin which has encapsulated city culture since it began in London back in 1820. We’ll be finding and meeting the people breathing life into their cities, the contrasting mix of characters converging to celebrate and keep the city’s independent venues and drinking destinations alive – in spirit at least – until we meet again.
You don’t have to be born under the Hackney Bells to be a bona fide East Londoner. That’s the beauty of the capital’s most vibrant quadrant. It is characterised by its party bag of characters, who come from all corners to find a welcoming home amongst misfits and make their anything-goes contribution to the culture.
And so it goes that Sef Kombo and Kitty Amor, two born and raised South Londoners, will be honorary Eastenders til they die. Afrohouse ambassadors, with their Motherland parties they peddle a forward late-night sound that has found a spiritual home out East. “The party culture of East London is what brought us over here,” they explain. “The early house scene that created a strong buzz in East London is what resonated with both of us.” Motherland takes the sounds of South African house music and gives them a breeding ground and hub that is seeing a homegrown scene emerge around Hackney.
Times have been strange. We’ve been indoors, in our heads and in our trackies, for far too long. Afrohouse feels like a fitting soundtrack to our big comeback. Uplifting but made to fill dark corners, it sounds like the night out you’ve been dreaming about for the last 18 months.
So take a walk with Kombo and Amor. Dodge the chicken bones that litter the streets like confetti. And discover what 24-hours in the most hectic part of the world’s most hectic city looks like. South of the river might be having a moment, but East London has anything-could-happen late night abandon etched deep into its soul.
Arepa & Co
Hackney is as far as you can get from a riviera. But it does have a shit tonne of canals. And nothing says “staycation” like an afternoon spent canal-side in the sun. That is where this small Venezuelan hot spot comes into its own. Peddling their namesakes stuffed to bursting with plantain, avocado, cassava and shredded beef, it is the snack stop of choice for homesick Venezuelans and cockneys alike. Kombo and Amor head here for post-party brunch – cocktail self-medication included.
In East London more is more. Yeah, you’ll find the odd dabble in understated Nordic chic, but maximalism is its happy place. Which is why this Parisian hotel found a natural UK home in the hotch potch of the Hackney Road. Inside, the downstairs is dominated by an open-plan bar, restaurant and terrace area that draws non-staying locals for brunch, Sunday roast and late night cocktails. All amongst a cosy sea of clashing patterns, flavours and crowds.
East Londoners are well-versed in space saving techniques. Living in near-total squeezed-in harmony we co-exist by eking every last opportunity out of every last square metre. And so it makes perfect sense that this riverside community hub, with a focus on ethical and sustainable everything, has a floating stage that sits on the river outside. Come for al fresco cheap cocktails and housemade baba ganoush and watch local jazz acts jam as they bob.
Mare Street Market
This new addition to London Fields’ already-prolific offering of social spaces is designed for the indecisive. Under one stunning and chandelier-peppered roof you’ll find an open-plan cafe-bar that works for everything from WFH through to last-stop cocktails. There’s a nail bar; hair salon; record shop; coffee window; and antiques spot, where you can purchase and take home one of those oh-so-Instagrammable chandeliers all for yourself.
A Kombo and Amor fave, under the Shoreditch arches, this 700-capacity warehouse has played home to many major moments over the past 15 years. Its low ceiling, exposed brick and heart-of-the-East location make it the perfect backdrop to art shows and immersive theatre by day. But, like East London itself, it really comes into its own as night falls. Come for leftfield gigs and all-night raves.
Don’t be fooled by the verdant green exterior, this late night drinking den leaves wholesome at the door. Duck in from the 24/7 circus of Kingsland Road to a cosy, glowy, low-ceilinged hole that specialises in all manner of cocktails and dark corners. Soak up the stiff ones with tapas or a full afternoon tea if you fancy a little Marie Antoinette realness.