Saturday, December 31, 2011

Haute Cuisine Spanish Style

Haute Cuisine Spanish Style
Executive summary by darmansjah
It is the dream of the world famous restauranteur and chef to earn the title of Michelin stars, a gastronomic guide which annually issue a list of the world's best restaurants and cafés. "Go to his list alone is an honor. Moreover, if we can gain a Michelin star! " said Lo Ostegaard, middle-aged women owners of the Royal Café, one of the leading restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark are included in the Michelin Guide, Traveler visited during early October. Although this year's Noma, typical Scandinavian restaurant with a modern twist in Copenhagen who get the title as best restaurant, but Spain was the one who dominates this prestigious list. Three of the world's ten best restaurants in Spain.

There are many reasons why Spain appeared dominant in this prestigious list. The country's geographical area directly adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar would make him rich supply of seafood. As one of the doors of trade, the State is to be crossing to and from the European traders. Spain also has a strong influence of the middle east, because in addition to its location adjacent to the Maghreb countries, as the territory was once ruled by the Moors during berates years. No wonder the Spanish cuisine is familiar with many spices such as saffron, curcuma, olive oil, and paprika powder which is almost always affixed at each meal. There are also garlic, wine, onion, vinegar and cloves to taste cuisine.

During a visit to the Moya restaurant located near the central business district Sudirman, Traveler met with the restaurant chef. He explained that the culinary Spain actually has some similarities with Indonesia. Chef explains that Spanish cuisine is also rich in herbs and spices such as paprika powder and saffron. "Some dishes are also influenced by Arab countries that are often used as a marinade curry," he said.

Although rice is very familiar in the tongue of the people of Spain, Chef karbonhidrat stressed that the mainsources in Spain is the bread. Do not be surprised if people make Spanish rice as a side bread, as well as the Indonesian people eat rice with potatoes. Common type of bread which is Tortilla. For sources of protein, many Spanish people eat seafood in addition to pork or ham. Gastronomy in Spain also has a diversityaccording to region, culture, and climate. The majority of Spanish society withcook using the oven. Severalothers were burned and fried.

Spain has a unique culinary tradition that included in the daily routine. Spanish society generally takes Churoos for breakfast. For lunch, they have a tradition of three times the menu or Menu Del Dia, consisting of appetizer, main course and dessert. In the afternoon, they do so Tapeo at the time dinner usually just eat a salad or yogurt.

There are some who are quite familiar ears Matador culinary offerings from the country's call it Tapas, afternoon snack used to be friends drinking beer or wine. Spanish society who tend to eat at the bar than cooking it yourself at home often invite co-workers or family to Tapeo, which means 'do-tapas' while sipping wine or beer sapnish Mao's brand of country that became a trademark. The Spaniards usually eat and drink beer, followed by wine.

Seafood usually combined with white wine, while the mixed food including Tapas usually served with red wine, "added Chef. Tapas itself is divided into two, namely hot and cold Tapas. Tapas can be cold with mayonnaise or salad of smoked salmon as a complement. While the hot tapas can be either chicken wings or potatos bravas. In every bar in Spain, Tapas can be eaten as a buffet or a la carte. Now in Spain is booming Tapas restaurant that serves as the main menu.

Other traditional dishes are also no less famous is the Paella (rice seasoned with seafood as side dishes), as well as some dishes are made ​​from legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and green beans. Spain has many traditional festivals often serve Tapas and Paella as typical snacks.

Almost every region has its own distinctive food. For example, Madrid is famous for its Cocido Madrileno or Madrid's Chickpea Stew consisting of beans, pork, morcilla, chorizo​​, and saffron. Granada with a dry climate is central to the production of the famous Serrano Ham. Meanwhile, Malaga is famous for its firtua malaguena, a series of small-sized fish that are served by frying.

Besides food, Spain is also famous for its citizens who are strong in alcohol drinking. Two types of the most consumed is beer and wine. In addition, there are drinks alcohol cider made ​​from apples. There are also some typical Spanish drinks are different in each season. In the summer many are sold orchata made ​​from beans with flavors such as soy bean milk. In this season too often there is Sangria, a mixture of wine, sugar, peach juice, orange, or pineapple. Bino Verano is a blended wine cooler with ice cubes. While in the winter, the Spaniards used to drink a local beer as body warmers.

This culinary riches spawned many creative talents that ultimately enrich the flavor and variety of typical Spanish food to be one of the world-class cuisine. Many people prefer the Spanish cuisine due to its unique flavor and presentation that continues to evolve from time to time. Still remember with Maria Santiago, the famous chef from Spain who died tragically at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore shortly after inauguratingnew restaurant? He is famous as the first origin of Catalan chef, one of the regions in Spain who won threestars from the Michelin Guide in 1994. Still there are Carme Ruscalleda of Catalan, the only female chef whototally won five Michelin stars of the two restaurants located in Sant Pol del Mar, Barcelona and Tokyo. Chefwho was elected to cook the wedding ceremony the Prince Philipe and Letizia Ortiz is famous for its seasonalfoods combined with natural materials typical Catalan. If and really serious gastronomic connoisseurs, San Sebastian, a small town in northern Spain which is located near the border with France is a mandatorydestination if you come to Spain. In the city of Bilbao close to this you can find three restaurants, each of which has three Michelin stars is Akellare, Arzak and Martin Berastagegui.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sensation celebrates Year End In Santa Claus

 bern city

Executive Summary By Darmansjah

End of the year is almost identical to the Christmas and New Year. At this time, there is no more appropriate thing to do, except to meet with the most popular Christmas characters: Santa Calus. Moreover there is no more appropriate place to meet with Santa Claus, except in the 'Village' it, Santa Claus Village, near the Arctic circle, the North Pole.

santa claus village

Old white-bearded figure clad in a long and thick red winter clothes were very familiar with the children. He was present at every Christmas to distribute gifts .. about where he lived, no one knows for sure. That said, she lived somewhere far away in the north - where he worked to prepare the toys and candy for children all over the world. Reportedly, Santa Claus lived at the foot of the mysterious mountain named Korvantunturi, Finnish language which means "Mountain Ear". So named because it was the place to listen to the dreams and hopes of all people of all ages and places. Then, about a hundred years ago, a passer admitted knowing the location of Mount Ears.


In order for the actual place of residence are kept confidential, but the people who love Christmas are also easy to see him, Santa Claus finally decided to regularly present at a location not far from the city of Rovaniemi, located in the northernmost province of Finland, ie Lapland. In a location that is near the Arctic circle there is the Santa Claus Village.

Since the turn of the millennium, Santa Claus Village's most spectacular tourist destinations in the Scandinavian region. Its popularity is also becoming famous given the number of visitors is increasing every year. The number of international visitors in particular increased up to fourfold in recent years.
To serve the travelers from Asia, TravelerGuidance.Blogspot since last year introduced the Tour Ronvaniemi Finland. Arguably, it turns out not everyone knows this site but TravelerGuidance.Blogspot still promoting it.


kakslauttane iglo village

By airplane, you will enter the North Pole region through the City of Rovaniemi. Once there, you immediately transfer to Saariselka to visit Kakslauttane igloo Village, a village famous for its houses and buildings made ​​of ice in winter. Weather permitting, and the opportunity to see the Ice Hotel (inn made ​​of ice) and Ice Pool (ice hole to swim), Ice Gallery (where the ice carving festival once a year for a week, and was attended by ice sculptors from around the world, the results exhibited this Gallery on ice),Ice Bar (made of ice). You are also invited to visit the Glass City, traditional buildings are made ​​of glass, so that visitors can enjoy the beauty of the sky and nature around Lapland. Weather permitting, and also there is a chance to see the Aurora Borealis (the manifestation of the light that shines in the Arctic).

 Ice Hotel

Ice Pool

Ice Gallery

Ice Bar 


The next morning, you will also be invited to try Reindeer Sledge Riding (trains drawn by reindeer) and invited to the Reindeer breeding (long-horned deer specifically to draw the sledge). The journey continues to the city of Rovaniemi, the modern city and provincial capital of Lapland in Finland which is almost adjacent to the north pole.
Reindeer Sledge Riding 

Dog Sledge Ride 
Travel and a very memorable experience you will experience here. You are invited to tour the city of Rovaniemi. Next, you will be invited to visit the Husky Dog Farm to see the breeding of huskies from Siberia and try Dog Sledge Ride (carriage drawn by a special dog snow fields) is exciting. Then visit and enjoy the beauty of the Santa Claus Village, where you can see the workspace of Santa Claus, his post office is busy serving the children's letters from around the world, souvernir stores, or you can send a stamped postcard special Santa Claus Village to be sent to relatives-families. Besides the activities mentioned above, you will also receive a certificate as proof ever set foot in the Arctic. Intrigued with fun celebrating his final year at Santa Claus Village?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rails and Thais

 All Board Last call for passengers as the Easter & Oriental Express prepares to roll out of Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Station
Executive summary by darmansjah

Under a vaulted iron roof on a steamy

 Wood-paneled compartments like this State Cabin are designed to evoke the golden age of train travel

February afternoon, Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station seethes with commuters and travelers bound for the far corners of the kingdom. Porters push through the milling crowds behind trolleys piled high with bags and baskets and boxes. Bored kieds chase each other around the concouse floor. There are ocher-robed monks with placid expressions, and harried ticket sellers struggling to explain the train schedules to a legion of backpackers. Departure announcements blare though loudspeakers. And high above the commotions is a gilt-framed portrait of King Chulangkorn, the Siamese monarch who presided over the creation of Thailand’s railway. Llking dapeer in a bemedaled parade jacket, plumed cavalry helmet in hand, Chulangkorn died the same year this station was commissioned-1910-but his partiality for European architecture live s on in the aging building’s Neoclassical pilasters and stained-glass windows.

The main temple at Phimai, an Angkor-era complex dating from the 11thcentury., when this part of Thailand was part of The Khmer Empire

Following my escort onto the sweltering platforms, I can only imagine what the king would have made of modern Bangkok’s high-rise sprawl. Awaiting me, however, is an island of old-world calm where I suspect he would have felt right at home. The Easter & Oriental Express, Southeast Asia’s only luxury train, sits on the tracks ahead, a line of gleaming green-and-beige carriages whose aura of anachronistic elegance channels a slower, more gracious era of travel.

 taking in the vies from E&O's teak-planed observation car.

Ensuring that my journey gets off to a civilized start, I’m met at the steps to my carriage by a Thai steward named Mon. Uniformed in a green silk vest that matches the train’s livery, he shows me to my compartment, where a garland of jasmine has been placed on the foldout table.

staff prepping for dinnertime service in one of the E&O's wood-paneled dining cars.

“You must be very comfortable here,” Mon says with a wai. Glancing around the wood-paneled cabin, with its brasss fitting and handsome, hand-cut marquetry, I’m sure he’s right. But when Mon turns to leave and I ask for my key, he shakes his head. “No need, Khun Christopher. You can leave your door unlocked. We are a very safe train.” How’s that for civilized?

the train's small galley produces some big flavors including this halibut with baby bok choy

Hauled by a Thai Railways locomotive, the E&O’s 17 carriages stretch back almost half a kilometer. Perhaps because I’m a relatively spry 44-year-old-most of the other passengers are older couples from Europe or the U.S.-my allotted berth is toward the head of the link. This makes for along walk to the dining cars and the library, where a residence  palmist is on hand to decipher our destinies. Bringing up the rear of the train is the observation car, an open carriage finished in varnished Burmese teak that quickly becomes my favorite roost. When the train is moving, getting here involves staggering inelegantly down corridors barely wider than my shoulders. It’s worth the effort. As Agatha Christie once wrote, “To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers, in fact, to see life.”Only in the observation car, embraced by sultry tropical air and the oily odor of the tracks, do I feel this connection so intimately.

Not that there’s all that much to observe as the train rumbles out Bangkok’s sprawling suburbs. But soon enough we’re in the countryside, sipping drinks from the adjoining bar as the lowering sun casts its slanting light on rice paddies and palm groves. At one point, the train rolls onto a long causeway cutting across a lake. To everyone’s surprise, it judders to a halt halfway across the water. “Have we broken down?” someone whispers. An attendant quickly explains that this stop is for our viewing pleasure. The Pa Sak Cholasit, he explains, is central Thailand’s largest reservoir. It’s also quite scenic. We watch as fishermen in little wooden canoes work their nets along its forested shoreline.

 Pa Sak Cholasit is central Thailand's largest reservoir

Back in my compartment, I gussy my self up for cocktail hour and dinner. This proves harder than I would have expected. My small en suite bathroom is serviceable, but I struggle to wedge my nearly two meter frame into the shower stall. Shaving on a moving train offers unscathed in time for second rounds. Perhaps half of the train’s 60 passengers are already there, which makes for a tight squeeze. But it’s an elegant assembly: the gentlemen are in suits or blazers, the ladies in evening dresses and pearls. I even spot a few tuxedos.

A gregarious Singaporean pianist with the unlikely name of Peter Consigliere bangs out jazz standards as bar stewards ply guests with aperitifs. The mood is convivial, and I soon learn that several of my fellow passengers are repeat guests. None have been on this route before-Easter & Oriental only launched its annual three-night return trip between Bangkok and Vientiane in 2008. but at least two couples recount how they’ve done the train’s classic Singapore-Bangkok journey, while a Singaporean gentlemen tells me he’s ridden the E&O into the hills of Chiang Mai. They’re ecstatic to back on board.

When dinner is announced, we file through to pre-assigned tables in one of two restaurant cars. Like the compartments, these are decorated in an opulent Oriental Modern style, with rose-shaped glass lampshades, embroidered valances, silk curtains, and more of that inlaid paneling. (I later learn that the look was inspired by the 1932 Marlene Dietrich film Shanghai Express, while the rolling stock itself was built in the 1970s for service in New Zealand, before being remodeled an re gauged for its present occupation.)

My dining companions that night are an English retiree named Roy and his wife Anne. They turn out to be luxury-train buffs. Roy tells me they’ve ridden South Africa’s Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town (“Rather monotonous, all that veld”) and the E&O European sister, the Venice-Simplon Orient-Express, from London to Vienna (“Not nearly as splendid as this”). When our first course arrives-salmon with papaya salad on eggplant caviar-Roy sighs with pleasure, and does so again with each serving: crispy pla rad prik (fish in chili sauce); honeyed duck breast with Chinese pear and pine nuts; caramel mousse. I’m not sure how the kitchen staff manage it in their cramped galley, but the food is as elegantly plated as it is delicious. The only thing marring the meal is that we’re now being shunted onto another track, and the movement threatens to overturn our wine glasses. But Roy, veteran train traveler that he is, has a ready answer for that. “Bottoms up!” he says, downing a mouthful of Chilean Syrah.

Khorat Pateau

In the mauve light of dawn, we roll across the Khorat Pateau, passing through ragged forest and rice fields alternatively heavy with grain or freshly burned off. When we ease into the railway halt at Hin Dat, Mon knocks at my door to clear away my breakfast tray and announce our first excursion. “The ruins of Phimai! Very old, sir.”

On the bus ride to the site, an enthusiastic Thai guide regales us over microphones with stories about ancient Phimai, which was built as an outpost of the Khmer Empire in the 11th  century. As we pass through the dusty market town that now surrounds it. She pints out the window to the crumbled remains of old walls that suggest a great city once stood here. The temple complex itself, however, is in remarkably  good shape, having been reconstructed in the 1960s by Thailand’s Fine Arts Department. It may not be Angkor Wat, but it’s of a similar style, with arched gapura gateways, cloistered libraires and pavilions, and a central temple with a 28-meter-high sand-stone prang (tower), all of ti covered in intricate carving.

Khao Yai National Park

After lunch back on the rain, we follow the rails to the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park, the kindom’s oldest reserve. Here, our program promises “a delightful afternoon touring the vineyards and sampling the nes latitude vines. “However unlikely a pairng Khmer ruins and Thai rose may sound for a day’s adventure, it proves an agreeable outing. We drive into the hills to GranMonte Estate, where Nikkli Lohitnavy, Thailand’s first female enologist, shows us around a vineyard planted with Chenin Blanc, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. We then take seats on a tree-shaded restaurant terrace for a tasting. “Tres jeune, tres jeune,” says a Frenchman at my table of the admittedly young Sakuna Rose, named for Lohitnavy’s mother; but as we sample our way through the rest of the estate’s wines, we’re soon toasting Khao Yai as the highlight of the journey thus  far.

granmonte estate

The trip’s most anticipated moment comes the next day, when the train rattles across the Mekong River. The Friendship Bridge, a piered span connecting Thailand to Laos, only opened to rail traffic in 2009, and this marks the second time the E&O has crossed it. That might explain the enthusiasm with which we’re greeted at Thanaleng Station, three kilometers inside the border, and the only train station in Laois (apart from Bhutan and East Timor, Laos is, excepting this spur, the only country in Asia without a railway). After being garlanded in flowers and treated to a traditional dance performance, we climb on a bus emblazoned with a Day-Glo depiction of Gasnesha for the hour-long drive into Vientiane.

haw prat kaew

Small and on the scruffy side, the Lao capital nertheless has plenty to see. We stopat and old French villa now run as a textile workshop and showroom by American weaver Carol Cassidy, who works with a collective of artisans to produce beautiful silk scarves and brocades. We tour the great stupa of That Luang, a national landmark whose golden surface blazes like flame under the midday sun. And we linger over the Buddhist statuary enshrined at Haw Phar Kaew, a former royal temple that today serves as a museum. There’s even an hour of free time to wander unchaperoned through the shop house-lined streets of downtown. I spend it sitting on the riverside promenade, gazing out at the Mekong. It’s dry season, and the water is low-so low that I fancy I could wade back to Thailand.

Instead, I re board the E&O with everyone else, and cross the river in civilized fashion as the evening gathers. It’s only when I wander to the end of the train that it occurs to me that we’re moving in reverse-a grunting yellow locomotive is now hooked to the observation car. Apart from obstructing the views, this strikes me a rather ignominious way to return to Bangkok, tail-first. But back in the bar car, Peter the pianist has struck up another song. As the cocktails start flowing, no one gives a second thought to which way we’re pointing. We’re riding the rails again, and that’s all that really matters.

The next edition of Eastern & Oriental’s “Tales of Laos” journey will depart Bangkok on January 19, 2012. the three-night trip is priced at US$3,280 per person for State Cabin accommodation, all-inclusive, including two nights’ stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. For more information about this and other E&O itineraries, visit

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

London’s New East End

Forget what you think you know about the British Capital’s eastern precincts; from shoreditch to Stratford, once-neglected neighborhoods are being reinvigorated by a talented cast of hoteliers, chefs, designers, and artist, by Daven wu, executive summary by darmansjah

Town Hall Hotel London

 holding up the bar at Pizza East a sprawling industrial-style pizzeria in Shoreditch cardigan

“My office is in shoreditch, the nearest tube stop is Old street. Do you know how to ge here?” the magazine editor asks me over the phone.

Breezily, I say yes, click off my mobile phone, and panic.

I don’t dare tell him that I’ve never heard of Shoreditch, much less know how to get there. Not even a look at the map helps, other than to clarify that it’s in London’s proverbial East End-which only makes things worse. Because, here, courtesy of my mother’s addiction to the long-running British soap opera East Enders, rise unbidden images of gritty council flats badly decorated pubs filled with people who drop their h’s when speaking, and generally rough Cockney neighborhood. If ever you needed a reification of grit and seediness, it’s the East End
outside kitchenware shop labour and wait

Three years ago, I moved from Singapore to London, and settled into Hampstead, a leafy, upper-middle-class suburb filled with expensively renovated Georgian houses and gentle old Jewish ladies with the plumiest English accents this side of Oscar Wilde. I fell easily in love with the village vibe, especially its high street, along which 19th-century brownstone facades are filed with bakeries and little book shops. Working from home, I rarely need-or want-to venture out of Hampstead, and if I do, I rarely go far.

Until the summons to Shoreditch.

The old Street Tube station is a messy underground warren of greasy spoons and homeless panhandlers. Though just six stops from Hampstead, it might as well as another world: before me, accompanied by a cacophony of rumbling trucks and drills, was a grimy tableau of giant signboards, a traffic-choked roundabout, and poorly designed buildings from the 1970s mixing it up with run-down Victorian blocks.

After my appointment at the magazine, I wander down Commercial Road, which looks exactly the way it sounds a gray, asphalted gauntlet of kebab shops and hardware stores filled with trucks, black cabs, and exhaust-spewing vans. A friend has suggested I visit one of its tributaries, Red church Street. “It’s so cutting-edge London, it’s practically bleedin’!” he says.

And so it is. The transition from the main road is sudden, like stepping through the wardrobe into Narina. Before me now, Red church Street is arrestingly quiet and lined with bijou boutiques filled with interesting clothes, antiques, and knickknacks that wouldn’t look out of place in a Scandinavian living room. A pretty girls who looks like she’s steeped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement pedals by on a bicyle. I walk on, drawn deeper into the neighborhood.

Officially, the East End comprises the hamlets to the east of the City-London’s moniker for tis central business district-and north of the River Thames: Spitafields, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Hackney, White chapel, Mile End, and Hoxton. But the boundaries are elastic and, depending on who you talk to, can stretch as far east as Stratford, which is being gussied up for the 2012 Olympics.

The signs of gentrification are clearly marked, not least by the shoals of thin, perfectly coiffed young men-invariably dressed in the kind of casual smart jeans and cardigans championed by Commes des Garcons and Tom Ford-you keep bumping into at every grimy brick-walled corner.

The shop windows with their quirky, obviously limited edition items are equally distracting. I pass by the White cube and White chapel galleries, two small but influential art spaces that hunt down avant-garde work by both established artists and tyros on the cusp of breaking through.
sweet temptations at a pastry shop on columbia road

I quickly note that the area’s ancient trade in textiles and clothing continues to flourish. A peek inside a timber-paneled nook on Red church Street called Hostem reveals the most au courant men’s street wear-labels include Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester-sold by young, languid salesmen with much better dress sense than I can ever aspire to. Then there are the right-on-trend British-designed duds at Folk, and Labor & Wait’s lovely kitchenware. And at LN-CC on Shacklewell Lane, I discover a 560-square-meterunderground gem that looks like a Blalde Runner set; racks are stocked with cult labels Wacko Maria Aloha and Sasquatch, while an adjoining bookshop, record store, café, and photographic studio ramp up the cool-quotient.

As I hurry along the narrow sidewalks, dodging guys with artfully trimmed beards in checked shirts and skinny jeans, and fresh-faced mod-els lugging their portfolios to a casting, I sniff the air and detect a frisson of expectation, of something unexplored and new. I inhale deeper and then, I identify it. It’s the scent of potential.

It turns out I’m not that far off.

“The East End is a lovely pocket of creativity in an otherwise horrible city,” says David McCulloch, the managing director of a digital creative agency who moved to the area four years ago for friends, culture, and cheap rent. It’s a sentiment that’s often repeated by the locals I speak to.

“There are good people here, good energy, a slight element  of danger, and it’s not pompous,” says  educator and artist Daniel Hirshmann, an East End resident for five years now. “This is as edgy and creative as it gets in London.”

Charles Yap, an old friend of mine from Singapore, is equal, enthusiastic. “ I live In the west and play in the east. I spend my weekends trawling through the shops and street stalls in Spitalfields before ending with a late lunch in, say, Smithfield.” Among his favorite haunts is Columbia Road, a normally grimy streets that on Sundays transforms itself into a riot of colors and scents for one of London’s most famous flower markets.
the bar at Town Hall Hotel

The creative energy that seems to be the East End’s by word has long been part of its DNS. In fact, the entire area is an ancient hotbed for displaced talent. In the Middle Ages, it was home to brewers , bleachers, and vinegar makers whose noxious-fumed trades were banned beyond the City walls. In the 17th century, a wave of immigrants arrived from mainland Europe. First came the French Huguenots, who set up home in Spitalfields and quickly established a thriving silk-weaving industry. Then came a diaspora of Ashkenazi Jews, Irish, and enterprising Eastern European furriers in the late 1800s, followed by Bengalis in the wake of India’s 1947 Partition. Each successive wave settled in and added to layers of customs and the kind of of work ethic and can-do entrepreneurship that I smelled in the air.
in the modern dickensian suite at the boundary hotel

The silk workshops and tanneries are all gone now, of course. In their place are boutique advertising and design agencies, coffee joints, and small but tastefully decorated apartments rented by young creative types. On the streets and in the pubs mingle a motley crew of rich art dealers, struggling designers, up-and-coming photographers, ad execs, PR maven, and students who’ve swapped the comforts of the parental home for cramped flat-shares and a slice of cultural and social emancipation. The mind-set, though, remains unchanged by the centuries. In this sprawling commune of freewheeling spirits, every one is equal and free to create whatever new identity they choose.

And there’s not a Starbucks in sight.

“I feel a real sense of community, support, and inspiration here,” says Hackney resident Bethany Koby, the design director at brand consultancy Wof Olins. “We know the farmers that grow our food and sell it at our local market. We are friends with the local Turkish grocer and his family whom we buy our milk from. I also feel this is the place I want to open up my own business and storefront. The energy is here, the people are hungry to make and do more, and there is still real diversity.”
on redchurch street

“I don’t doubt it for a moment. To enter Brick Lane, at the heart of London’s Bengali community, is to experience an immediate dislocation. Wandering down this stretch of cardamom-scented curry houses and family-run grocery stores stacked high with cares of tiny brinjals and mangoes, it’s impossible to imagine that just a 10-minute walk away are Savile Row-suited bankers, the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Norman Foster’s gleaming architectural landmark, the Gherkin.

The dislocation is especially jarring at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Singaporean hotelier Loh Lik Peng’s 20 million pound (about US$31 million) renovation of the former town hall-a baroque Edwardian pile built in 1910 that for decades slumbered in derelict splendor-strikes a perfect balance of white marble, stained-glass windows, polished teak,  21st-century mod cons, and vintage Scandinavian furniture. Until just a few yars ago, this area was shunned for its rough-and-ready working-class credentials. These days, hipsters throng up the steps to dine at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Viajante, a light-filled dining room of blond wood and pastel shades where chef Nuno Mendes presides over a gutsy, post-El Bulli menu.

And only a few blocks away is Bistroteque, an unmarked restaurant in an unremarkable building. But it’s worth seeking out. Tucked away in a nondescript side street, this intimate, raw industrial space serves mod-Brit food upstairs while mixing up fierce cocktails in the downstairs bar.

A few days later, I’m back in the area, this time to visit Dennis Severs’s House. Right in the heart of the old city, the late artist styled his Georgian terrace house like a living stage set so that it looks, feels, and even smells as if the fictitious family of Huguenot silk weavers living in that home had just stepped out for a moment, which explains the half-eaten meal at the dining table, the unmade beds, and even the dog-eared open book on the desk. It’s the sort of contrasting mise-en-scene that’s just so typical of the East End.

And while the pace of gentrification from working class to business class is startling, hotelier Loh is unequivocal about the area’s enduring appeal. “The East End hasn’t changed much since the Town Hall opened, and I don’t expect it to change that much for the foreseeable future. It is always going to be edgy and vibrant and appeal to an alternative crowd that’s genuinely creative and adventurous.”

For Bethany Koby, a places as distinctive and unique as the East End is vital to London. The difficulty is maintaining the tension between keeping a little of the area’s roughness and acknowledging that economic drivers have changed, forever, the very shabby edge that drew people like her here in the first place. But like Loh, Koby is positive about the future, though she adds, “I just hope that as more people move in and prices go up, we won’t  lose too much of the edge or entrepreneurial spirit.”

In recent years, the new immigrants to the area have come from Hampstead, Chelsea, and the like: young public-schooled graduates from London’s cozy upper-middle-class enclaves convinced, a decade too late perhaps, that they’ll be just in time to witness London’s rebirth.

I have lunch with my friend Sascha Leong, an interior architect who works in Shoreditch. “It was close to galleries that hosted interesting events. It had great clubs, bars, art, and culture. All my friends were here and the rent was cheap. Now the rents have all gone up.”

After lunch, we zip through an outré exhibition of paintings of female genitalia at the White Cube Gallery, whose opening in 2000 kicked off the gentrification of Hoxton. “There are a lot of expensive restaurants now, and a lot more annoying, trendy students living here,” Sascha sniffs, adding in a penetrating tone as I scribble furiously in my notebook, “And there are more tourist because of too many write-ups in travel magazines.”

But that’s the trouble with gentrification. Sooner or later, people hear about it. And they’ll come and have a look. Sometimes they stay. And sometimes, like me, they go home to their leafy suburbs, a little bemused by the experience and more than a little charmed by the East End’s grit and undeniable ghetto glamour.

Where to stay

Town Hall Hotel 8 Patriot Square; 44 20/7871-0460;; doubles from US$310

Boundary, Owned by Terence Conran, this 17-room boutique property boasts a popular rooftop bar and a terrific all-white bistro on the ground floor that serves modern takes on British classics. 2-4 Boundary St; 44-20/7729-1051;; doubles from US$248
 boundary roof top garden

Where to Eat

Bistroteque. 23-27 Wadeson St; 44-20/8983-7900

Pizza East. Owned by Nick Jones of Soho House, this place heaves with creative mavens and artist hankering for a slice of pizza topped with girolles and cream, and crispy pork belly from the wood-fired oeven. 59 Shoreditch High St : 44-20/7729-1888

Viajante. Town Hall Hotel; 44-20/7871-0461

Where to Shop

Columbia Road Flower Market. On Sundays, make you way to this legendary flower market for tis exuberant bursts of seasonal flowers and quaint antique shops.

Folk. 11 Dray Walk; 44-20/7375-2844

Hostem. 41 Redchurch St; 44-20/7739-9733

Labour and Wait. 85 Redchurch St; 44-20/7729-6253

LN-CC. 18-24 Shacklewell Lane; 44-20/3174-0736

Vintage Emporium. Stop by here for a sensational collection of fur stoles, opera hats, and 1940s heels. 14 Bacon St : 44-20/7739-0799

What to See

Dennis Severs House. For a fascinating glimpse into London life in the 18th century. 18 Folgate St: 44-20/7247-4013;

Whitechapel Gallery 77-82 White Chapel High St; 44-20/7522-7888;

White Cube Gallery 48 Hoxton Square; 44-20/7930-5373;