Neighbourhood Guide: Poplar

Neighbourhood Guide: Poplar

Waterside walks, community hubs and a clutch of major new projects on the horizon. This

dockside district is just getting started

To Do

Trinity Buoy Wharf has an unlikely claim to fame: it’s home to London’s first (and only) lighthouse. Climb to the top for a surprise musical installation, Longplayer, which will dutifully chime without repetition until 2999. Elsewhere this former industrial quarter reveals quirky shipping container studios and preserved Victorian warehouses. A ten minute walk takes you to the HQ of the English National Ballet, with its bright ground floor cafe open to all.

Poplar Union is home to an equally diverse bunch, so it’s little wonder this culture centre’s workshops and events run the gamut. Sign up for everything from line dancing and pilates to drama and soundbaths, or keep an eye out for hands-on sessions with local artists.

For something a little wilder, R-Urban is a one-of-a-kind city garden on a sliver of land at the back of a housing estate. This eco-minded community group is big on green skills, so there’s regular free sessions on veg growing and making preserves, as well as seed swaps, mini markets and summer harvests. In need of a culture fix? Everyman Canary Wharf is a far cry from the popcorn-strewn cinema of the past. Sink into sofas for two and summon drinks directly to your side table.

To Shop

The bright thoroughfare of Aberfeldy Street is the pride of Aberfeldy Village. Four years ago its tired pebbledash shop fronts were resuscitated with kaleidoscopic murals inspired by the Bangladeshi Kantha tradition of recycling textiles to create anew. Make a beeline for quirky independent The Tommy Flowers, a cherished community micropub that’s made a convincing case for its unusual model.

Nearby Chrisp Street Market, with its modernist Fifties clocktower, was Britain's first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area – and it’s still the place to pick up offbeat vegetables directly from the vendors. From here it’s a short hop to Canary Wharf for the best fashion offering outside Zone 1 (think everyone from Cos and Reiss to The Kooples and Paul Smith) and a capacious M&S Food Hall.

To Drink

Regulars say The Greenwich Pensioner is all the better for its recent revamp. Tucked away from the high street, this Grade II-listed Victorian boozer is closing in on its 200th birthday, so it would be rude not to stop in for a pint of craft beer or a roast of a Sunday. There’s a bijou beer garden out back if the picnic tables between the palm trees have been snagged.

The Lockdown Room is another reason to linger on the Leamouth Peninsula. Born out of the aforementioned hiatus four years ago, the friendly hub does a roaring trade in Mexican street food and old faithful cocktails. There’s an all-day vibe here, with industrial-feel interiors and live music if you’re lucky. Nearby Nebula, a Bethnal Green export, has the best terrace in town.

To Eat

E5 Poplar Bakehouse is technically a transplant – spot the postcode mismatch – but that matters little to pastry-loving locals. Queue up under the railway arch for best-in-class cinnamon buns and brunch plates, or sign up for a sourdough bread session to learn from the pros.

For heartier eats, the brilliantly-named Eastenders Pie & Mash is a local institution. Established in the Seventies, its succinct menu of east London classics puts pretentious caffs in the shade. Look out for the familiar green frontage on East India Dock Road. There’s more faithfully-named fare at The Pizza Room down the road. Here the dough is fermented for 72 hours and creative pairings like pear and gorgonzola tempt locals away from the classics. They’ll tell you the real trick is the compact Amalfi ovens, which wood-fire each pizza with precision.

To Wander

This is a neighbourhood peppered with pockets of green space, so there’s no mass influx to a single park at the first sign of sun. Poplar Recreation Ground might have the tennis and basketball courts, but for a formidable workout it’s got to be Langdon Park. This community space has an outdoor calisthenics gym built by Steel Warriors, who also put on free training sessions in the summer – no experience necessary.

Runners will recommend the Limehouse Cut, a straight-shoot canal path that connects the River Lea to the Thames. Wander past old warehouses, and spend the sunniest afternoons debating whether it’s finally time to do the whole house boat thing. Then there’s a decision: peel off for pretty Bartlett Park, or put your best foot forward and follow the water to Bow Creek Ecology Park, a peaceful green peninsula nestled within a loop of the River Lea.

How about another look?