In a city where the foxes are asleep during the daytime, location unknown, before they scatter into the night; buses wait at the stops in order to change the driver, even out the traffic; pubs take the last food orders around 10:00 p.m., drinks at 11:00 p.m. on a Friday night; cats do not meow, dogs don’t bark, cars rarely toot and people seldom yell, the streets of Dalston are lively, cacophonous, relentless.
Ridley Road Market is in a rush. The food vendors are setting the price tags. Avocados are £1.5 for 2, and 6 lemons are worth the same price. Mustaf is wrapping up the falafels for those who crave them in the morning, the horde starts gathering around the stalls, and shopping trolleys are filled with green, orange and red vegetables. "Why there is no blue food?", one wonders. No, the eggplants are purple and even though they are called blueberries, they are purple as well.
The fetid smell of freshly cut meat and caught haddock is in the background. On a few steps up, on the first floor, Ridley Road Social Club changes the mood. The odor is a mixture of bay leaf, peppercorns and clove added to the soup. It needs to cook for about four hours. A few steps down, Ridley Road Market Bar is closed, black trash bags blocking the entrance door, revealing the previous night’s usual suspects: limes from ginger mojito, chopsticks from Okonomiyaki, broken gin, whisky, martini bottles.
The escalating pace between Junction and Kingsland stations; the shops where everything even a toilet pump on a Christmas day can be found; the unintentional waiting lines formed because someone bumped into a friend from work, daycare, or school in front of the market; Tuesday swing dance at The Scolt Head; the backgammon tournaments at The Talbot; daytime co-work tables at De Beauvoir Arms; reading Sylvia Plath sitting on a bench at De Beauvoir Rose Garden; Northchurch Road houses; finding a mid-century end table at 2an4Vintage; a glass of Fernao Pires at WeinoBib; long leafed parsley; yenibahar for homemade dolma, the colors and patterns on fabrics rolled neatly on the shelves, the full moon on the sky or on the ceiling of Brilliant Corners. These are just some of my favorite Dalston things.
February 1, from the morning after the day before.
Accompanied by Esbjörn Svensson Trio
LOCAL: We meet Kirsty while walking her dachshund at WeinoBib. After complaining "Why is there no beach in London?", we are now on the streets of Dalston accompanied by Falling Leaves.
NEIGHBORHOOD BY NEIGHBORHOOD: "When I first moved to Dalston, there were very few Caribbean pubs and businesses. The development, or maybe I should say popularization, of this area was the opening of the Dalston Superstore. In the 90s London was not a cosmopolitan city where you could see a lot of subculture on the streets. Everything felt a bit underground and a bit lawless. You would phone a number and they would tell you the time, day and address of the rave." Kirsty tells us about Dalston's past and present.
POCKET GUIDE: We're in Dalston with Berkok. Our mission: Learn something new about wine at each of the wine bars in the neighborhood before the end of the day.
We are on the streets of Dalston with Kirsty. But first we have to find out: Who is she? Where can we find her in the neighborhood?
- Currently, I’m at Weino Bib but if I wasn’t doing that, I would go back to making sculptures.
- According to my friends, I’m a master of making people feel welcome, I like people!
- I live in Hackney but I’m from Sydney in my heart because I’m actually from there and I love that sun!
- If not at Weino Bib, you can find me at Clissold Park walking my dachshund or at Tây Đô in Shoreditch, enjoying some Vietnamese food.
- Gwada, The Ethiopian place a few doors down from Weino Bib is a local gem. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m excited to. Small business owners should support other small businesses.
- Something I can never find in London: Proper Asian food, or a beach.
- My go-to glass of wine is: These days it’s Weino Bib’s Bianco Puglia. It’s a naughty cloudy thing perfect for sliding into the evening.
- On a Sunday afternoon you can find me: Partaking in the English tradition of taking a wintery often blustery walk that finishes at a pub with a pint of flat beer and a Sunday roast.
- I have recently found inspiration in Bill Gates' book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. He, with the help of research from the Gates Foundation, has created an amazing guide to understanding complex issues.
- Here is my current playlist: Falling Leaves
Dalston: A little dirty, a little ugly, a little raw
This week we're on the streets of Dalston: The midpoint between the cheapest lahmacun and the natural wine bar.
Neighborhood: Dalston, London. Local: Kirsty Tinkler. Words by: Berkok Yüksel. Photography: Alper Goldenberg & Hazal Yılmaz.
London didn’t creep up on me. I remember the exact moment and place I started believing I can enjoy this city. It was in Dalston, in front of a church, sitting in a parklet with a friend drinking beer on a chill, sunny afternoon. There was nothing special about that moment, but it felt freeing.
Less than a year after that moment I moved to Dalston and London opened up for me. Describing the character of Dalston today is a tricky task. To me, it's a neighborhood in the midst of gentrification. In the daily outdoor market, Caribbean aunties haggle with vendors, while a young “creative” is trying to take a picture for their third Instagram account pointing their analogue camera.
When the opaque doors of Turkish social houses are slightly ajar, you see old uncles playing backgammon, and drinking tea. Just across the road, there is a colorful queue to London's most famous queer clubs. As you approach the Junction, you see chain cafés and fast food restaurants, even an Amazon Fresh store, as if you're in a business district.
On the road to Dalston Junction
Photo: Hazal Yılmaz
But when you move in the opposite direction, you encounter minority associations, cultural hubs, and signs in different languages. When you delve into the side streets, you discover chic wine bars, fancy cocktail spots, organic shops, and countless taquerias. Dalston boasts more taquerias and wine bars than Soho, but it also has the most Turkish and Kurdish dernek's. Nowhere else can you go from drinking Turkish tea to having jerk chicken cooked over an open fire, before walking into a wine bar to order a glass of cloudy natural wine, in such a few steps.
One of those natural wine spots is Weino Bib. The friendly neighborhood wine bar and deli with limited seating and a wine taproom where you can drink zero-waste wine. The eco-conscious shop’s founder is sculptor and dachshund mom Kirsty Tinkler. Following her urge to come to her mother’s homeland, Kirsty moves to London to study art at 19. After years of artistry, hustling in the service industry and having too much fun in the raves of 90s London, her main occupation now is Weino Bib and wine importing.
Kirsty is choosing wine
Can the wine be served in a carton box?
“I was a nearly full-time artist back then.” Kirsty’s move into the wine business is far from self-explanatory. “I was traveling up and down the country, doing work, having a fabulous time.” When she met winemakers in their farms and vineyards, she was drawn to make wine into a full-time lifestyle rather than a pastoral pass time.
And specifically natural wine. “The way they were farming and simply the flavor. (…) I realized the difference [natural winemaking] made to wine.” Now, Kirsty doesn’t only run a wine bar and wine shop, she is also an importer and distributor. But what sets her apart and what made her pre-Weino Bib pop-ups be featured on major outlets and set the course of her journey straight is her emphasis on sustainable formats for the wine.
“Contrary to popular belief, glass bottles are not very eco-friendly.” At Weino Bib you see natural, well-branded wines in boxes and plastic pouches (or alternatively on tap for bring-your-own-refillable-bottle sales). When I ask her how she became a trailblazer in this area, she says it was instinctive: “At the restaurant I was working at the time, some box wines started appearing. I had this intrinsic understanding, immediately I could see the benefit. I didn’t understand exactly how but I knew it.”
A study by Gaia Consulting of Norway in 2018 proves her instincts were right. A standard glass wine bottle causes about 10 times more carbon emissions than a plastic pouch or boxed wine. Mainly it’s the result of the production of the raw materials: glass requires a lot of heat to be emitted in the foundry. Production aside, the cost of transportation of the heavier glass bottles adds to its footprint. “Plastic does pollute the earth but its carbon footprint is actually miniscule, granted the plastic is reusable / recycled. If we can get to the point where we can legislate against non-recyclable plastic, the glass will be the main enemy. Pursuing wine in sustainable formats felt important enough to give up making art for a while. Some people open a business to have a business but some do it because they want to do something, or change something. And that’s the thing you sense around East London a lot, which makes this neigborhood special.”
Sky in Dalston
Photo: Hazal Yılmaz
Dalston of the old
“When I first moved to Dalston, there were only a few pubs that worked for the Caribbean community. Dalston Superstore arrived, and the whole of Shoreditch moved up here. In the 90s London wasn’t so cosmopolitan. Everything felt underground, a bit lawless. You’d ring a number and they’d give you the address to the rave on the day. I had a raving period and got in a lot of trouble. It was fun. The gay scene back then was also very illegal and underground. Since those days Dalston has changed a lot. It breaks my heart. There used to be so many artist-run galleries. All gone. If I were a young person moving to London now, I’d move to the South, maybe Peckham. East London still has an edge but it’s losing it.”
Residents of the De Beauvoir Arms in Dalston
Photo: Hazal Yılmaz
Kirsty sees her shop as part of the gentrification process too, “I opened a bougie wine shop here. At first, I didn’t want to open in Dalston. Dalston was flooded. There were too many wine bars, it wasn’t clever to open a wine bar here. But financial decisions and the added charm of the artistic metal cage outside the windows installed by the previous tenants of the shop led her pop-ups to take a brick-and-mortar form where Weino Bib is today. But even then, compared to now, her Dalston clientele was different. When I opened 5 years ago, you would not make your place look pretty, no one would come. Now the demand has changed. I’ll never forget the first time a guy with a white collar came in here. The crowd has definitely gotten more affluent. But also younger. Younger people tend to be more open towards natural wine and perhaps also towards sustainable formats. They do not have set palates and are more open to experiencing the 'out-there' flavors of natural wine. Still, there is a hierarchy around the bottle. Glass connotes high-end, luxury, and quality compared to plastic and carton. What seemed to me as an insurmountable perceived value is apparently being surmounted by wine lovers, little by little.” Kirsty says people are much more open to boxed and bagged wine but still, she’d like to see more people invest in sustainable formats.
As we talk a customer walks in. She’s clearly someone who blurs the lines between a regular and a friend. When I ask her about Weino Bib she says, “this is more a conceptual art project” than a wine shop. Laughing, Kirsty agrees.
Wines in plastic pouches waiting for their owners: £31, £29, £25, £30
Weino Bib, your friendly neighborhood cave a vin
The first time I went to Weino Bib I was alone. My date had done a last-minute rain check, everyone I know had plans. Still, there was an Italo Disco event, Italian wines and nibbles paired with appropriately volumed electronic drums of the genre.
Normally Weino Bib hosts a small menu of charcuterie, pies and some hot dishes. The wine on tap, in boxes and pouches, the wall of independent beer brands and bottles of wine with prices written in white chalk populate the walls. The rare sunshine comes straight into the shop early in the day.
Whenever I’m there, I’m reminded of the church parklet where I started enjoying this city, this neighbourhood. It connects me to a place and feeling. It’s what makes East London special: a business that exists for a purpose of doing something more than making profits. It’s Dalston’s wine shop and deli, unique to and because of its surroundings.
After talking to Kirsty, I felt like my praise of Dalston was untimely and missing context. It felt like writing a love letter to someone whose ex told you they used to be better in the past. But today’s Dalston might have lost its edge, but it still holds enough chaotic diversity to shine. Gentrification tends not to stop at a sweet spot, nor does it have one. There is perhaps a level of gentrification I personally enjoy. One that I can afford, with the cultural components that have made Dalston a chaotic mosaic and with the newfound elements that cater to my preferences as a young creative trying to make London it's home (one without an analogue camera). I like having the best and cheapest lahmacun place in London around the corner of my house and being within walking distance of a natural wine bar.
How many years does Dalston have before it becomes a shell of itself? Gentrified to a point that I also can’t relate to. High-rises and office buildings becoming the flora, white-collared, truffle fry-eaters becoming its fauna? I don’t know. I like this Dalston. I will be nostalgic for it in the future. I will remember Weino Bib as something that made my neighbourhood beautiful.
Kirsty too, far from turning her back on this changing neighbourhood, can’t help remarking that “The vibrancy is still there. For me, one of the most fun things is walking up Kingsland Road at 1:00 a.m. and seeing everyone in their outfits.”
To Dalston Wine Bars
We're in Dalston with Berkok. Our mission: Learn something new about wine at each of the wine bars in the neighborhood before the end of the day.
Dan’s: A few steps south of the Junction, tucked in the side street sits Dan’s. Dan’s is the perfect neighborhood wine bar. Candles light up the place, dripping and clinging to the sides of the bottles they were erected on. The wine menu is purposefully approachable. The wine list on the wall doesn’t even mention names and appellations, but how the wine will taste: fruity, juicy, dry, etc. It’s made so you can come to enjoy a couple of glasses around a large table, with no fuss.
Hector’s: Hector is a relatively newer addition to the Dalstonite’s evening visit itinerary. It’s a little walk away from the Junction towards De Beauvoir. What makes this small wine bar different is it's effortlessly cool. This is what I think a neighborhood wine bar would look like in Monaco. Granted it’s hard to find a seat on a popular night and it gets a bit loud inside when it’s at capacity, but the wine selection, the vermouths and the charcuterie-heavy snack menu are on point. Not perfect for a first date but rather for a pre-theatre (or a pre-Rio Cinema) booze snooze.
People's Wine: People's Wine is a fishbowl-like abode where the delicatessen snacks are written on the wall tiles, again highlighted by its natural wines. It's empty on weekdays, making it the ideal relaxation spot.
Newcomer Wines: Newcomer Wines is one of the newcomers in the neighborhood. Slightly more on the chic side of the spectrum than the sweet side, it is a good alternative with its garden and wide selection of wines.
Dalston Wine Bar Crawl is here. Seven wine bars, all walking distance from Dalston Junction, heavily focusing on natural wines and hosting snacks on their menus.
07:43 a.m. in Dalston
This week we were in Dalston, London. We started our tour of the neighborhood with a walk, thinking about the wines we would taste. We discussed the differences between wine bottles with Kirsty and had a conversation while tasting.
Next week we will be writing from Istanbul, from Cankurtaran. A glass of wine will give swapped for a double rakı this time. Accompanied by Giritli's appetizers, we will jump over the Hıdırellez fire lit by Armada and explore the neighborhood.
To stay tuned until then: @soli.community