28 April 2021

Chomp While You Stomp in Brick Lane

To many, Brick Lane equals proper nosh. To me, the name conjures up treasured culinary memories. Some of my happiest moments have been spent at the renowned Beigel Bake, tucking into a traditional Jewish beigel loaded with hot salt beef and oozing mustard, or at Monsoon, savouring the Bangladeshi taste explosion that is Chicken Rezala (more on this later!)

Introduced to this area by Bengali immigrants wishing to provide food for their community, ‘curry’ – an Anglicised term for the cuisine of South Asia – swiftly won the hearts of the majority of the local population in Shoreditch. Now people come from far and wide to feast at one of the celebrated restaurants on Brick Lane. Below are some of the favourites.
Brick Lane Brasserie makes a wonderful grilled tandoori fish. Try it with their light fluffy bread as an accompaniment.

For authentic Bangladeshi dishes, head to Standard Balti House where the Lamb Lemongrass and Mater Panneer (a type of fried cheese) are bursting with flavour.
If you like dining in a stylish space with contemporary design, you must book a table at Meraz. Looking like a new-wave South Asian restaurant for the 21st century, it was surprisingly founded in 1974 and is truly a Brick Lane Giant, with a menu of tantalising regional dishes. Monsoon is the King. This lofty four-floored restaurant, popular since its beginning in 2001 has an impressive menu organised according to Indian and Bangladeshi specialities.

So what is the difference between Bangladeshi and Indian cooking? Bangladeshi cooking tends to include bread made from white, as opposed to whole, wheat. A signature staple is Luchi, a deep-fried flatbread. Bangladeshi specialities often involve lake and river fish, in particular Halsi – a small fish similar to the mackerel which is delicious when fried in mustard oil. The unique taste of grub from the region comes from the ‘panch phorom’ – meaning ‘five spice’- which comprises cumin, fenugreek, fennel, black mustard seeds and nigella. Perhaps the most mouthwatering dish of all is the Rezala: a spicy curry with chicken, beef or lamb, which has been marinated in yoghurt until tender.

Full of character are the stars of Bangladeshi street food: Mughlai paratha and Phuchka (or puska). The paratha is a type of bread, which in this case has a spiced omelet-like filling and is rolled, fried and sliced. Phuchka is nothing less than a work of art, achieved only by the most painstaking of chefs. Spiced mashed potatoes, peas, onion, cloves, coriander, mint and a tangy tamarind-flavoured water are only some of the surprises contained inside this crispy deep-fried little round flatbread (or ‘puri’).

So, all you curry-lovers, follow the reddish-brown brick road for a taste of heaven!

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28 April 2021

The March of the Murals

When you’re in Shoreditch, look up! Like an army of Titans, many awe-inspiring murals set the area ablaze with colour.

Check out the new Gucci Art Walls inspired by 1970’s designer Ken Scott and located on Brick Lane. The American fashion designer was named “fashion’s gardener”. As an homage, Gucci has created this gigantic mural featuring a pattern of pop art pink daisies and perky leaves in varying rich green hues. Gaze upon it and witness, at last, the arrival of Spring 2021!
At 149 Brick Lane, you can admire Luke Smile’s masterpiece. This British typographic artist has decorated two shop fronts with his eye-popping 3-D graffiti tag ‘Happy Go Lucky’. Doffing his hat to 1990’s rave culture, he has designed a blue smiley-face backdrop, which shows off his almost Day-Glo turquoise, orange and pink letters. All in all, a joyous post-lockdown message, promoting the relaxation of both life and rules.

Creating a sense of euphoria in passers-by, ‘Dream Come True’ by Camille Walala is like psychedelic wallpaper, which ignites an otherwise plain black monolith. It comes as no surprise to discover that Walala studied textile design at university. The mural, outside Old Street Station, is a kaleidoscope of bold colours and striking zig-zags. Although not a new piece (her amazing recent work is Walala Parade in Leyton) this geometric feat of brilliance mirrors the fizzing excitement of post-pandemic Shoreditch.

Once you have seen these works of art, you may be inclined to agree with the anonymous member of the public who once scrawled a message on a post-it and stuck it to the Splice Building (which Walala’s mural adorns). It read: “All buildings should be colourful.”

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28 April 2021

The Changing Face of Brick Lane

Stretching from Bethnal Green, through Shoreditch, and all the way to Whitechapel, Brick Lane is a rich tapestry of East End life that has been embellished across the centuries by the different people who came to settle there from all over the world.

Called Banglatown by many, it is now heart of the Bangladeshi community and studded with many enticing curry houses emitting their glorious aromas. However, it would have looked very different in the 15th century, when English workers came to manufacture bricks and tiles using the local brick earth deposits.

By 1680, brewing had arrived at Brick Lane, using water drawn from deep wells. Joseph Truman and his family were famous settlers in the area. Truman’s son, Benjamin established the magnificent Black Eagle Brewery, the largest in London at the time. Now known as the Old Truman Brewery, it’s a dynamic hub for public and creative businesses. In addition, visitors flock there to partake in the many shops, leisure facilities, galleries, bars and music events. Fashion East, located in the Brewery, showcases emerging designers from the area, while Free Range champions works by graduates in art, design and photography.

Die-hard Friends fans are counting the days to Friendsfest, presented by Luna Cinema. Taking place at the Truman Brewery, it runs from 25th November-19th December. Promising to be the ‘ultimate celebration of the world’s greatest TV show,’ it comprises real sets, memorabilia and props from the programme. New this year is a full-scale set of Ross’s Apartment. Visitors are invited to re-create the most popular scene from the show – ‘Pivot’ – and relive milestones in Friends’ history, such as Ross and Rachel’s Vegas Chapel of Love!

Brick Lane Mosque (or Jamme Masjid) is testament to the myriad of cultures on Brick Lane. Having served all three of the Abrahamic Faiths (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) in its long history, it is now a holy place for the Muslim Bangladeshi community. In the 20th century, immigrants from East Bengal in India (before it became a country in its own right – Bangladesh) came to the East End to work in the docks. The mosque, a Grade II listed building stands proudly alongside its soaring metallic minaret. It has, however had many incarnations. Once named La Neuve Eglise, it was a Huguenot chapel, used by the French protestants who came to work in Brick Lane as master weavers in the 17th century. It then turned into the ‘Jew’s Chapel’, where Christians tried to convert the local Jewish population, later becoming a Methodist church before transforming into a synagogue!

Brick Lane Market, once a collection of simple fruit and vegetable stalls, is now a Sunday extravaganza. While some complain that it is becoming too gentrified and expensive, there is no denying it’s magnetism to anyone passing through. Offering everything from street food, handicrafts, vintage clothing, antiques and music, the market reflects the eclecticism of this very special road.

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28 April 2021

Work Hard, Shop Hard, Play Hard, Drink Hard!

Office workers are descending in their droves upon the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs of Shoreditch, whether they are making the most of their lunch breaks or letting their hair down after a long day’s slog.

Pop-ups – now an omnipresent feature of the Shoreditch landscape – can be traced back to the birth of the wondrous BOXPARK, in 2011. Like a Science Fiction version of a shopping mall, built from shipping containers, it continues to go from strength to strength. Stalls offer an impressive range of independent lifestyle brands. Check out Berry Blossom, House of Henna and Solid Cologne. Popular too are the products from Green Machine CBD (CBD being short for cannabidiol – yes, it hails from the cannabis plant!). BOXPARK’s outdoor terrace is now thriving, so after a bit of retail therapy, you can soak up the Spring sunshine whilst eating and drinking to your heart’s content. But be warned: pre-bookings are not allowed, so tables are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Choose from a plethora of street food from Greek Souvlaki and vegan Thai to Jamaican Jerk and traditional English pies. Register with the BOXPARK Black Card to enter.

Hot Gossip’s Afternoon Tea is an essential event for the post-lockdown calendar. On various dates from 17th May, this unique event at the new cocktail bar Tonight Josephine Shoreditch promises glammed up hedonism, flashing neon lights, macaroons and plenty of Pornstar Martinis! The bar channels the spirit, sass and hustle of Josephine De Beauharnais, the famous lover of Napoleon, who successfully bagged her man, thus becoming Empress of the French. With the bar’s older sister, Tonight Josephine Waterloo, being one of the most instagrammed venues in the UK, this night ought to be electric. Tickets cost £30.00-£50.00.

The talk of the town amongst revellers is Cargo’s Lockdown is Over Party! On Monday 21st June, from 7pm until 1am, the club invites you to experience its three rooms of eclectic music and the buzzing beer garden. Tickets are £15.00-£20.00.

For after-work drinks, the ‘Live Music Thursdays’ evening at Be At One Shoreditch is spot-on. Kick back and embrace Happy Hour in this friendly bar, whilst enjoying the live music of up-and-coming Shoreditchian stars!

With all this happening, one thing’s for sure: there’ll be plenty to talk about the next day at work!

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14 April 2021

Take it to the streets!

The inhabitants of Shoreditch have always been skilled at taking certain trends from high-end fashion and adapting them. Shoreditch street style continues to be jaw-dropping, thought-provoking and eye-popping in 2021.

Walking around the streets of Shoreditch, you can see many outfits that are a nod to the key looks revealed during London Fashion Week. Spring styles include mid-shin ‘midi’ satin pastel dresses, bold shoulders (think oversized and multi-layered), and 18th century-esque ruffles. Add some bright red lippy and a pair of black stomper boots, and you have contemporary Shoreditch fashion!

Another trend on the streets inspired by Fashion Week is what’s been coined ‘Pandemic Fashion’. Nurses’ dresses, boots and masks all in white draw a parallel with the deadly flu pandemic of 1918.

London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2021 showcased the joy and jubilation of ‘Post-Pandemic’ designs. Several have already caught the attention of Shoreditch fashionistas. Molly Goddard’s outfits mix and match pattern and texture. Her thrift

store eccentricity appeals to many nifty dressers in the heart of the East End. Her models sported pink herringbone tweed mini skirt suits, tartan kilts and Fair Isle sweaters. Harris Reed is another popular designer whose clothes, donned by the striking male model Momo Ndiayen, are gender-fluid and luxuriously tailored.

So where can you buy pieces to create your own Shoreditch outfit? Head to Brick Lane Vintage Market located in the Truman Brewery. The many boutiques have clothes from the 1920’s to the 1990’s, for example fur coats and feather capes. You can also rifle through the gorgeous art deco accessories.

Shoreditch street style 2021 continues to be big and colourful, just like the personalities of the locals!

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14 April 2021

What’s on in Shoreditch?

The streets of Shoreditch are sizzling with anticipation as the end of Lockdown approaches. The coming months will see many exciting events taking place, as well as shops, markets, clubs and restaurants opening, thus restoring the vibrancy and eclecticism of the district.

Not to be missed is the upcoming Spitalfields Arts Market on Crispin Place, from 30th April until 3rd May. There, you can browse affordable and diverse artwork by both experienced artists and those new on the scene. From oil paintings to portrait photography, there is something for everyone. If you are an aspiring artist yourself, you can bring your own pieces. Whilst there, customers are able to chat to the artists themselves in order to gain a deeper insight into their creations.

Q Shoreditch, a luxurious lounge bar on Tabernacle Street, is taking bookings now for its renowned Sisters of House Brunch Party, taking place on Sunday 23rd May from 2pm to 10pm. The Sisters are an all-female lineup of DJ’s who play funky house and disco while clientele tuck into a two-course brunch and a glass of bubbly. The event costs £35.

On 12th April, Aviary restaurant and cocktail bar re-opens its impressive rooftop terraces, where one can kick back beneath the stars and marvel at Shoreditch’s iconic skyline. The food is sumptuous, and ingredients are sourced from artisanal bespoke suppliers. Aviary proudly uses ‘seasonal, sustainable and great British produce’ in its dishes. Try the delicious roast Cornish seabass or Miso glazed rolled pork belly on the a la carte menu or enjoy such delights from the terrace menu as the smoked haddock fishcakes and spiced tenderstem broccoli fritters.

From mid-October, Aviary guests can also book one of the ‘igloos’ on the roof terrace. These cosy snowglobe-like rooms are perfect for festive celebrations in the colder months.

One thing is for sure: we all look forward to a post-pandemic Shoreditch. Nothing can lock down its energy for long.

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14 April 2021

Don’t compare the market with this one

All that glitters is the gold in Old Spitalfields. Metaphorical gold, you understand. A veritable treasure trove for anyone mooching around the streets of Shoreditch, Old Spitalfields Market is a rare jewel in the East End’s Crown. And the pride of Shoreditch.

The imposing vastness of this Victorian building on Commercial Street lures visitors in. Once inside, they will browse the enticing stalls and sample mouthwatering cuisines from a myriad of cultures. The impressive roof showcases pitched glass and its timber tents hover above the whole market space. This is Victorian engineering at its most impressive. However, the market itself dates back to as early as the thirteenth century.

Spitalfields’ famous street food stalls are now re-opening. The Market’s website boasts an array of nosh so incredible that you could eat there every day for a month and yet always try something new. Back in business too are the colourful and attractive food trucks, which can now be located in Bishops Square and Crispin Place. The trucks draw in tourists with their exotic aromas. Well worth a taste are the offerings from Smokoloko and Bmboo House.

Excited diners are now rushing to make bookings at Spitalfields’ excellent restaurants, which open on April 12th. The ten fully fitted kitchens adorning the centre of the market showcase innovative as well as traditional cooking. Grab a scrumptious snack before delving into the products on sale at the shops and stalls. Culinary highlights include the Dumpling Shack and Yum Bun. Wright Brothers is a must for any self-respecting foodie. Get there between 3pm and 6pm any weekday to enjoy a shellfish tower or oysters for a quid a pop! Climpson and Sons serves the best nitro coffee in Shoreditch, while Bubala’s all vegetarian Middle Eastern menu is to die for.

Clothes designers, local creatives and artisans are gearing up to display their high-quality wares in Spitalfields soon. Meanwhile, many are taking orders online, such as The Londoner’s Home, whose 100% Natural soy wax scented candles are selling like hotcakes. The handmade baby clothes of Dress Up Baby are extremely popular too.

There is definitely something in the air as this iconic powerhouse prepares to return to its pre-lockdown glory.

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9 April 2021

The “Guerrilla Artists” of Shoreditch

Banksy, the most deliciously mysterious, and arguably the most controversial, of the so-called “guerrilla” street artists has well and truly made his stamp in Shoreditch.

His identity is unknown, which only adds to the irresistibility of his creations. Probably hailing from Bristol, Banksy rose to prominence in the late 1990’s. His murals are often politically-driven, and always cleverly provocative. Part of Bristol’s graffiti gang DryBreadZ Crew, he created striking images accompanied by acerbic, yet humorous, slogans. He later moved on to using stencils on walls around London to produce works which satirised war, capitalism, hypocrisy and greed.

Two of Banksy’s iconic pieces can be found in the garden of the stylish Cargo (#81 Rivington Street); a celebrated concert venue located in a disused railway yard. Guard Dog is a scathing depiction of the police and the authorities. It portrays a policeman and his poodle on patrol in a designated graffiti area. His Master’s Voice is a jab at the nostalgic image of the HMV Dog. The piece features a dog aiming a bazooka at a gramophone. This is Bansky at his best: a wry observation on traditional conservatism, juxtaposed by the progressive younger generation, encapsulated by a rebellious canine!

A trailblazer of street art, Banksy has paved the way for a plethora of talented individuals, whose works can be spotted by anyone walking around Shoreditch. The sculpted faces by Gregos Art are a striking feature of Shoreditch High Street.

Fashion Street is rife with offerings, including a Batman animation and a curious poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Many jaws drop at the huge picture of a man embracing a child created by drip paint, which is displayed on the side of Joe’s Kid Café.

The Australian painter and street artist Guido Van Helten, has displayed a moody and compelling portrait of a boy, which can be found on the shop front of 8 Bell Lane, Spitalfields.

One thing is for sure: Banksy, whose works are now protected by perspex screens, transformed graffiti from an act of vandalism to high art, which came to be admired by millions across the globe. His pioneering style widened the form’s scope, inspiring the succession of artists who in turn contributed to the unique landscape of Shoreditch.

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9 April 2021

Slouching Towards Shoreditch

“Bohemian” and “Hipster” are somewhat patronising labels assigned to the gem in East London that is Shoreditch. Away from the grim South, the brassy tourist spots in Central and the dreary West, Shoreditch is alive with authenticity. Once the hub of London (before London ate up the ‘boring burbs’) Shoreditch has history and innovation on its side.

Once a Victorian slum, this part of London has risen like a phoenix from the ashes due to the sheer vitality of its people. Anyone fancying a mooch around is in for a treat. Delve into the pop-up concept stores before munching on the street food from the many enticing trucks dotted around the district. Tread the ancient cobbled streets before delighting in the treasures of Brick Lane Market. Saunter then towards St Leonards Church, marvelling at its soaring steeple and giant four-columned Tuscan portico. Steeped in history, its crypt is the resting place of a multitude of Tudor actors.

One ought to stop for lunch in Benglatown and the now-coveted Brick Lane. Sample the mouthwatering cuisine bourne out of the Bengali community that came to settle in Shoreditch.

After lunch, mosey on down to the impressive Geffrye Museum, once a collection of alms houses and an architectural wonder to behold. Inside you can wander through rooms designed in the popular styles from 1600

to the present day. After relaxing in the museum’s breathtaking grounds, you might like to visit Boxpark; an intriguing mall of pop-up shops set up in shipping containers.

Finish your day in Shoreditch by catching a cult or classic film at the popular Rooftop Film Club at the Queen of Hoxton.

Having visited it, you’ll realise that ‘trendy’ and ‘creative’ barely describe the brilliance of this part of London.

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9 April 2021

To the Manor Born

Young movers and shakers live harmoniously with older professionals and families in the vibrant district of Shoreditch. Anyone looking for a home is spoilt for choice. Shoreditch boasts stunning streets of lofty Georgian houses and picturesque Victorian terraced homes.

Or perhaps you might like one of the many new-build apartments, which offer ample space and contemporary style. High fliers are flocking to the many luxury flats, such as those in the heart of London Dock, benefitting from a parking space, 24-hour concierge, a private residents club and Health and Fitness Suite.

Schools in the area are attracting a new wave of young professionals. Many primary schools are ‘Outstanding’ and there is one over-subscribed ‘Outstanding’ secondary.

Shoreditch is an attraction for many families, particularly because of Shoreditch Park, a 19-hectare open green space with a gobsmacking range of sports amenities and a popular children’s play area.

Cool and edgy? Always. Yet now Shoreditch is also perfect for all the family!

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