London’s East End has always been the seedy side of town, just outside the one-mile radius of London’s financial district, The City. But something fun has started to happen. Between Bangladeshi immigrants, starving artists and edgy hipsters, the hub around hip Brick Lane, which stretches from Banglaland to Shoreditch, has become a destination for all sorts of locals (and occasionally the tourist who got lost along the Jack the Ripper walk).
The route from Liverpool Street
The Liverpool Street Station is where it all begins. At the edge of The City and still surrounded by commerce, you have no idea that just crossing over Bishopgate will lead you to a more rustic, cobblestoned provincial London on Brushfield Street. If you’re feeling nervous about finding your way, pop in at Shoreditch Street Art Tours, which meet at the goat statue on Brushfield, and take a guided tour.
If you’re more of the self-guided type, just walk on by. Once you pass Christ Church Spitalfields, continue for another block on Fournier Street until you reach Brick Lane. You’ll know it by the fun and funky graffiti, the street signs in Bengali and English and of course the smell of curry.
Curry for all taste buds
If you don’t smell it already, you’ll start to see the signs for Bengali curries all over the street, both north and south of Fournier. Don’t confuse Bengali (also called “Bangla”) food with Indian food. Although they are regional neighbors, Bengali specialties focus more on fish of various types and various halal and vegetarian meals. Brick Lane offers both the standard Anglo-Indian curries and special Bangladeshi dishes, but the latter is often harder to spot if you don’t read Bangla script.
Head south for some true-grit, mom-and-pop-style Bengali food. Kolapata is the most sophisticated of the authentic Bengali restaurants, but it will take you all the way down to Whitechapel Road. Sticking with Brick Lane proper, try Grambangla, a casual eatery at 68 Brick Lane.
More comfortable with your classic tiki masala or Indian curry? No worries - Brick Lane has you covered there, too. Try Bengal Village at 75 Brick Lane or its neighbor The Famous Curry Bazaar for a menu that’s more familiar. Ask about Bangladeshi specialties if you’re really curious, and the staff will be happy to accommodate. Start with a “salaam aleikum” and don’t forget to say “thank you” (dhonno-baad) in Bengali to impress the waitstaff.
Shoreditch and the trendy side
As you travel north, amid the curry houses you’ll notice a trendiness to the tags and thick layer of street art that almost makes you feel you’re in Berlin. Round up some treasures from ages gone by at the Vintage Market and find the latest in fashion, art and food at the Old Truman Brewery. Different art marts pop up in the space daily. From here, it’s time to take the alleys and little side streets to find the best art and forget all the commerce.
Peek your head down Dray Walk and make sure you make it all the way under the railroad bridge, which is always home to some interesting designs. You’ll find everything from Banksy and Shepard Fairey to brand new, unknown street artists to admire along this corridor.
From here, you’re into full-gentrified part of Shoreditch, where you can find anything from artisan breakfast cereal to hand-crafted Scotch. A bright spot among specialties is Beigal Bake (159 Brick Lane), a real Jewish deli for a New York-style midnight snack.
Kitschy shopping and spicy food
Offbeat art lovers, vintage fashionistas and adventurous foodies can find it all on Brick Lane. In just a few hours, you can peruse the street and do some window shopping and street art photography; or, if you’re spending all day in this post code, you can grab a bite, do some shopping and settle into the local scene.
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