Brick Lane and Spitalfields
Brick Lane – Food lovers’ paradise
A couple of months ago, after having lived in London for more than 3 years, I finally ventured down Brick Lane during the day. I had, of course, been to Brick Lane before, but on all previous occasions, it was during the night when the scene is completely different. At night, employees from each restaurant stand outside and desperately compete with each other to win over customers from the hungry pedestrians. Couple this with intoxicated people roaming the street, alongside patrolling police hunting down drug-addicts, and you begin to get the picture as to why this road is less than ideal at night.
Come daylight, however, and you would never guess this was the same street. What was before desperate restaurant employees chanting on the roads, is now an assortment of food stalls spread across the entire length of the road. Each stall has something unique to offer, ranging from classical Indian curries to Mexican style burritos! You are genuinely spoilt for choice at Brick Lane, and are limited not by your wallet, but by the amount of food your stomach is willing to accept! Arguably, the best way to enjoy Brick Lane is to go along with a friend. This way, you can each buy something new, and share with each other the collection of food. As a Londoner, you tend to become quite accustomed to eating from the well established franchises that are dime a dozen amongst the streets of Central London. So, it’s definitely a welcome change to pop down Brick Lane for some good old fashioned street food!
Brick Lane is not just limited to curries and wraps, however! Just as extensive is the lavish assortment of food in the stalls, is as rich the extent of desserts to choose from. And don’t think these ‘desserts’ are just little cake slices and doughnuts. The confectionery on display at Brick Lane is worthy enough to stand on it’s own as the main attraction. Pretty much everything on display is home-made style, fresh and unique. Something that is quite lacking from the busy streets of London, in my opinion at least.
But it’s not just these travelling food stalls that make the day time experience of Brick Lane so brilliant. Many of the shops along the street have just as great food items to try, such as Brick Lane’s famous Beigel shop! Some people will travel from the ends of London just to have a bagel from their shop! Another brilliant little store on Brick Lane is ‘Dark Sugars’, that sells 100% natural chocolate, if my memory serves me correct. In there, you’ll find enormous slabs of chocolate lying around as though if it were bricks at a building site, and beautiful sculptures made from chocolate that can almost be mistaken to be real crockery.
Probably my favourite part of Brick Lane were the smoothie drinks in actual pineapples! Yes, actual real pineapples, with their filling carved out except for a central pole into which a cocktail umbrella is pinned into! London may not be a coastal town in the Caribbean, but who says you can’t enjoy a nice drink stylishly! I enjoyed this part of my meal so much, that I decided I was going to carry it home with me. Except for one problem, I had just begun my excursion in Brick Lane with many hours left, and I didn’t really fancy walking around with a pineapple in my hand. I could put it in my backpack, but what if the juices leaked?! Here’s where you need to get a bit creative! I needed a bag to put the pineapple into but none of these stalls provided plastic bags, and that’s when I spotted a small supermarket. I walked in and looked for the cheapest item for sale, a packet of noodles, 30p. I picked it up, walked to the cashier and paid for the item, sneakily asking for a bag just at the end. The cashier pulled out a large plastic bag, whilst his gaze fixated on me, and handed it to me. He didn’t look too happy to say the least.
Walk down a bit more and you’ll begin to realise that Brick Lane isn’t just about the food. As Brick Lane is found in East London, you’ll soon realise there’s whole different crowd of people that tend to hangout here, what some may like to call ‘hipsters’. Venture down the side streets off Brick Lane and you’ll encounter some chic markets and stores that seem to cater for hipsters. To get an idea of how unique the shops down there, have a peek at the next photo. This photo was taken at one particular shop that exclusively stocked gentlemens’ products such as beard wax. Now don’t tell me you haven’t got a beard!?
Go down a different side street, and you’ll come across a hipster’s market that looks like it belonged sometime in the 70s. In there, you’ll find beautiful creative art, such as metal earrings of different symbols, t-shirts with printed illustrations from real artists, and some absolutely stunningly creative origami cards. The items on display at these stalls serve as a constant reminder of the the history and heritage this part of London has. Unfortunately, photography is restricted at most stalls, but I did manage to nab a few shots here and there. One of those was from a photography stall, selling books and classic cameras such as the Pentax Spotmatic from the 60s.
A short walk from Brick Lane is Old Spitalfields market. Spitalfields market is very much like Brick Lane, except since it’s recently been renovated, it’s got the perfect balance between modern architecture and vintage East London style. Unlike Brick Lane, here you’ll find small local businesses as well as mainstream franchises such as Patisserie Valerie and Giraffe. This is most likely so, as one of the entrances is found on the main road just a few hundred meters from Liverpool Street station. Spitalfields market also appears to house a greater proportion of shops as opposed to food stalls. Many of the stalls here are not even permanent as they rotate around London and the country, meaning if you see something great, you better buy it as you may not find it the next time you’re around!
But don’t think Spitalfields market has any less to offer than Brick Lane, in terms of food. The selection is just as extensive, probably with a slight bias towards confectionery. I won’t bother describing the food markets here any more, as it’s pretty much the same as Brick Lane’s. What I will warn you about, however, is that if like me you over-indulged in food at Brick Lane and then stumble upon Spitalfields; you will seriously regret having ate all that food! To end with, I’ll leave you with some more great pictures of food!