From Spitalfields/Commercial Street, head into Hanbury Street; the second left turn then opens up into a carpark like area that shares the space between art and food in equal measure. We loved the idea of the Rootmaster bus (a double decker bus converted into a takeaway and eat in restaurant) that sits on the Western edge and describes itself as:
London's first vegan Bustaurant founded in 2006. Our aim at the Rootmaster Bustaurant is to promote healthy living and respect for the environment. We want to show our customers that it is possible to enjoy and have fun with food and wine while living in harmony with the planet
Maybe not our style of food (it doesn’t moo) but we still love the idea that people are doing this. To the right of the bus at skyline level is a car with what looks like a winged bomb crushing it – it’s hard to describe but check out the pictures below – it’s funky. The whole thing is different and interesting and should be welcomed to London’s diversity, especially on the edge of the City where old school still rules. The co-sharing of contrasts is after all what makes London a truly great City.
At the end of the walkway, you do eventually reach Brick Lane. To the South is indeed the curry houses we all know, but heading north toward Shoreditch is arguably the more interesting route. Looming above us in the short distance is the Truman chimney of the former Truman Brewery – clearly, our kind of place. With the ‘Brewhouse in Brick Lane’ dating back to 1666 and the eponymous Joseph Truman becoming manager in 1697, remarkably but now forgotten, employing over 1,000 people, this was London’s largest brewery and the second biggest in Britain. Taken over by Grand Metroplitan in 1971, it was eventually closed in 1988 and has since been redeveloped to what is now The Old Truman Brewery. Backers describe the venue as ‘East London's revolutionary arts and media quarter, [a] home to a hive of creative businesses as well as exclusively independent shops, galleries, markets, bars and restaurants’. We approve; and of course like the idea of living in a brewery.
Continuing up Brick Lane we bought Rye Bread and a salt beef sandwich from the 24/7 Beigel Bake, and then, as if to make the final point that Brick Lane really isn’t about just curry, you arrive at Fika, Swedish Bar & Grille. Here you can try for a starter Reindeer salami (at the very reasonable price of £4) as well as of course pickled herring. For the main, no self respecting Swedish restaurant would be without meatballs (Köttbullar) or reindeer sausage. Why not wash it down with a Lapin Kulta beer?
A few more minutes and you reach Bethnall Green Road affording excellent views of the City towers including the new Heron Tower as it races skyward to challenge the Gherkin for skyline prominence. Better still, you’re close to Club Row where Les Trois Garcons serves incredible French food amongst stuffed and tiarred bull terriers (it’s weird but it works). Sadly though, the associated Lounge Lover Bar, home to further camp glamour, is not open in the afternoon so in search of a thirst quencher, we almost double back on ourselves via Shoreditch High Street and head south to The Light Restaurant and Bar, sitting outside with more crazy artwork and a moment of tranquility before the bar becomes sardine full as offices turn out at the end of the day. With such variety of shops, a remarkable density of art galleries, and food for every taste, it’s clear to us that to pigeon hole East London or more specifically, Brick Lane, is for those only who have not been there. While lunch at The Luxe was disappointing, a walk across the road and up Brick Lane has certainly removed my prejudice against the area and afforded a wonderful afternoon at no cost; what could be better?