London’s East End – it has a troubled past, known for its poverty and the infamous Jack the Ripper. But it’s also an area rich in history and a eclectic mix of cultures, resulting from the waves of immigration to the area – Huguenots, Jews, and Bangladeshis. Now in 2016 it’s an edgy, bustling metropolis fusing market stalls with hippies and creatives, curry houses with renovated former industrial sites, and Henry VIII hunting grounds with high-end consumerism. It’s an untempered blend of past and present, where every street corner leads from one world to the next with a multitude of new discoveries to tempt the intrepid traveller.
London’s East End is vast and there are certainly more than five reasons why you should visit but, here, I give five reasons based on my recent tour through Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Brick Lane.
1. A Brick Lane curry is a must
On virtually every Londonbackpacker’s check list, a Brick Lane curry is an absolute must and is sure not to disappoint. Brick Lane, itself, is home to numerous curry houses with tantalising aromas wafting out their doors, which has built up from the strong Bangladeshi community that immigrated to Londonin the 1950s and 60s. Many would describe a Brick Lane curry as the best in Britain – spicy and flavoursome, with huge chunks of juicy meat, all served with rice and a tasty naan bread. Try Aladin, listed by the BBC as one of the world’s best curry houses.
|This is just a sample of what is on offer!|
2. Feast on a traditional English meal
A curry might be a cornerstone of modern English cuisine but any hungry traveller to London can’t go without trying the traditional fare of fish n’ chips and mushy peas (also known as a “luminous green sludge”). It just so happens that it is believed the concept of battered fish with deep fried chips originated in London’s East End and that the first combined fish n’ chip shop was opened by a Jewish immigrant there in the 1860s. It makes sense then to try the English tradition when visiting the East End. Visit Poppies Fish & Chips for an award-winning 1950s dining experience – but note, it’s popular and the queue will often go out the door.
3. Tap into the inner creative
As the creatives have filed into East London, giving it its distinctive edgy vibe, they have left their marks on the walls of buildings – from giant birds to alien space invaders and even a Banksy sketch. The street art and installations are colourful, creative and inspiring. Wander the streets yourself or take a guided tour to learn more about the artistic origins.
4. Say meow to the East End’s most famous cat
Lenny the pub cat is described as the guv’nor at one of the best pubs in Spitalfields, The Pride of Spitalfields, just off Brick Lane. This rotund moggie struts around the pub, pulling in the punters or serenely sits on a stool at the bar. Lenny even has his own Twitter account and some say he is the most photographed cat in the world. Come to the pub to stroke the cat but stay for a tasty ale or cider.
5. Pig out on a selection of culinary delights
Think the East End is just about curry? Well think again. With the enticing mix of cultures, the smorgasbord that is on offer will have your taste buds dancing. From smoky bacon sarnies and custardy bread and butter pudding to fresh bagels stuffed with thick cuts of salt beef and juicy gherkins. Or just breathe in the tantalising aromas while wandering around the heady bustle of Spitalfields market. To really taste what the East End has on offer try a food tour like Eating London’s East End food tour.
Been to London’s East End? What are your favourite best bits?
Many thanks to Eating London, part of Eating Europe Tours, for the press trip. All opinions are my own.