An insider’s guide to Brick Lane
Travelling to Brick lane
If travelling to Brick Lane the nearest tube stations are: Aldgate East, Old street and Liverpool Street. I would recommend the walk from Old Street if visiting the area for the first time, as you will find lots of interesting places and shops on the way. It really is a pleasant introduction to this part of East London. Old Street is on the Northern line so if you are coming from South or North London this will be the station I’d recommend to use.
If you however you fancied a different route, then the walk from Aldgate East is near enough the same distance. Also if you are coming from West London this will be the preferred station for you as it is on the Hammersmith and City line and also the District line.
Brick Lane is an excellent place to find a good cheap curry where you can take your own beer or wine. At the junction with Hanbury Street, there’s a cluster of particularly excellent Bangladeshi restaurants.
Writing about Brick Lane curry restaurants, in Pat Chapman’s 1998 “Good Curry Guide,” he remarks: “The number of curry houses has grown from a couple in 1971 to twenty-four in 1997. . .” It is a great book and any bona fide curry lover should own a copy.
The best 3 curry houses on Brick Lane
- Standard Balti House
Address: 71 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
About: Great menu and all the classics of course. I really like this place for their expansive and solid menu and also for the service.
What to get: The Onion bhaji’s here are amazingly fresh, get them while you can!
Address: 134 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
About: Great restaurant with excellent food and a downstairs party/function area.
What to get: Great for large groups and functions. This is also BYO bottle.
- Bricklane Brasserie
Address: 67 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
Phone: 020 7377 8072
About: The saying goes you get what you pay for and it is definitely true of this top-class establishment. As this is Brick Lane feel free to do a bit of haggling.
What to get: Balti, any and all are amazing.
Around the area
Walk down towards Whitechapel High Street and there’s more curry restaurants and shops selling food, sweets, saris and fabrics.
Walk up towards Bethnal Green Road and at 159 Brick Lane you’ll find the famous Beigel Bakery that is open 24 hours a day.
If you are here on a Sunday be sure to come in the morning for the Sunday morning market.
Brick Lane Market
The market is a must if you are visiting on the only day it opens every week, Sunday. Historically this market served as the weekly jaunt for the whole family. Clothes were purchased and birthday presents picked out. A families life would be sculpted by what was bought at the market. Of course times change and so has the landscape of Brick Lane since then.
This is a pure bric-a-brac market you won’t find any new or shiny looking items here and that’s the point. Part of the fun is following the side streets to see where they lead and picking the jewels out from the junk. You’ll find things to wear (leather is a speciality) and eat as well as lots of items that might “come in handy one day”. It’s easy to get side-tracked by the many stalls and boxes of collectables.
Eat and eat
Here you will also find an array of places to eat and drink. From Ethiopian tea and coffee to artisan baked bread that day. Whatever you feel like eating will be catered for on Sunday as pop-up stalls set-up for Sunday’s only.
If the aroma from the beigel bakeries doesn’t tempt you, the Bangladeshi restaurants probably will. Expect to find anything from furniture to fruits, kitchenware to kitsch and odd boots to bangles.
Open from early morning until about 14.00 (Sundays only) – allow plenty of time to see it all as the market stretches into Cheshire Street and Sclater Street.
History of Brick Lane
In medieval times bricks and tiles were manufactured in Brick Lane. Although some wealth had been introduced by the arrival of Huguenot silk weavers from for the poverty of its inhabitants since at least the 16th century.
In 1724 Ben Truman established the Black Eagle Brewery at the junction of Hanbury Street. His own house wast 4 Princelet Street. Brewing smells and the constant clatter of horses hooves dominated as teams pulled carts of hops, corn and hay to the brewery and then took away the full barrels of beer. The brewery has closed down, but you can take a free conducted tour from Tuesday to Thursday at 10:30am. (Contact Englefields (London) Ltd, Reflection House, Cheshire Street, E2).
By the middle of the 19th century the area was a slum of narrow alleyways and courts, into which about one million people were crowded, the vast majority in single poorly-furnished rooms in decaying houses and tenements, which had neither adequate water supplies nor proper sewage facilities.
Changing faces of the area
Today’s Brick Lane is a busy narrow road. Some of the street-names of the roads running off it have a kind of mythology to them. Chicksand Street is reputed to be where Bram Stocker stayed on his return to Transylvania. Flower and Dean Street was the address of most of Jack the Ripper’s victims at some stage in their lives, Hanbury Street is where Annie Chapman was murdered by the Ripper. Old Montague Street has hardly changed in the last two hundred years. Halal butchers have replaced kosher ones and the synagogues have become mosques, the Jewish men who shuffled along Brick Lane are now shuffling Bengali men