From curry pimps to hipsters to perenially bored millionaires, Brick Lane draws action like fruitflies to an overripe banana. If you’re looking for something to do in London that’s dirt cheap, da Brick’s where it’s at baby! This historical district located near Aldgate / Whitechapel is famous for its curry houses, markets, bars, vintage shops, galleries and graffiti scene. The perpetually changing artistic landscape means you’re bound to spot something different on your next visit, so there’s no shortage of brain candy. Add bubbly crowds and colourful characters to the outrageously popular Sunday market and you’ve got a recipe for unforgettable adventure. Without a doubt, this is one of the most exciting alternative scenes in London. During peak time, you can encounter up to 50 different nationalities in one afternoon. Now’s the time to flaunt your exotic immigrant background – people here will love you for it. Traffic is actually permitted through Brick Lane on market day, which makes for some rather hilarious driver-pedestrian scenarios. The sound of liquor bottles exploding from tire pressure is rather unsettling, though I’ve never seen anyone get hurt from flying shrapnel. There is much to see, do, and explore at this teeming outpost of hyperactive insanity, so I’ll cover the basics. The rest is up to you…
East end slumming doesn’t get much better than Café 1001. Located at 1 Dray Walk directly opposite the Up Market, this converted warehouse is one of the best spots for a pressure free chill. There’s no dress code and the staff are pretty friendly. Best of all it’s free, except for the monthly marathon events that run for 24 hrs. Other cool features include the book orphanage and the contemporary art exhibit. They host a movie night on Monday and you can catch live bands during the week. The jazz program on a Wednesday is awesome. Café 1001 serves a decent variety of sandwiches, salads and snacks that are reasonably priced. Drinks are fairly expensive and the beer selection is limited to rather lousy imports (except for Carlsberg maybe). The good news is you can get a stamp from security, go to off-license, get tanked and come back. The bouncers at the laneway entrance often check bags for booze and won’t allow you to even pass through Dray Walk if they find any. Things were different back in 2005 when you could wander in and out freely with a drink in your hand, but those days are history. If top notch tea and coffee’s your thing, try the Moroccan style resto down the road or Albion on Redchurch. Café 1001 boasts an outdoor BBQ which serves burgers and grilled sandwiches with fries for the fashionably famished. The Café is known for its eclectic roster of DJ’s spinning a variety of music from dubstep to tech-house and hip-hop on Friday and Saturday nights, and they usually have a wicked jungle/dnb night once a month. Everyone gets kicked out at 12 a.m. sharp which really sucks. Peeps hang around outside smoking up a storm trying to figure out where to go next, while the leafletters provide them with a fistful of options. Aquarium, Rhythm Factory or Favela Chic are good places to start, as they are in close proximity round Shoreditch way.
Sundays are fab when the action kicks off around 1 p.m. with ska / reggae in the front room. This space is more like a lounge with peeps just laying about yakking it up with their friends or typing away on their laptops. No-one really dances in the front room which is a shame, though some brave souls have been known to buck that trend. The back room’s usually banging with deep house and Detroit techno; the action picks up around 7ish. One of the downsides to Café 1001 is that it attracts a high percentage of sleaze; most of the guys are a bunch of cheapazoids who expect to get laid without even buying you a drink. And you gotta watch your belongings like a hawk as it’s thick with thieves; they have signs posted everywhere informing you of the risk. Best to leave that £500 designer jacket at home or you will be sorry. Occasionally this place gets hot with undercover jerkoffs, so please be mindful of your surroundings and follow your instincts. Otherwise a wicked, no frills, semi-ravey, chill out joint.
Scope out Cafe 1001’s lush musical menu at http://www.cafe1001.co.uk/
93 FEET EAST
This legendary club hosts the ever popular Fuse every Sunday, featuring a roster of European DJs such as Enzo Siragusa, Luke Miskelly, Seb Zito and more. Entry is usually free unless there are events billed as raves which start at £10 and increases at peak periods. 93 is a virtual magnet for the tragically hip, fashionably wasted, awesomely artistic, semi-disaffected, glamour-girl types and glittery pornstars. Track pants and scruffy trainers are frowned upon by clipboard wielding doorstaff who will deny entry if they deem you a fashion failure. And you have to be on the guestlist or you’ll get blanked at the door. So make sure you get on it in advance, and don’t try on the day of the event because that won’t work either. It is possible to blag your way in if you know someone in the queue who’s already registered. For guestlist privileges, sign up at http://www.fuselondon.net The party starts from 12 p.m. and ends between 10 and 11. 93’s courtyard features a bar and BBQ which rocks, especially on a sunny day. Best to get there early on a Bank Holiday weekend around 2 p.m. or you could have a long wait. On regular Sundays, it’s advisable to get there between 6 and 7, cuz that’s when the party really gets started. Enjoy an off-license drink in the queue and presently, some wino will butt in and start draining every last drop of alcohol from the discarded bottles until security turfs his ass. Larks innit…
93 has 2 rooms on the main floor; usually 1 room is open for Fuse while the other is converted into a coatcheck. It’s great when there’s access to the second room cuz the acoustics are better, it’s air conditioned and there’s more room to dance. Overall 93 is small, their sound system sucks and their exclusive door policy is a joke; however pumping house, techno, and enthusiastic crowds even out the score. There is no a.c. in the main room which means it gets boiling hot once packed but fear not; the bar is stocked with a range of respectable beer and beverages. And of course you can always scoot out to the patio for some air and a smoke. If sharing water with strangers, it’s advisable to always ask whether there’s MDMA in it, otherwise you might get unexpectedly blissed out…which isn’t such a bad thing. Now’s the time to practice your Italian as this place is loaded with Mediterranean party animals, and they are a truly merry, happy go lucky bunch. Feel free to flaunt your swag on the platform in front of the DJ booth; it helps to get you noticed and might snag you a drink from the guy making eyes at you across the room. There is far less sleaze and way more quality than Café 1001, but don’t raise your expectations too high. The majority of peeps here are a wee bit jaded from trying to escape the reality of stressful jobs and overloaded curriculums. If you stay ‘til the very end and don’t have to work on Monday, snag a wristband from the promoters outside and enjoy free entry to Fabric nightclub. For free techno / house parties on Sunday eve that’ll take the edge off the weekend’s final hours, 93 Feet East is highly recommended.
Check out 93’s event listings, including Fuse at http://www.93feeteast.co.uk
THE BIG CHILL
Situated just a stone’s throw away from Café 1001, Big Chill Sundays are phenomenal with ol skool RnB /hip-hop guaranteed to cream your ears. The patio gets packed and noisy with smokers and drinkers, but the dance floor is rather small, since much of the space is devoted to couchsurfing layabouts. My one beef with The Big Chill, or rather, the crowd it attracts, is that hardly anyone dances. It’s mostly City types anxious to cultivate a little swag that dominate this otherwise down-to-earth scenario. Friday nights are pathetic when said types just stand around getting drunk, talking shit, desperate to get laid before closing time. And then you see the floozies and floozettes staggering around at last call, happy to go home and enjoy some rather meaningless drunken sex. To each their own. Great music, good drinks, rubbish crowd. Make sure you bring company or you might end up perusing the wallpaper while you dance. www.bigchill.net/bar
This popular venue is actually part of a small entertainment complex, situated at The Old Truman Brewery opposite 93 Feet East. Entry is usually free and they’ve got a monthly calendar posted on the gate outside so you can plan ahead of schedule. A plethora of live bands play a variety of music, from RnB to reggae, indie and experimental. Weekdays are generally quiet; it’s on weekends when this place comes alive. Main acts play downstairs, while the lesser knowns are banished to the upper room. I know it’s kinda hard to navigate those stairs when you’ve had a few, but please try to haul your ass up there because sometimes there are good bands playing to a half empty room while the occasional plonkers get the ground floor. There are often wonderful art exhibits on the top floor as well, which allow you to check out the street action from the window. People actually dance and socialize here which is fab. And ladies are bound to get a kick out of the infamous Ron Jeremy toilet signpost. Boozers beware: the ladies queue gets notoriously long due to inadequate toilet facilities. If that happens, try the spare ones just out the door, down the hall to your right and pray they don’t have a monster line-up as well. The courtyard’s a great place to Pimm your way to Sunday afternoon glory while the BBQ’s and roasts will keep you stuffed ‘til mid-week and then some. Occasionally you might end up being treated to a haircut / makeover courtesy of the pop-up barbershop. Rummage for records at the outdoor vintage vinyl sale to your heart’s content, and try not to drop that ash on the sleeve or Tappy will be pissed.
For more info visit http://www.vibe-bar.co.uk
And of course, no mention of Brick Lane is complete without mention of the astonishingly gifted street performer (or “One-Man Band”), Lewis Floyd Henry 😉
Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.