PLACES TO VISIT LOCALLY
Dennis Severs’ House, 18 Folgate St, E1 6XB
Visit this mysterious eighteenth century house, where the smells, sounds and darkness of old London still linger, to experience Dennis Severs’ Tour devised by The Gentle Author.
Spitalfields City Farm, Buxton St, E1 5AR
Opened in 1978 upon a former railway goods yard, today the farm is a lush agricultural haven in the midst of the city with extensive vegetable gardens and livestock, offering a rural experience to all urban dwellers and a playground for children.
Christ Church, Spitalfields, Commercial St, E1 6LY
Nicholas Hawksmoor’s towering masterpiece of English Baroque dominates Spitalfields and its austere interior is a spectacular lightbox that refracts sunlight to dazzling effect, while the crypt beneath where the bodies of local residents were once stored is now open as a subterranean cafe.
Sandys Row Synagogue, 4a Sandys Row, E1 7HW
The last living synagogue in Spitalfields, where once there were more than sixty, operating since 1867 in a former Huguenot chapel built in 1766. Visits must be prearranged but worth the opportunity to discover this atmospheric wonder.
House of Annetta, 25 Princelet St, E1 6QH
The former home of artist Annetta Pedretti is an eighteenth century house now repurposed as a centre for social justice and land reform under the supervision of Turner-Prize-winning architectural collective Assemble, with free exhibitions and events regularly.
Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4QH
Opened in 1895 ‘for the benefit of the public to promote lectures, exhibitions and otherwise the advancement of literature, science and the fine arts,’ today the Institute contains one of London’s best public archives, including Britain’s largest LBTQ+ collection, housed within breathtaking Arts & Crafts interiors.
On Sundays, you can visit Brick Lane Market, Petticoat Lane Market and Columbia Rd Market, and, on Thursdays, Spitalfields Antiques Market.
PLACES OF REFRESHMENT LOCALLY
The Golden Heart, 110 Commercial St, E1 6LZ
London’s most famous landlady Sandra Esqulant has presided here for over forty years, cherishing this legendary pub that is the both a refuge from the trials of life and the epicentre of the universe in Spitalfields
St John Bread and Wine, 94 Commercial St, E1 6LZ
An ever-changing menu of Fergus Henderson’s nose-to-tail cuisine is complemented by fresh seasonal vegetables and a high quality wine list.
Brick Lane Beigel Bakery, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB
Sammy Minzly has presided here since it opened at these premises in 1976, superseding Lieberman’s Bakery, and crowds have been lining up ever since. Open twenty-four hours every day of the year, it is celebrated as the most visible legacy of Jewish culture in Spitalfields.
Cafe Grill, 35 Brick Lane, E1 6PU
This is where the locals eat. Choose from a wide range of freshly cooked dishes on display at the glass counter – especially vegetables and vegetarian food – all at no nonsense prices, and enjoy the capacious canteen-style dining room as a peaceful retreat from the clamour of Back Lane.
Hungry Tummy, 24a Wentworth St, E1 7TF
This tiny Hungarian cafe was opened by Zoltan Pasztor & Ferenc Igor Kozula, two talented young bakers and chefs, who prepare everything on site each day. We recommend the goulash, the langos, the walnut dumplings and the chimney cake.
The Townhouse, 5 Fournier St, E1 6QE
Fiona Atkins has filled this beautiful 1720s weavers’ house with a unique and desirable range of paintings, antiques and artisan goods. Visit the cosy basement kitchen for coffee and cakes freshly baked to historic recipes.
Taj Stores, 112 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
Originally known as ‘Jabbar’s Shop,’ it was founded by Abdul Jabbar, a seaman who came here from Bengal in 1934. Savour a rich selection of produce, displays of fruit and vegetables, printed sacks of rice, tall stacks of coloured cardboard packages, cans, bottles and jars, cooking equipment, towers of plastic jugs and bowls, steel pots and pans, and scourers.
Crescent Trading, 41 Quaker St, E1 6SN
Spitalfields’ last fabric warehouse, a treasure trove of textiles presided over by veteran cloth merchant Martin White, supplying an astonishing range of fine British fabrics at keen prices to costume departments, students, fashion designers, makers and retailers.
Rough Trade, Dray Walk, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL
When other music shops were shutting, Rough Trade opened in the Truman Brewery and put the vinyl at the front. This is London’s best music shop and you can happily lose yourself for a couple of hours in here.
Hussain Tailoring, 64 Hanbury St, E1 5JL
If your hem drops or your trousers split, or you buy a skirt in a size too large, these people can fix it expertly at a price that belies their skill. Or you can get creative by taking along favourite old clothes that are wearing out and asking them to make you replicas.
Libreria, 65 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP
Surely the most fashionable bookshop on the planet. You feel as if you have entered a nightclub that stocks books, but we guarantee you will be inspired by the eclectic stock and idiosyncratic selection of world literature to be found here.
Angela Flanders, 4 Artillery Passage, E1 7LJ
Artisan perfumery in a tiny Georgian shop, established in 1985 and offering an intriguing range of exclusive perfumes, pot pourri, soap and candles, all created and produced locally in Bethnal Green.
Labour and Wait, 85 Redchurch St, E2 7DJ
If you love shiny kettles, enamel pans, steel watering cans and balls of string, this is the best place for traditional hardware.
Leila’s Shop, 15-17 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP
Leila McAlister stocks seasonal fruit and vegetables from independent and small growers, alongside fresh bread, cheese and dry goods. Beneath the wide brown canopy, you can rely upon finding the East End’s most beautiful display of produce and this ever-changing stock forms the basis of the menu for her cafe next door.
E Pellicci, 352 Bethnal Green Rd, E2 0AG
London’s most celebrated family run cafe – into the third generation now and in business for over a century – welcoming East Enders who have been coming for generations to sit in the marquetry-lined interior and enjoy honest dinners cooked every day from fresh ingredients by Maria Pellicci.
Halal Restaurant, 2 St Mark Street, E1 8DJ
The East End’s oldest Indian restaurant opened in 1938 in a former Asian seaman’s mission. Run by Mahaboob Narangali since 1988 and occupying an eighteenth century terrace, the Halal Restaurant has plain decor and an unpretentious menu yet a distinctive personality that is warm and welcoming.
The George Tavern, 373 Commercial Rd, E1 0LA
Formerly The Halfway House, this ancient watering hole was visited by Samuel Pepys and mentioned by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Reeve’s Tale. Landlady Pauline Forster has restored it magnificently, protecting it fiercely from developers and putting it on the map as a fashionable music venue.
Sweetings, 39 Queen Victoria St, EC4N 4SF
Sweetings seafood restaurant is an original Victorian fish & oyster bar, full of character and charm, at the heart of the City of London. It first opened in 1889 and carried on serving lunch ever since.
Novelty Automation, 1A Princeton St, WC1R 4AY
Hidden in a Tudor house in a quiet back street in Holborn, discover a mind-boggling amusement arcade of satirical slot machines created by inventor Tim Hunkin, author of ‘The Rudiments of Wisdom’ and ‘The Secret Life of Machines.’
Thanks are due to the 400 people who donated to our crowdfund, and Spitalfields Society and London Historians for their additional support.
We are grateful to Bishopsgate Institute for permitting us to use images in their collection.
In the creation of the tour, we would like to thank Sharon Allin, Julie Begum, Rachel Lichtenstein, Philip Marriage, Ansar Ahmed Ullah, Charlie De Wet, and Dominic Richards for his inspiration.