Brick Lane : A Minor Exploration

Sunday night with nothing to eat in the house, J & I went for our first exploration of Brick Lane.   

Located in the East End of London, the street is famous for a Sunday market and also being the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community.  Previously it was the heart of the Jewish community and it was quite different from the Jewish tales of Brick Lane my grandad told me about as a child.

We wandered down the road slowly, stopping to look at various shop windows, wishing it wasn’t late on a Sunday evening so we could actually buy some of the groovy things we were seeing.

As we grew thirsty and ran out of shops, we ventured into the massive Vibe Bar.   A large dark room with a glassy chillout area, this is a place that definately needs investigating on a weekend evening.  Set in an old brewery, there seemed to be endless staircases that perhaps lead to a further part of the bar on days when more rooms are open.  A drum & bass dj outfit were playing and the listings for the Bar look interesting.  As an added bonus, they serve Pie Minster pies, who make the brilliant Heidi pie which I got so hooked on at Glastonbury.

Continuing down the road and enticed down Dray Walk by the smell of an outdoor BBQ, we reached the Big Chill Bar.   Although I hadn’t been before, I was aware of the venue from knowledge of their annual festival and an intimate Pete Tong set last summer which I’d sadly been unable to attend.   Wandering into the spacious but busy bar, we smiled to see David McAlmont on the decks, playing the sounds of Cole Porter.  What more could I want!

The venue is a large rectangular shape with a long bar running down one side.  Filled with couches, and complete with wireless internet access, and a varied food and cocktail menu, this is one place which I cannot wait to return to.   A perfect place to meet friends or brunch.

But back to Brick Lane itself.  At it’s basest form, its a place where you can get a curry any time of day or night.

The ‘picking where to eat’ experience differs largely from anything I’ve experienced before,resembling more the club/bar scene in Blackpool or Ibiza.   Outside nearly every restaurant there is an employee trying to get you to come into their particularly venue.   If you linger for more than a second outside a menu, without anyone outside, someone will come running out, and so it became a mission to try to read menus without stopping.

We were offered all types of wonderful things – a round of drinks for free, 20% off our meal, free starters, but eventually we plumped for the only restaurant that didn’t try to make us go in, The Aladin.

Comfortable but basic inside, we ordered Onion Bajjiis and Chicken Tikka for starters, followed by a mixed grill thing and a chicken korma, all accompanied by a bottle of plonk from a nearby shop.   Yay for BYOB.   We particularly enjoyed the menus claim that the Aladin was a favourite of Prince Charles, having mentioned it specifically on LBC in the mid 80s.   The menu even invited us to ask the staff to hear the tape of the mention if we so desired.   We contained ourselves.   

Unfortunately though, after such promise, the meal was ultimately disappointing.  The starters were perfectly average, and while J’s mixed grill showed some promise, my chicken korma was darker than expected and the chicken itself was rather chewy.

Well at least we can cross one of many Brick Lane restaurants off the list.

I’m sure there will be many more Brick Lane related blog entries to come.

(writing about Sunday 12 February)

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