In the first of several dispatches from London, Katie Burnett, a friend and wildly effervescent actress and writer living across the pond, shares her recipe for a perfect Sunday in Brick Lane…
My favourite thing to do on a Sunday in London is go to Brick Lane. I used to live right at Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road (for those who know it – I lived behind the Noodle King, the cheapest Chinese around). If you’re with friends, or alone, travel to the area for the day and indulge.
First, start at Columbia Road Flower Market. There are beautiful antique shops and vintage furniture stores along Columbia Road – in fact, in the back of one such shop is a lovely little place called Cake Hole, a tiny cake and coffee shop that has delicious victoria sponge cakes and other goodies. There’s plenty of food, but the main attraction is of course, the flower market. Take a walk down the full length of the road (it won’t take too long!) to peruse all the flowers before making your choice.
From Columbia Road, head down to Brick Lane. The first thing you’ll encounter (aside from some great pubs, including Casa Blue on the corner) are two competing bagel shops. Both sell bagels for very cheap, and it’s worth getting a bag of at least ten bagels because once you have one, you’ll want more. They remind me of my youth growing up in Montreal, and anyone who knows Montreal bagels knows you can’t stop at one.
Continue along past the hooka shops, hairdressers, vendors selling pirated DVD’s and you’ll find vintage heaven, especially a store called Rokit. I bought a flowery dress there for 20 pounds a few years ago, and it’s still my favourite dress. (Rumours have it Victoria Beckham has dropped several loads of items off there over the years!)
After the vintage shops you’ll hit two bars on either side of the road – on the left (east) side is 93 Feet East, where Radiohead once played a secret gig, and on the right (west) side is Vibe Bar, with a huge patio, perfect for sitting outside in the sun and enjoying a pint and some people watching.
Now if you’re hungry, you’ll soon be hitting what seems like twenty or thirty curry shops. Each one will have a worker who runs out after you, offering you a better deal than the next – fifteen percent off the bill, a free glass of wine, no wait, twenty percent off the bill and a free bottle of wine! Resist them – trust me.
Continue down, past all those restaurants, no matter how hungry you are, until you hit Whitechapel, the old stomping ground of Jack the Ripper. (If you want along the way, you can pass by the Ten Bells Pub where Jack himself picked out prostitutes to, well, you know…) Whitechapel is a thriving area now with art galleries, hipster pubs and vintage shopping.
Now, once you’re in Whitechapel you will find what I like to call the Holy Grail of Curry – Tayyabs. Tayyabs is hands down, by far, the absolute best curry I’ve ever had, and my favourite restaurant in London. Now, before you hit Tayyabs try and remember to pick up a bottle of cold wine, or some Cobra beers because Tayyabs isn’t only the best curry in London, it’s also BYOB – oh yes – Bring Your Own Bottle.
You’ll arrive with your bottles in a bag and think, hey it’s a Sunday afternoon, I should be seated in no time, right? Well, it depends. This place is so popular you will almost always have a line up, though depending on how many in your party, you usually get seated very quickly (note – they take reservations, so always try and make one).
I always order my favourite kind of naan bread – peshwari naan, which tastes like coconuts. The first time I had it, introduced by my friend Xina, I fell in love. Instantly. It’s the kind of taste that sticks with you forever. It’s THAT good. I also like to order the chicken tikka, which goes well with the naan.
Oh and do you like Kings of Leon? I do. I love them. And it’s their favourite restaurant. So maybe, just maybe, if you know they’re in town, take a trip down – it’s London, these things happen!
[First photo found here, second photo by Oliver Dawe, third and fourth by Katie.]
P.S. Want to keep living vicariously? Katie Burnett has more dispatches from London coming up on The Anthology!