Food Adventures on Brick Lane in London, England
Brick Lane Markets
If you’re looking for something to do on a Sunday in London, England, you must visit Brick Lane Markets for good eats, bargains, and believe it or not, even haircuts. You can get almost anything on Brick Lane, and yes, that includes haircuts, massages and even a manicure, right on the street outside of the stalls. It’s a pretty incredible sight to see, a true street market with everything to offer.
Brick Lane has a rich history, named for its cobblestone brick roads, buildings and sidewalks, this East London district is home to a large Indian community. Both Salman Rushdie and Monica Ali have used Brick Lane as a setting for their novels. London graffiti artist and political activist, Banksy has also used the brick walls in and around Brick Lane as canvases for his art. Brick Lane market is spilling of buttons, t-shirts and posters featuring Banksy’s work. Our friend, whom we were staying with has a Banksy poster in his apartment, the famed one with the little girl in a dress letting go of a red heart-shaped balloon. This image will forever remind me of London. I even bought a little wooden block imprinted with the image to display at home.
Now, onto the food. Brick Lane is famous for curry but it’s hard to focus on that when there are so many street food vendors on the lane, inside the market and other surrounding markets. Brick Lane stalls and food stands are only open on Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm. So if you want to visit, get up early, and go hungry.
Our first stop was an Indian Sweets and Fry shop called Ambala. We wanted to pick up something small but hot just to tote around and nibble on while we shopped the stalls. We picked the Lamb Pakora, and it was served to us piping hot in a paper bag, perfect for the cold, grey, drizzling London morning. The savoury pastry was hot and a little spicy, it definitely warmed me up. The outside of the pastry was crispy but the inside was soft and crumbly, the gram flour it was made of crumbles much more easily than wheat flour. The lamb stuffing was pretty substantial, mixed in with curry and onions, this pastry ended up becoming quite a filling snack. The lamb meat, although ground up was still very tender and flavourful (well, during those bites when my tongue didn’t light on fire with the hits of curry).
Our next stop was for sweets.
We stumbled upon the Sweet Tooth Factory inside a small building on Brick Lane referred to as the Food Market Boiler House. It smells phenomenal inside. There is food from all over the world, Thailand, China, Indian, and lucky for us, North American treats like cupcakes and cheesecakes at Sweet Tooth Factory. Their cute cupcakes decorated gorgeously and lined up in rows ready to be purchased and devoured. I picked my all-time favourite, the red velvet. I also chose a vanilla cheesecake.
The red velvet cupcake was brilliantly red, as all sexy red velvets should be. It tasted just as good as it looked, sinfully moist, tooth-achingly sweet and the swirl of cream cheese frosting was the perfect partnership of sweet and hint of saltiness from the cream cheese. I would go back to Brick Lane again, just for this one cupcake.
The vanilla cheesecake was on a graham cracker crust, which is not my preference (I like shortbread crusts), but the cake itself was unique. The texture was rustic but I liked it. The cake was dense and thick, sticking to my fork with every bite. It was not as sweet as the cupcake, and the subtle vanilla flavour really came through at the end of each bite, rising to the tip of my tongue as I swallowed the thick, creamy bites. I like to think of this cheesecake as a rustic, masculine version of a usually wimpy, silky and delicate dessert. This is the street food version of cheesecake, with its courser texture and firmer body, you could eat this with your hands as you shopped Brick Lane and it wouldn’t crumble or melt.
Our last stop was Spitalfields Market, a large open-air building with clothing and art stalls. I was determined to try a meat pie so I walked into Square Pie, a small shop near one of the side entrances of Spitalfields. I chose a chicken curry meat pie. Like the name advertises, all the pies are square shaped, which I found cute and amusing. The chicken curry pie was pretty delicious. The crust was flaky and buttery but still sturdy enough to hold quite a lot of chicken and curry filling. The curry oozed out as we cut the pie open with our forks. The curry was pretty mild, not as strong as the lamb pakora we ate earlier in the day. The chicken was very tender, and tasted surprisingly well-marinated. This was a meat pie, after all. In the olden days, meat pies were filled with meat scraps from the kitchen. I guess that isn’t the case these days.
Brick Lane is a wonderful place to take photos, explore, shop and most of all to eat!