I took a walk down Brick Lane today, with my heels clicking on the cobble stoned ground, as the faint sun shone down on my face. The lane as always, is a hub of activity and sensational aromas. Curry houses line the street on both sides, proudly displaying banners which are similar from one restaurant to the next. ‘Best Balti House 2010’ reads one; another says ‘Curry House of the Year 2011’; and yet another: ‘Restaurant of the year 2009’.
Clearly a marketing ploy to attract many naive foreigners, but hey who can blame them? This is after all Banglatown. Walking down Brick Lane feels like a completely different world in the middle of a very English city. There’s even touting outside of nearly every restaurant, trying to entice you into a meal in their fine establishment, while their competition across the way nudges you closer to his end of the lane.
The name is derived from the former brick and tile manufacturing that took place in the area, using local brick earth. At first the area was occupied by French Huguenots, who left their mark on many of the side streets in this area, such as Huguenot Place, where my office is situated. In the last century however, the area has been occupied by Bangladeshis.
It’s quite a popular hang out spot for trend setters, who spill over from the nearby “trendy” Shoreditch. Big hats with peacock feathers, red-dyed fur coats, thigh-high boots, purple hair and top hats are all the norm around these parts. On the weekends the lane turns into a street market, with street vendors, songstresses and Carrom Board games; providing a little ‘something’ for everyone.
The rich heritage of the area, combined with the quirky characters that hang out there and the smell of masala is what makes Brick Lane unique to me.