Hunting for Treasure in Brick Lane

by Amber Bryce  |  Published March 5, 2014

Full of treasures and the rich aromas of delicious food, Brick Lane is a scruffy part of East London that is lovable through its character, inspired by the old souls whose belongings line shop windows, telling tales of the past.

Brick Lane. (Photo: Gons via Wikimedia)

Brick Lane. (Photo: Gons via Wikimedia)

Brick Lane is for the trendy, quirky, and curry loving people of the city. You’ll know you’ve reached it through the slightly decrepit walls of art work lining walk ways along with signs saying “vintage” in the distance.

The street is a seemingly never ending stretch of temptation in the form of good smelling food, and windows crammed with antiques, old fashioned dresses and strange jewelry. There’s a definite feeling of various cultures and eras coming together to create a place that is brimming with curiosities, which makes the hours spent here disappear in a haze of fascinations.

It’s impossible to have a plan of where you’d like to visit here, as it’s almost a certainty that you’ll end up getting distracted by somewhere else along the way. While the shops will appeal most to those with an interest in more unusual and artistic things, there’s sure to be somewhere unique for everyone to enjoy, and remember long after their visit.

Strong chocolate and Jurassic Jewelry

One such place is the Dark Sugars chocolate shop. Bowls of 85% cacao sit looking powdery and delicious in the window, while there’s the un-missable and overpowering scent of chocolate that will stop you in the street and leave you stumbling back towards the entrance in a zombie like trance. There’s everything from tequila and baileys chocolates inside, to more innocent truffles patterned in flower details and galactic gold and silver swirls.

You can fill up a box of your own chocolaty choices, which is charged by the gram. These make a great gift for someone the sweet tooth in your life, or, of course, for yourself. The toughest part is trying not to eat them before you get home!

If you like jewelry with a difference then the bold, innovative and charismatic designs of Tatty Devine will be just the things to satisfy. One of the most popular buys here is the personalised name necklace. A large board showing various colours, fonts and charms allows you to design something completely unique for yourself. If you don’t visit London often then this makes a lovely memento.

Even if you don’t buy anything, just being surrounded by the spectacular sights of the huge Jurassic dinosaur bone necklace, or catching the shimmer of Perspex iridescent wings in the corner of your eye is enough to provide a mesmerizing visit that’ll leave you with a head full of wants.

Clothes from the Past

Vintage shops are all the rage in Brick Lane. Prices can vary too, with one shop housing a basement of second hand clothing that costs around £10-15, while others can be a lot more expensive. It depends a lot on the type of vintage you’re looking at, though for certain the most popular shops for picking yourself up a few fashions from the past would have to be Beyond Retro and Rokit.

Beyond Retro is a large warehouse down a side street. It is full to the brim of crazily patterned shirts, old military boots, funky shades and vintage Levi jeans. This isn’t the kind of shop you can pop into, as unless you’re really lucky or just super quick to spot the things that you like, you’ll need a good while to hunt through everything and then try it on. Each piece on the rails is usually one of a kind, and therefore there’s a lot to browse, as you can imagine. When you do find something you love though it feels all the more rewarding.

Beyond Retro (Photo: E.Webber via Flickr)

Beyond Retro (Photo: E.Webber via Flickr)

Rokit is similar in that it’s a well-known brand amongst vintage shops, with another two shops in Camden and Covent Garden. Once again, you’ll find yourself caught up in a hunt against other customers for the best of the hoard.

If you like cats then you’re definitely going to like Brick Lane. Not only is Lady Dinah’s cat cafe set to open in the area soon (which will also be London’s very first cat cafe), but there also happens to be a little shop called Lik + Neon that has three chilled out cats lazing on their beds while you browse the quirky art prints and brooches, at the same time admiring the unusual lighting.

This shop is also a good example of how many of the shops in Brick Lane can be great for introducing their visitors to local artists and independent crafters. There’s a sense of the people that work in this area doing what they’re passionate about, and adding their own personality to their shops so that the ambience is just as memorable as the things they are selling.

The Best Curries in London

Of course, no day out is complete without some good food. You certainly won’t have trouble finding somewhere to eat either, with Brick Lane famous for its asian restaurants and street markets. You’ll find waiters bartering for your custom outside some places, while the aromas of exotic spices will have your mouth watering, though not make deciding on where to go any easier.

One of the best restaurants is the Cinnamon, which labels itself as being the ‘king of all kings for curries in Brick Lane’. It also received a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor in 2013 and includes a Michelin chef named Pat Chapman, so you can rest assured that you’ll be well fed here.

At Brick Lane Market. (Photo: EGuide Travel via Flickr)

At Brick Lane Market. (Photo: EGuide Travel via Flickr)

If you’re around the area on a sunday then the Brick Lane Market is a must. The friendly bustle of city markets are always the perfect places for encapsulating the character of a place. The Brick Lane Market, with its vibrant mixture of second hand clothes, bric-a-brac, toiletries, furniture and some delicious fresh foods certainly captures the essence of East London’s down to earth yet exhilarating atmosphere.

On first glance Brick Lane doesn’t look very welcoming, but it’s all in the detail. Once you start to take notice of the displays in windows, and marvel at the strangeness and skill of the art embellished walls you’ll begin to feel a sense of belonging. A bit like a scruffy stranger, it is full of stories, which unravel throughout the time you spend in its company.