Devolution is a hot topic in the UK. According to survey results published in the Evening Standard, 20% of Londoners think the city could even be its own country. The figure rises to 44% among 25 to 34-year-olds. Now that I have British citizenship and can actually vote, I’m wondering if I would support independence for London, because sometimes the city feels so big it’s overwhelming. London’s neighborhoods emanate endlessly from the Thames, and each one is so unique that the country of London would have many cities. If that were the case, one of the best would be Spitalfields.
Spitalfields is known for its covered market. Just off Liverpool Street in east London, Spitalfields Market is home to chic boutiques like Inspitalfields and a variety of places to eat, including the new Wright Brothers restaurant from the oyster company of the same name. I’m here with a friend exploring the area, and we can’t resist a visit—or the sweet siren call of the Lola’s Cupcakes kiosk.
Around the kiosk are two market halls with a rotating range of markets throughout the week. From funky clothing to quirky jewelry, there’s a market day for everything at Spitalfields. On the day we’re here it’s antiques, and there’s an endless supply of vintage treasures to discover.
But the neighborhood isn’t just famous for Spitalfields Market. Over on Brick Lane, which is known for its curry houses, we find more markets in the Old Truman Brewery buildings.
The Backyard Market and nearby Sunday (Up)Market feature all things arts and crafts, and the Boiler House Food Hall is a weekend culinary paradise with stalls selling food from all over the world.
And that’s to say nothing of the Vintage Market, which is full of everything from classic rock records to acid washed denim, and the street markets, which offer a bit of everything.
In addition to the markets, Spitalfields is known for its restaurants. The curry houses on Brick Lane are a bit cliche these days, so the neighborhood has expanded its culinary offerings to suit Londoners’ increasingly adventurous taste buds.
Across the street from Spitalfields Market, we pop into St. John Bread and Wine. It has a no-frills dining room with an open kitchen preparing some of the neighborhood’s best British food. There’s also an in-house bakery counter that sells amazing bread, and we can’t resist buying a loaf before we leave.
Back over on Brick Lane, there’s an endless supply of new restaurants and coffee shops popping up. From Nude Espresso to the hip Full Stop coffee shop, there’s no shortage of places to get a caffeine fix. And speaking of caffeine, the Dark Sugars chocolate shop has some of the most mouth-watering confections in the neighborhood.
For meals that consist of more than coffee and chocolate, Fika has great Swedish food and Moo, a new Argentine steak house on Brick Lane, offers more substantial fare.
As do the food trucks behind the Old Truman Brewery. Their informal space is dominated by street art featuring boulder-smashed cars atop neighboring buildings, befitting Spitalfields’ artsy, off-beat vibe.
And speaking of vibes, Vibe bar on Brick Lane is one of the neighborhood’s famous nightlife spots (of which there are many). But the pubs in Spitalfields are also great, and one of the newest is The Culpeper. Its light, airy ambiance and buzzing bar have made it a neighborhood hotspot since it opened over the summer. It’s so crowded that my friend and I have to steady ourselves against the counter as we order.
Another of Spitalfields’ best pubs is The Ten Bells, where we sit for a drink while soaking up the historic atmosphere. It’s right across the street from Spitalfields Market, bringing our little neighborhood tour full-circle.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in just one small part of London, and doing so has heightened my belief that London could be its own country. If one neighborhood has so much to explore, independence is worth considering…right?