Cool people don’t go to Shoreditch in London’s east end. It’s where they’re from.
Like sewing the last badge onto a pair of swim trunks of hipness or earning the final black belt in ‘trend’ martial arts, you’re only ‘cool’ if you’ve hung out in east London.
But Shoreditch isn’t just a hipster haven, it’s also home to one of the largest Muslim communities in London, Sylhetti Bangladeshis, who have been living here since the 1970s. Before that Shoreditch was home to Sephardic Jews and French Huguenots.
Unfortunately these days Shoreditch is swarming with so many uber-cool fashionistas there just doesn’t seem to be any room for the Muslims. So to help out the Muslim Hipster or ‘Mipster’ we’ve come up with ten ways to be hip and halal in Shoreditch, focusing on the headline area of Brick Lane.
1. First look the part! – It’s no good heading into trend city looking like your blind gran dressed you! So before you start, pop into Beyond Retro, one of London’s most famous vintage stores and pick up something 1920s chic or 80s retro in their huge warehouse-like store on Cheshire Street off Brick Lane.
2. Grab a ‘halal’ beer or a mocktail? – Every hipster comes down to Shoreditch for ‘drinks’ and so should Mipsterz – without ending the night asleep in their own sick of course! If you like to keep it real, then grab an alcohol-free Cobra beer from the Brick Lane Off Licence before your stroll, but if you prefer colourful brollies in your drink, then head for either the Brick Lounge or Monty’s Lounge where you will be served a “Raspberry Mojito” or any number of mocktails (alcohol-free cocktail).
3. Appreciate the arts – All hipsters love art, and so do Mispterz! After all it was artists that first put the ‘cool’ into Brick Lane. So what better way to celebrate the area’s trend tag then to browse some of its independent galleries? And if you’ve got the wallet or purse, maybe you’ll grab yourself an authentic piece as a souvenir. There is no end of galleries around Shoreditch, but the intimate and aptly named Brick Lane Gallery, which exhibits global contemporary artists and has featured the likes of Banksy is a great find.
4. Have a ‘halal’ smoke – So hipsters like to smoke, but Mipsterz know it’s not halal, what to do? Head for the Hookah Lounge of course! There you can rig up an electronic hookah, which uses no nicotine or tobacco and recline on Ottoman-style furniture blowing plumes of fruit flavoured smoke slowly into the air like a regal sultan. All safe in the knowledge your lungs and your principles are intact!
5. Hipster Salt Beef Bagel – After all that hookah-ing you’ll be hungry and there isn’t a guide book in the world that will let you leave Brick Lane without trying a delicious salt beef bagel at the Brick Lane Bagel Bake and nor should you! The best thing about this age old east end tradition is that it is a Jewish tradition and that means kosher salt beef! And what is kosher for Jewish folk is of course ‘kosher’ for Mipsterz!
6. Grab an antique – After a bagel, like every self-respecting hipster you’ll probably want to grab an antique to develop your vintage chic theme for your loft apartment and pitched directly in front of the Bagel shop every Sunday is Beautiful Things. Run by antique connoisseur Diane George who learnt the ropes on West London’s Portobello Road, you won’t be buying just any old guff here. Handpicking every item herself, Diane says she’s “the biggest secret in Brick Lane”, but not anymore!
7. Drink a hip coffee – There’s coffee and then there’s hipster coffee! It tastes the same only you’re able to go on and on about the amazingly quirky cafe you got it from. Well as a Mipster you can go one better and boast how yours got served straight out of a London Black cab! That’s right, parked under the bridge near Cheshire Street on Sundays is The Black Cab Coffee Co where Graham serves freshly ground, aromatic coffee with a warm smile. If you ask nicely enough he might even give you directions!
8. Pick up a hip read – Hipsters aren’t just cool, they’re also smart (well some of them anyway!) and so are Mipsterz. And there really is no better place to pick up an interesting and quirky book about the fascinating history of Brick Lane then the Brick Lane Bookshop. Actively supporting local writers as well as stocking the finest collection of books on local Muslim history, it really doesn’t get much cooler than this!
9. Amar Gaon for an authentic Bangladeshi curry – In the ‘olden’ days the cockney geezer would go down the lane for A ‘Ruby Murray’ (cockney rhyming slang for curry), now every hipster has caught on. But Mipsterz can go one better by ignoring all the touts trying to drag them into an ‘Indian’ restaurant and instead grab a truly authentic Bangladeshi curry at Amar Gaon. At the south end of Brick Lane, this cafe-like eatery serves fish and meat dishes so localised you’d find them on your plate if a local Muslim Bangladeshi was to invite you home for dinner! Now that is hip.
10. Salah in a Mipsterz mosque – There is no better way to end a day of ‘Mipness’ than by praying in the trendiest mosque of all. Not only is the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid on London’s trendiest street, but it also has an amazing history. The building has actually served all three Abrahamic faiths through the ages. It started life as a Methodist church before becoming a Synagogue and finally a Mosque. But what makes it so ‘Mip’ today is the lava lamp minaret! Well, not quite, but the uber-stylish silver minaret, which glows reds, blues and greens certainly looks like one every time it changes colour. Now you can’t get Mipper than that!
Brick Lane and Shoreditch are just two of the many reasons I love living in London. Want to know what the others are? Here I am discussing some on BBC radio.
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