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I am never quite sure whether to put takeaway food places in the resturant section or the things to do section so I have developed a sort of rule for it. If a place has any sort of seating at all it goes in the restaurant section and if not it is a thing to do. The Fish Plaice on Cambridge Heath Road falls into the latter category. However, don't let the fact that you have to take your grub home put you off, this is a cracking chippy.
Many of the chippies round London seem now to be adjuncts of "Chinese" takeaways but that is not the case here, there isn't a swwt and sour or chow mein to be seen. It concentrates on old-fashioned fish and chips, sausages, pies, chicken and the like and does them very well. Although I have had the fish here and it is excellent, my favourite chippy dish is battered sausage and chips as seen in the second image. Apologies for the mess on my dining table and not using a flash, but you get the idea.
If you are in the area, this is a good bet.
Written Jan 24, 2013
Address: 86 Cambridge Heath Road, E1 5QJ.
Phone: +00 44 (0)207 790 3254
When I arrived in London from Northern Ireland in the late 1980's I had heard of beigels but never actually seen one "in the flesh" as it were. We just could not get them at home in those days. I knew what they were and that they were associated with the Jewish community but I had never actually had one.
One evening, shortly after arriving, I was out with a mate called Bobby who had been born and raised in Bethnal Green and knew the place like the back of his hand. We had had a few beers locally and he asked me if I fancied a beigel so I jumped at the chance. We wandered along Brick Lane and I noticed that there were two beigel shops literally two doors away from each other. One had a queue out the door and the other one had a few people in but not so many. Ordinarily I would have said that the more patronised one was the one to go for as people preferred it but no, my local guide steered me to the other one, the place you see pictured.
I asked him about this and he informed me that all the late night crowd always went to the Beigel Bake but those in the know went to this one, which I believe was then called Evering's. I have since eaten in both many times and both are excellent but I definitely prefer this one. The fact that it is still going when it opened in 1855 must say something and, as the sign indicates, it was the first beigel bakery in Britain. I hadn't a clue what to order form the huge selection and Bobby recommended a salt beef beigel with a little mustard as being very traditional. I went for that and it was absolutely gorgeous. As with the beigel, I had never had salt beef before, I am not even sure I had heard of it and it was beautiful, just falling apart. This remains my favourite beigel although the smoked salmon and cream cheese runs it a very close second. In an area that is almost exclusively Bangladeshi now, this is a lovely and very tasty reminsder of the long Jewish history of the area.
If you are around the East End, this really is a must do activity.
Updated Jan 24, 2013
Address: 155 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6SB
Phone: +00 44 (0)207 729 0826
This tip concerns the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum and deals, naturally enough, with things concerning children.
The building itself is interesting, with the impressive inside iron frame having been transplanted from Brompton where it had been the South Kensington Museum, and the mosaic floor was made by female prisoners from Woking Jail!
There are a huge selection of toys and games on display, which certainly brought back some memories for this 50 something VTer!
There is also a great selection of dolls houses, and children's clothes from times past.
As well as being a museum, the place is very child friendly, and somewhat resembles a creche at times, with kids running about or taking part in the many activities provided by staff.
Although the building is large, I would suggest that, unless you have children taking part in the activities, a couple of hours would be enough to see everything.
Update May 2009.
I have now included a photograph of the Museum with it's new frontage although I have retained the old photo to show what the building was like when I first made the tip.
Update October 2012
I recently revisited the Museum as I had learned that there was a new exhibition of toys which I wanted to see. As with so much in the East End, it is tied in with the Olympics and charts the changes in childhood between 1948 and 2012, those being the last two times the Olympics have been held in the City. I have added a couple of extra images here from the exhibition although I will construct a travelogue to show more of the images.
Updated Oct 28, 2012
Address: Museum of childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London
Phone: 0208 980 2415
I remember when I moved to London in the late 1980's that Bethnal Green Road was one of the hotspots of nightlife in the city. It seemed that there was a nighclub or very lively pub on just about every corner and it really was very lively at the weekend. That really is no longer the case. For a variety of reasons, there are far fewer pubs and I don't know of a proper nightvlub except when you get away down to the City end of the road and these are designed for the City types not the locals.
However, if you happen to be wandering about the BGR (as the street is sometimes locally called) on a Sunday night, you could do worse than pop into Valiente's, the pub in the image. Sunday night is karaoke night with a resident DJ and his daughter keeping the whole thing going. They are both very good singers. I remember in some of the old-fashioned East End pubs when someone would play the piano or more usually an electronic organ, and people would take turns singing. I suppose karaoke is just the technological equivalent of that type of entertainment. Believe me, the locals do love to sing, and there is never a shortage of volunteers. It can be great fun in there and whilst I am not a fan of karaoke myself, someone told the DJ I was a msucian and so I do get dragged onstage sometimes. If you do visit and I am singing, please feel free to step outside for a few minute, I won't be offended!
One last thing. If you are asking directions here and people don't know where Valiente's is, try asking for the Bohola which was the previous name of the premises and which is still used by many people.
Dress Code: Casual.
Written Jan 24, 2013
Address: 423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN
Phone: +00 44 (0)207 739 6654
Update January 2013.
I do like to keep my tips as up to date as I can and there has been a change in the music scene now in the Salmon and Ball. The original tip, which I shall leave here for interest, was written almost four years ago. The rock bands no longer play here regularly but there are occasional blues outfits, normally very good. If the bands are not on (usually on a Saturday), the music is provided by the house DJ who is a lovely and very obliging bloke. He has a vast selection of music and will play you whatever you want from 60's pop to modern house music and anything in between.
I also have to report that the pub is still very safe to drink in, there is absolutely no trouble here like there was some years ago. If you are watching the pennies, there is never a door charge for the entertainment and it is still one of the cheaper options for a drink in the area.
Original Tip, May 2009.
The East End has long been known for music, especially of the rock variety. Although various factors, including ever-changing licensing regulations and the current recession are certainly hurting live music, there are still places where the good old fashioned rock and blues covers bands thrive, and this is one of them. I say this as a musician myself.
The place in question is the Salmon and Ball pub at the junction of Bethnal Green Road and Cambridge Heath Road, and every Saturday night, very good quality rock / blues bands here. My personal favourite are a band called Tush who do escellent covers.
In the past, under a previous name of Tipples, this place had something of a reputation as being a bit rough. Whilst it is certainly not an upmarket wine bar, I personally have never seen any trouble here.
Dress Code: None at all.
Updated Jan 24, 2013
Address: 502 Bethnal Green Rd, Bethnal Green, London, E2 0E
Phone: +00 44 (0)207 613 5866
A couple of things to say to you first of all. In truth, this is not off the beaten track at all, it is passed by literally tens of thousands of people a day, but I wonder how many ever notice it. Secondly, I make no apology for using the same title as I did for my Stainer Street tip. The incidents commemorated by the monuments to which I refer are very closely related, and I can think of no better title than that which I used previously.
OK, unless you have used the hyperlink, you are probably totally confused now, so allow me to explain. This tip refers to a memorial at one of the entrances to Bethnal Green Tube (Underground) station in the East End of London commemorating, as the photo shows, the worst civilian tragedy of the Second World War in the UK.
Imagine the scene. It is March 1943. For weeks on end the German Luftwaffe (airforce) have been bombing the East End of London. The only places of shelter are the all too rare Anderson Shelter or else get down the Tube. Well underground, they provided nightly refuge for literally thousands of terrified Londoners from the death falling from the sky. Imagine now the sirens going, indicating another attack. People are anxious to get to safety, suddenly someone at the front loses their footing (the details are still unclear) and a huge mass of people all tumble down over one another. The fear, the panic, the cries of the dying, the suffocation must all have been absolutely horrific. The end result was that 173 men, women and children were killed in the resulting crush.
As the photos show, there is a small plaque commemorating the event. This is why I have made it an off the beaten path tip as I suspect many people do not even see it.
When I walked up there (it is near my home) to take photos for this tip a few days ago, there was a small memorial of poppies (associated with war dead in the UK) and a few messages. This is not usual but the photo of the young girl who would never grow up (see photo) did touch me.
Not, I would suggest, a place the tourist to London would choose to go specifically but if you happen to be on your way through, for example to the Museum of Childhood, spare a thought.
Update January 2013.
Readers of my pages will know that I do like to keep my tips as up to date as possible and there have been developments regarding this site. After many years of lobbying by local people, there is finally to be a proper memorial erected just beside the fatal stairs. Iis provisionally being called "Stairway to Heaven" and I have included a recent photograph of it under construction. I have also added the website of the charitable organisation recorded. I know it has been completed now so I shall go and get another photo soon.
Updated Jan 24, 2013
Anybody who follows boxing at all will have heard of the York Hall, Bethnal Green, it is simply legendary. The East End has always been known for it's boxing with many young men trying to fight their way out of the poverty that was traditionally associated with the area. The local flyweight WBC champion Charlie Magri] is merely one example from a long line. Charlie, incidentally, is now a successful businessman in the area.
There are still regular boxing nights held here, and the atmosphere can be quite terrific. At the time of writing this tip, a quick look at the website shows several professional boxing nights including a British welterweight bout. There are also the so-called "cage" fights and amateur nights as well.
If boxing is not your thing, York Hall is a completely equipped leisure centre in it's own right.
Equipment: Nothing to watch the boxing, appropriate gear for other activities.
Written May 5, 2009
Address: 5-15 Old Ford Road Bethnal Green London E2 9PJ
Phone: 00 44 208 980 2243