The Marmite effect of Brick Lane

There’s a mosque on Brick Lane that was once a Huguenot church, then a synagogue and took its current form when the area became home to Bangladeshis in the 1970s and more recently Somalians. I imagine in its next incarnation it might become a tech start up incubator hub with a street food pop-up café serving artisanal breads with Peruvian/Ghanian fusion food and bespoke matcha tea cocktails ironically served in reclaimed jam jars.

Until such time, which some will see as inevitable in how the capital’s cultural landscape continues to morph itself and which others will claim is the driving out of an already dispossessed community, Brick Lane needs to make a concerted attempt to justify its existence as Banglatown.

Public empathy still appears to be for it to remain as our curry mile. The media goes into a frenzy when a Pret opens there and yesterday I shared the Londonist’s raising of an eyebrow when the Standard claimed the arrival of a Premier Inn there was further proof of gentrification driving out the locals. I would think the opposite – it is most certainly will be a boost to the restaurants in the area as it brings more custom.

The market will of course decide whether Brick Lane changes with the times and Shoreditch takes it over or whether it can raise its game and survive. And the market works on the principle of offering a product in a manner and at a price that customers want in sufficient numbers to justify their existence. And there’s the challenge; the restaurants on that road are largely now more known for their touts than their tandooris. The new generation of restaurateurs in the area could do with broadening their appeal to make their businesses sustainable.

You can’t put a preservation order on the area. I’ve offered my help to make those businesses revive their former glory and make the environment as appealing as it used to be 20 years ago and like all  good selfless offers, mine is selfish too; it’s been ages since I’ve heard anyone say “Shall we go for a Brickie?” and I’d like to bring that refrain back to the London vocabulary.

About Iqbal Wahhab

Founder of Roast Restaurant, Borough Market.
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