Decorated with a cursive script of railway arches and nearly touching the hem of Victoria Park, Cambridge Heath Road is the reason why locals rarely venture far from home on Sundays. It runs all the way through Bethnal Green, from Whitechapel to Regent’s Canal, but just to clear this up from the outset: it’s got nothing to do with Cambridge, and there’s no heath to speak of. Sorry, literal-minded Londoners.
Bethnal Green residents have long enjoyed themselves on this short drag, but gentrification over the last ten years has wrought a number of changes. The old town hall’s now a stylish hotel, the railway arches are home to many of London’s enterprising craft brewers and even the local Caribbean food joint couldn’t avoid being turned into an award-winning cocktail bar.
Nonetheless there’s still a sense of community and continuity in this corner of the capital. The York Hall, a boxing venue since 1929, is now also a GLL-run gym, the Genesis Cinema, first opened in 1912, is still going strong, and the Victorian mission at St Margaret’s House remains a firm neighborhood fixture nearly 130 years on — thanks, in part, to its brilliant café. So next time you’re wending your way home from Victoria Park or Broadway Market, investigate this under-the-radar high street. Just don’t bother looking for the heath.
Cocktails at Satan’s Whiskers. This joint is undoubtedly one of the best bars in London, not least thanks to its seemingly never-ending cocktail list.
Campari Orange at Ombra – cap off a gorgeous stroll along the canal with a big fat copa glass of this luminous booze.
A life-giving coffee from the cart at the top of the steps by Museum Gardens before you face the Central Line in the morning.
Fresh, homemade cakes and vegetarian food from community spot The Gallery Café. Grab a cosy table in the sunny conservatory at the back.
Bibimbap at Hurwundeki. Nibble on dumplings and gorge on kimchi at this Korean café by the station.
A takeaway from Italina. Box up a margherita and take it for a walk to Victoria Park.
Scrub up on a spa day at York Hall. This historic public baths has been given a new lease of life thanks to the Spa London scheme. Grab your hammam towel and get steamy.
Gallery hop – IMT, Hada Contemporary, Resistance, Limewharf, Wayward and Cell Project Space all have homes around CHR and Vyner Street. The monthly First Thursdays offer a great opportunity to see what’s on.
The 104-year-old Genesis Cinema is one of London’s best indies. Gorehounds: its new Folk Horror Cinema Club is awesome.
Visit the other V&A. The Museum of Childhood has heaps of toys and games from Victorian times all the way up to the 1970s. Nostalgic, yep, but also pretty clever and lots of fun.
Take your trusty cycle for a check-up at friendly independent bike place Bikeworks – or do one of its workshops and learn to DIY.
Posh hand cream for your mum from The Hive – and enjoy a fancy cold-pressed juice while you’re at it.
If you only do one thing…
Slip down the back of the railway arches and have two-thirds of a pint at the Redchurch Brewery Taproom: it has London’s best pub cat and a roster of ace DJs as well as some formidable ales.
By Ellie Broughton, who’s still searching for the heath.
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