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Natok, curry and Mela: it’s the best of Bangladeshi London

Thahmina Haseen: the best of Bangladeshi London
Scott Chasserot

Ask any Londoner where you can find all things Bangladeshi and they’ll point you towards Brick Lane. A wave of Bangladeshi immigrants to London (mostly from the Sylhet region) made their mark here after WWII, when immigration was encouraged by new laws, and the city gained a distinctive flavour thanks to the new East End curry houses. The surrounding ‘Banglatown’ area, with street signs in Bengali as well as English, is the centre of a substantial Bangladeshi population in Tower Hamlets.

But it’s a misconception that the Bengali presence in London is relatively new: records date the first arrivals to the start of the Indian Empire. We Bengalis take immense pride in our language, arts, literature and ancestry as well as our food, and we love a good party too: the Boishakhi Mela (Bengali New Year) is London’s second largest open-air festival, beaten only by Notting Hill Carnival. Thahmina Haseen

Did you know? British Bangladeshis, especially those who have emigrated back to the subcontinent, are known in Bangladesh as ‘Londonis’.

Thahmina’s favourite Bangladeshi places in London

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Calcutta Street in Fitzrovia is a tikka masala-free restaurant that pays homage to traditional Bengali recipes.

Music, colour, dance and drama come to the city every year for the London Bengali Film Festival. Or you can catch seasonal natok (drama) performances at Rich Mix or Oxford House Theatre.

Tania Rahman’s restaurant Chit Chaat Chai in Wandsworth has a menu dedicated to desi streetside food, reminiscent of the bustling lanes of Dhaka.

For something cheap and cheerful, head to Kolapata in Whitechapel and try a plate of tamarind-soaked puchka.

The long-established Taj Stores on Brick Lane sells staple Bengali fruit and veg, plus lots more goodies.

Haggle at the food stalls of Whitechapel Market for rupchanda (pomfret fish). If you’re feeling brave, grab a couple of seriously hot bhut jolokia (naga) chillis too.

The best of Bangladeshi London, according to you

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‘The bust of Rabindranath Tagore in Gordon Square, and Gram Bangla restaurant on Brick Lane if dried fish is your thing!’ Alim K via Facebook

Indian Veg in Angel: a Bangladeshi all-you-can-eat buffet and it’s all vegetarian! Also Spitalfields City Farm: they grow Bangladeshi veg on site.’ @TajTeaTreats via Twitter

Next up, we want to know: what’s your favourite Syrian place in London?

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