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The only way is Hackney: secret things off the beaten track

Posted at 9:15 am, August 11, 2012 in Secret London
Quirky spots in East London

As you may well know, east London is full of fun, quirky things to do. So many in fact that it can be hard to weed out the interesting from the obscurely pointless. To help you on your way to a fun filled time in Hoxton and Dalston, we’ve put together a list of the best secret spots.

1. Be a silent intruder in a house of Huguenots
Shhh! Are you in a piece of theatre? Is it an art installation? Are you breaking and entering? Hard to say. A tour of the beautifully recreated eighteenthcentury interior of Dennis Severs’ House is intended to make you feel like you’re a fly on the wall in an early Georgian family home, whose Huguenot occupants are still in residence. Recorded sounds buzz, food-smells waft and, if you go in the evening, the ornate furnishings of this ‘still-life drama’ flicker with orangey candlelight and fireplace glow.

2. Buy the ‘thickest human snot’
Hoxton Street Monster Supplies is the retail arm of the Ministry of Stories – a non-profit creative enterprise set up by author Nick Hornby to inspire imaginative story writing in young people. The Ministry of Stories hosts bonkers workshops and holiday writing clubs, and the HSMS store can furnish you with all of the ingredients you need to fuel further imaginative play. Ghoulish treats include ‘thickest human snot’ (a substance closely resembling lemon curd) and ‘cubed earwax’.

3. Access a bar with a secret code
Danger of Death on Brick Lane is a secret bar from the same people behind Soho’s excellent Milk & Honey, nestled away under a coffee shop called Full Stop on Brick Lane. You have to be a member (and know a secret combination of light-switch presses – though we’re not supposed to mention that) to get in most nights, but non-members can make bookings for up to two hours on ‘Open Wednesdays’.

4. Visit Danny Boyle’s favourite bell foundry
Whitechapel Bell Foundry claims to be the world’s most famous producers of bells. We can’t imagine there’s particularly stiff competition for that title, but this 500-year-old East End bell foundry did make Big Ben and the Liberty Bell and was also tasked with making the 23-tonne bell used in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (although it was so massive it could only be designed and finished here; casting was done in Holland). These facts and more are available on 90-minute tours of the building. They run only on Saturdays (10am, 1.30pm, 4pm); bookings are taken on a firstcome, first-served basis but must be made in advance at £12 per ticket. Health and safety guidance insists no silly shoes or under-14s allowed.

5. Have a big gay night out
If Vauxhall is the underbelly and Soho is the heart, Dalston probably owns the soul of London’s gay scene. Dalston Superstore, owned by Disco Bloodbath’s Dan Beaumont, is less a club and more an institution, with walls covered in works by local artists and a killer rotation of star DJs. By day it works a mean grill: an Olympics burger menu currently includes the Tyson Gay (cheese), the Usain Bolt (chicken) and the Paula Radcliffe (veggie). At night the club creatures come out to play, when the Store attracts a peculiarly East End mix of gay men and women, trannies and queer-friendly straights.

6. Go to a piss-up in a brewery
The profile of London Fields Brewery was recently boosted after it helped salve the pain of disastrous electronic music festival Bloc – which was cancelled on its first night – by offering free bevvies the next afternoon to disgruntled wristband holders. Every Saturday this summer the doors are flung open from noon to midnight for the opportunity of drinking beer straight from the source. There’s Hackney Hopstar for the Hackney hipsters; one can also enjoy the British pastime of toasting the monarchy without being sure whether you’re being ironic or not, with the special Jubilee brew, Dearest Munshi. On top of all that, pop-up restaurateur Dead Dolls Club offers a meatilicious barbecue.

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