Following decades of neglect, the capital’s Victorian arches are now host to a battery of bars, breweries, bakeries and all manner of eye-catching pop-ups. Andy Hill seeks out some of the exciting times to be had on the wrong side of the tracks
Only a couple of months old, this stateof- the-art indoor climbing facility boasts challenging overhangs for the adept and nice soft mats for the hopeless. ‘We promote bouldering [climbing without harnesses] as a fun alternative to the gym,’ says centre manager Tom Hull. There’s also discounted membership for locals and early-bird sessions from 6am on weekdays, with showers and freshly brewed coffee to start you off on the right footing. Every Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm the facility hosts prosupervised Boulderarma workshops, which aim to introduce you to other boulderers – perfect for social climbers. Arches 46-47a, South Lambeth Rd, SW8 1SR.
Or in an arch nearby… leather and boots fetish dungeon the Hoist keeps ’em keen at arches 47b-47c.
Technically in Kentish Town, despite the name, this highly regarded outfit began life in the basement of a Hampstead pub run by Jasper Cuppaidge. Already the scion of a successful Australian brewing dynasty, Cuppaidge entered the UK pub trade in 1997, collecting glasses for a living after missing his flight home following a heavy night out. Now producing a range of top-notch beers, his arch-based taproom is just about the perfect way to while away your evenings from Thursday to Saturday, with street food vendors in the yard selling fare to help you soak up all that hoppy goodness. 55-59 Wilkin St Mews, NW5 3NN.
Or in an arch nearby… Bike vendor Lunar Cycles peddles its wares at No 66
Housed in Bethnal Green, this cavernous space hosts a preposterously enormous mirrorball, a smooth line in ’80s hip hop and (on Fridays) smokin’ swing bands to get the joint jumping. For a private party, groups of up to 30 can hire a mezzanine in the rafters, while grub (for the time being) comes in the form of twee gingham-lined picnic baskets. The bar proper is only open from Thursday to Saturday, but for the rest of the week you can grab coffee or an insanely peppy espresso martini from the Dolls House Café out front. 289 The Arches, Cambridge Heath Rd, E2 9HA.
Or in an arch nearby… Hurwundeki’s batshit-crazy fusion of hair salon, bakery and Korean restaurant thrives at No 298-299.
Just about the friendliest workout space imaginable, with a diverse range of clients including local creatives, young families and a sprinkling of celebs, London Fields Fitness Studio prides itself on its drop-in, pay-and-go format. Joint founder Roger Love says that he and business partner Sapan Sehgal ‘were having trouble finding a space that was big enough, even for skipping’. When the pair wandered along the then down-at-heel Mentmore Terrace in 2010, they became arch-converts ‘You don’t need to be miserable to work hard and get great results,’ says Love. He points to Sapan’s Booty Camp on Sunday – all the hard cardio, but with jokes and observations on love and life to make you forget the sweat. Arch 379, Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PH.
Or in an arch nearby… Molly & George’s pet salon keeps the four-footed denizens of Hackney in tiptop shape at No 375.
Aimed squarely at film buffs, Whirled Cinema grew out of Loughborough Junction’s Whirled Arts complex of rehearsal spaces and photography studios. As you might expect, it’s a railway arch with a screen down one end, and from Wednesday to Friday it shows foreign and independent films that did well on the festival circuit but mostly bypassed your local Odeon. There’s an adjoining cocktail bar and staff who’ll order you pizza from the neighbouring Firezza if you get peckish. Weekly membership starts at a tenner and members and mates can hire the whole place on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays for an amazingly reasonable £50 an hour. 259-260 Hardess St, SE24 0HN.
Or in an arch nearby… Nail the ultimate right hook, courtesy of Miguel’s Boxing Gym at No 261-262.
One of the oldest venues on the ‘Haggerston Riviera’ by the Regent’s Canal, this multi-purpose hub is spread across two arches, one housing a kitchen/bar and the other a performance space. The former runs on a residency basis; current occupants Breddos doles out well-received Mexican and American street food to the movers and shakers of E8, which is best enjoyed on its sunny canalside terrace. The performance space is a popular venue for yoga classes, but also features regular choreography workshops alongside innovative music and theatrical productions. 339-340 Acton Mews, E8 4DG.
Or in an arch nearby… Sample the delights of the East (End) from noodle-meisters Tonkotsu at No 334.