To me, Mile End is as London. At first sight, not necessarily as pretty as Paris, or as charming – but slightly overdue in maintenance – as Rome. Nope, when you first get to Mile End, you’ll probably think ‘What on earth am I doing here?!’ There are many buildings that look like they’ve come straight out of a Soviet town, and the traffic in front of the tube station is so loud you can hardly hear yourself think. Add a dodgy character here and there, and your picture is painted.
But just like in London – and yes, I know that Mile End is in London too, allow me my comparison please – you only have to turn around the right corner. If you do, you’ll fall in love with some pittoresk row of little houses surrounding a beautiful green square, or a famous old East London gangster pub. I’ve been in the area for just over a month now, and I’ve already found some great little gems. Knowing how quickly things can change – as I mentioned in my post about London Fields & Hackney – I thought I’d share these with you before they’ll be discovered by tube loads of hipsters.
The Rusty Bike
When you get off the tube, the Rusty Bike pub is only a few minutes away on your right hand side. There’s sports to watch, they’ve got a nice selection of beers (the tasty Praha, a Czech lager, is my favourite) and, most importantly, their Thai food is really good (try their 1/4 crispy duck!). If the sun’s out and it’s a nice day, the terrace in front of the pub is a pleasant place to chill out and enjoy a couple of refreshing beers.
From the Rusty Bike we cross the busy Mile End Road to walk towards the famous pub that is the Lord Tredegar. On your way to the pub, you’ll see the pretty Tredegar Square, I always like to stop here for a moment, just to look around and to enjoy the sudden quietness.
The Lord Tredegar
Only a couple of minutes further down the road from Tredegar Square lies the Lord Tredegar. The place is mainly known because of the Kray twins, two East London gangster brothers, who are said to have used it as their local pub during the fifties and sixties. The front part of the Lord Tredegar is still very much a typical old pub: a great big bar to sit at on a stool, several small tables made of dark wood, and the odd leather chair with a few holes in.
The back of the pub is more gastro pub-ish; there’s more light, you can see the cooks do their job in the open kitchen, and the daily specials are written down on chalk boards. The food is simple but good, think of fish and chips, a burger, or mussels for example. There are a few sharing platters to start with and some bits and bobs you can order as snack food to go with your beer.
And then there is my favourite part of the Lord Tredegar, or at least it is when the weather is nice: their so-called Railway Garden. It’s not difficult to understand why they call it like that as the railway is pretty much going through the garden of the pub. You will definitely see and hear trains passing by, but I think it’s kind of charming, it adds a bit of character to the place.
Paper & Cup
I have a weak spot for this place, and for its coffee (and for its muffins). It’s just around the corner from where I live, so it is very easy to pop in for a quick caffeine fix. The staff is adorable, prices are more than reasonable, and there is free Wifi in case you need to get some work done. If all of this hasn’t convinced you yet, then maybe the fact that Paper & Cup is a not-for-profit social enterprise will; you’ll be doing something good by enjoying your coffee, now how easy is that!
I know, I’ve talked about Victoria Park in my post about Hackney. And yes, it’s a bit of a walk from Mile End to the park, but I still think it should be mentioned here as well. The distance to Victoria Park is not far enough to stop you from going there, and the park has more than enough to offer to make up for the walking. Besides, it’s good to get some exercise, so let’s look at it from the bright side.
There are a lot of hidden gems in Mile End already, and I’m sure there’s many more of them that I haven’t even discovered yet. It probably won’t be long before the first quirky coffee places or vegan eateries will start to appear underneath the railway arches in the area. And although I find that idea quite exciting, I secretly wouldn’t mind enjoying this raw diamond called Mile End a little while longer in its current shape and form.