From hotels to food to experiences, I’m generally attracted to the quirkier things in life. I appreciate creativity in the small details: mismatched cutlery, peeling paint, a garden of plants growing out of cinder blocks – even when it doesn’t necessarily work very well.
It’s all about the effort.
I keep a running list of these out of the ordinary places I want to visit one day in London and in cities I know I’ll be travelling to soon. Some have been recommended by friends, others I read about in magazines, on blogs or Twitter or in good old fashioned coffee table books.
The lovely (and nine months pregnant!) Carolina and I were long overdue a catch up.
When she suggested meeting in Shoreditch on Sunday, I pulled up my list where I had scribbled a few options: Albion, Hurwundeki, The Book Club.
I didn’t mind which one. Once I get over the initial dread of making that long pilgrimage to the east, I’m always super excited to find myself in this fascinating corner of London – so close, yet so far from home.
It was The Book Club that won in the end and we wandered down from Liverpool Street station to find it hidden on Leonard Street across from an empty lot where the building were covered in street art by Stik, Rone and others on a wall organised by Global Street Art.
This part of East London is a world away from West London where I live. It’s only a tube ride away on one line, but it could be a different city altogether. It’s grittier, much more colourful, the fashion is edgier, the nightlife is rowdier and the food reflects the diverse communities that live side by side on these old London streets.
We walked into The Book Club, not sure exactly what to expect.
A wall covered in potted plants greeted us on one side and we were face to face with a tube map style directory of the building on another.
Inside, we settled onto a scruffy red sofa, with light pouring in through the floor to ceiling window behind us where we overlooked the wall of art.
The lights snaked across the ceiling. The brick walls were exposed and the furniture was simple, a bit shabby and well loved.
It was the kind of unstuffy place where you feel it wouldn’t be the worse thing to grab a good book, put your feet up and settle in for the afternoon.
And probably some people do.
We ordered two teas (tasty) which came to the table in appropriately quirky orange mugs with matching saucers.
The menu was printed on brown paper, attached to a clipboard and silverware and napkins sat in glasses on the middle of each table.
We didn’t eat, but I hear it’s cheap and cheerful and delicious. There are breakfasts like “greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and blossom honey, thick cinnamon porridge oats and buttermilk pancakes.” And then there’s lunch…
Apparently the cocktails are something to talk about as well. They have names like “Gingers Do It Better”, “Don’t Go To Dalston” and “Shoreditch Twat” listed on a white tiled drink menu next to the bar.
We talked about writing, blogs, social media, travel, big dreams and raising children.
Then we snooped around a bit, poking our noses into the ping pong room, which looked like fun. The unisex bathrooms were less than impressive – not because they were unisex but because they reminded me of those you’d find at a university club.
There are ping pong competitions at The Book Club, poetry, live music and DJs, networking events, life drawing sessions, classic video game nights, workshops and a long list of other stuff going on – something for everyone. They even host a “Tweet Box” – a twist on the standard juke box during which you can request songs via Twitter.
I ventured down into the depths of the basement to see what was there before we left. Not too much of interest at a quick glance – a foosball table and some prints on a scruffy white wall.
With afternoon tea you can’t go wrong with a cupcake and Carolina had been raving about Lola’s a little blue kiosk tucked away at the edge of Spitalfields Market.
So we made our way through the crowds, past the market stalls selling £5 dresses, secondhand books, posters and handmade jewellery.
Eventually, we found it, with rows of colourful cupcakes piled high with frosting and decorated with bits of Oreos, caramel coated macadamia nuts and sprinkles.
Yes please! After much indecisiveness, I went for the glistening caramel chocolate macadamia one.
Carolina chose her old standby – the Oreo cupcake.
They were definitely delicious, although I admit to eating only about a quarter of the frosting. It was a bit too much for me!
And so we headed home, my East London fix sorted for a few more weeks.
Do you have a favourite quirky place in your city? What do you love about it? (By the way, if you’re on Facebook, come find the Little Observationist page and say hello!)