Market, Material and Music at Berwick Street:
I started working in central London in the early 1970s. At that time, with an office in Lisle Street, Berwick Street was on my doorstep. Working for a restaurant group I soon learnt that a visit to the market was part of the daily routine for many of the local chefs. At a time when the British population were just discovering the avocado, Berwick Street Market sold an amazing range of ‘exotic’ fruits and vegetables like artichoke, mango, persimmon and kiwi fruits. What’s more, just round the corner there was a fishmongers I remember vividly because it usually had live lobsters and crayfish. And, there were (and still are) some wonderful old Italian delis like Lina.
I was curious to discover what Berwick Street is like now. The Market is still there, but to some extent has been overtaken by larger destinations like Borough. And, it’s perhaps also true that some of the cachet went once supermarkets started to stock those exotic avocados! Now you are more likely to find excellent street food from vendors like Pizza Pilgrims, Freebird Burritos and Banh Mi, rubbing shoulders with the traditional vendors of cheeses and seasonal British vegetables.
Apart from Ember Yard, there’s a plethora of small bars and quirky restaurants. Polpetto has just re-opened, headed up by Florence Knight and Alan Yau has plans to open a Chinese pub, Duck and Rice later this year. You could get very fat if you stayed around here too long. Or you could head for the uber healthy Juice Well on the Corner of Peter Street, where we enjoyed a fresh, cold pressed juice and a superfood smoothie.
Berwick Street has long been known for fabrics. One of the first areas where ‘ready-to-wear’ fashion was available, the street used to be a long series of guinea gown shops – where, in the early 20th century Londoners and out of towners flocked to buy affordable clothes at half the price of Oxford Street. Shops like Borovick Fabrics sold exotic fabrics catering both for theatrical costume makers and the revue bars and adult shows of Soho.
The tradition continues. We visited Misan Brothers concept fabric shop which is one of three they have in Berwick Street. This one is dedicated to menswear and beside a wide range of fabrics you’ll find vintage accessories from the 50s and 60s.
Close by is Universal works, a new trend setting menswear shop with a modern feel.
The Hedonist, who loves fashion almost as much as food was in his element.
Sister Ray Records is the largest independent record store in the West End and stocks a huge range of rare and second hand vinyl as well as new releases and classical albums. In the 1980s Berwick Street was known as the golden Mile of Vinyl and there’s still a concentration of independent record shops in the area. If you think it looks familiar it was the location for the cover shoot of the 1995 Oasis album ‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory’.
There is quite an urban man about town feel to this part of London. You can grab a coffee and cake in the workshop and salesroom of Soho Bikes
or browse the amazing range of comics at Gosh
And there are plenty of great places to stop for a bite to eat or a beer.
If you thought shopping was just for the girls, here’s part of London that might just change your mind. It’s not exclusively male by any means, but the balance tips in favour of the boys here.