Le cool teams up with Jungle to open up a treasure trove of tips just waiting to be discovered
Waxy royals and shopping sanctuaries are all well and good but, let’s be honest, whether you’re new to London or still getting to know it (who isn’t?), the last thing you really need is to be sent to Madame Tussaud’s or to Harrods. The truth, as you’ve probably always suspected, is that London’s full of hidden treasures and secret nooks and crannies, but they’re the sort of places you’d only ever find if you took a wrong turn, or a tip from a local. So that’s where we come in, and why we’ve teamed up with the undisputed connoisseurs of city secrets – Le Cool – to help you (re-/) discover this very marvelous city.
So how to discover your very own secret London? How to find that special late-night music venue, that perfect café, that secret hideaway? Simply read on. And to add some Latin spice to LeCool’s unrivaled knowledge, Jungle have put our heads together and come up with our own unmissable guide to some of the best and most unexpected treats London has to offer, of course, with a Brazilian and Latin twist. Dig in, enjoy, go play.
105-119 Brentfield Rd, NW10 8LD
The world’s second largest Hindu temple – first largest outside of India – really shouldn’t be in Neasden. Tucked away behind the North Circular, it’s not even anywhere near a tube stop; its three giant peaks slowly emerge from behind the warehouses and factories of North-West London as you make the walk there. The closer you get, the more the ultra-ornate carvings – set against their ordinary industrial neighbours – make it seem like some miraculous mirage. But it is real and, better still, you’re actually allowed to reverently roam around its even more intricate interior.
By Craig Clark
While in most other countries, World War II is no cause for a celebration, the British tradition of a stiff-upper lip, nostalgia and the love for some good old fancy dress have produced the 1940s-themed Blitz parties. Despite being set in the days of aerial bombardment and constant bombardment, the party celebrates the softer side of the war – men in uniform, women in stockings, hearty ales and big-band swing. The venue is lit like a glamorous underground bunker, and everyone’s in their dress uniform and Sunday best for the occasion. So polish up the brass buttons, and mend those tights, but do keep it a secret – loose lips sink ships, don’t you know?
By Justin Toh
The Old Deptford Police Station
114 Amersham Vale, SE14
This converted cop shop near Goldsmiths is home to a gallery, 30 artists’ studios, plus a cell-block used for parties and exhibitions. A highly creative yet low-key spot, there is something else at work at the Old Deptford Police Station. The people of Deptford and New Cross are loyal folk, and this space (also home to a radio station supporting local bands), has become a spot to record narratives as told by locals about the maritime history of SE8/SE14. The café has tasty and cheap homemade specialties served by the mother of the owner of the Deptford Project Cafe.
By Jessica Ainlay
It’s no secret that the most exciting way to eat out in London is by visiting its secret kitchens. These days everyone’s a chef, and lots of those chefs are inviting perfect strangers round to their flat/house/studio for supper. There are lots of them out there, and due to the illicit (ok, ok, illegal) nature of their existence, you generally won’t find out their addresses until you’ve been granted a place at the table (usually via email). What I can tell you is that three of the best – if you can find them – are Tony Hornecker’s Pale Blue Door, The Secret Ingredient and The Underground Restaurant.
By Craig Clark
Queensway, W2 • 020 7792 3980
Open daily: 10am – 10pm
Life in the Smoke can be so hectic that most of us probably wished we could just hit ctrl+alt+delete to reset our bodies and minds at some point. If that’s you, a trip to the Porchester Baths will do the trick. Here you get to spend three hours at a 1920s English heritage spa, complete with Russian stream rooms, Turkish hot rooms, a Finnish sauna cabin, plunge pool and for a few quid extra, therapists are available for a totally out-of-this-world body scrub or massage. Comfy loungers with books, chess boards and light snacks are all there to help you chill and forget all about the world out there.
By Angelica Mari
Stoke Newington International Airport
1-15 Leswin Place N16 7NJ
Stoke Newington International Airport is not the budget airline industry’s latest incursion into London airspace, but rather a collaboration between five artists, who curate and maintain a space for performance, events and happenings in a semi-industrial estate. STK (as it bills itself, in mock-airport code) has hosted a number of innovative and interesting festivals, including Distance, and the London Word Festival and Live Art Speed Dating. For more information, see the website. Flights depart from N16.
By Justin Toh
Standing outside a drab block of flats, on an equally everyday council estate, you’ll hesitate and wonder if someone’s pulling your leg. Then the reassuring face of Simon Tyszko will appear on the balcony and wave you up with a smile. Open the door and there it is: a forty foot Dakota airplane wing, cut through the walls of a fifth-floor Fulham flat. And, being a comment on ‘living with your art’, visitors are actively encouraged. Jaws will drop, but outside the window London carries on completely unawares – and no-one will believe you at work in the morning…
By Craig Clark
The Make Lounge
49-51 Barnsbury Street, N1 1TP
The London crafting movement got a whole lot cooler when The Make Lounge opened its doors back in 2007. Make do and mend was suddenly the style du jour. Londoners everywhere were coming out of the woodwork admitting they actually enjoyed knitting that scarf they were wearing, and yes they did just admire that crochet table cloth and wonder how to make it. Three years on, tucked away on an unassuming Islington side street, The Make Lounge is still going strong. A must for any would-be crafter; forget stitch one pearl one, and think knockout knickers, handmade nipple tassels and designer cupcakes.
By Rebecca Shay
90 Lots Road SW10 0QD
This is not the type of place you’re likely to stumble across – I mean let’s face it, who can afford a night out in Chelsea? And even if you could, this sly little club is hard to find even for those who know where it is. The entrance is typically understated and you often have to ring a doorbell to enter – adding to the clandestine feeling you get as you descend the stairs to enter this wonderful old-school venue. The food is good (not great) and the wine list is extensive but it’s the music people come here for, that and the atmosphere. If you don’t like sitting quietly supping sumptuous wine and listening to an impromptu jazz jam then this is not for you, but for the rest of us it’s heaven!
By Sally Coffey
Thames River Adventures
Shuffling in and out of the Underground and squeezing into overcrowded buses, London’s popularity can make the city frustrating to navigate. The urban kayaking experience with Thames River Adventures is perfect for reminding us why we love the Big Smoke (though not a very direct form of transport). Set off in a kayak at sunrise, lunchtime or sunset on Regent’s Canal, Hampton Court or on the river Thames, three of London’s most beautiful (if jam-packed) setting. Observing the energy and hustle-bustle from the spacious and serene safety of the water plus the adventure of the kayak sheds new light on the city we call home.
By Jessica Ainlay
Tooting curry houses
Between Bec and Broadway
Forget Brick Lane, if you want an unbeatable choice of authentic curry houses head south of the river, to Tooting to be precise. Between Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway stations you’ll find a wide selection of reasonably-priced eateries serving up curries with a distinct Sri Lankan/South Indian flavour. If money is tight head to Lahore at the bottom of Upper Tooting Road – it’s bring your own alcohol and the canteen-style restaurant serves up tasty dishes at unfathomably low prices. Vegetarians should head to Kastoori on the opposite side of the road and those with a bit more of an elasticized purse should head to Vijaya Krishna.
By Sally Coffey
Start at Wick Lane E3
For an enlightening tour of East London – you can’t really beat a long bikeride down the Greenway. This pathway heads out from Viccy Park to Newham atop the Northern Outfall Sewer, yes that’s right, you’ll be riding over a giant Victorian sh!tpipe. There is a diversion through the Olympics site, providing a glance into the massive development we hear so much about in the news. But the best part of it has got to be watching the varying urban landscape – from the enticing Abbey Mills (an antique pumping station), past all manner of housing estates, a stretch of public allotments, the creepy modernism of ExCeL Centre to the wicked sunsets to be seen over Canary Wharf from London City Airport. Have fun.
By Chloe McCloskey
British Military Fitness
What’s not to love about a man in uniform yelling ‘Get down and give me ten?’. Welcome to British Military Fitness training – possibly the most unique way to exercise in the capital. Classes are held in London’s most iconic parks and are led by members of the armed forces who welcome all levels and what’s more; the first class is completely free! Leave your name at the door and be prepared to answer to rank and number though, and don’t daydream about adverse weather conditions in the hope they’ll call off the class ….trust me, the show must go on and head torches have been known to make an appearance if necessary.
By Rebecca Shay
Hugo Mendez, the brains behind Sofrito, the tropical warehouse parties that are currently shaking the capital every few months, spent years collecting obscure old folk music from dusty shacks around Latin America and the Caribbean. Nobody could have guessed they’d be so danceable, but they are now, along with one-off dubplates and re-edits, the linchpin of the parties, held on the down-low in dramatically ramshackle venues across the trendier parts of east London. A friendly, mixed and multicultural crowd flock to sip rum punch and watch live Afro-Latin bands, and then dance the night away in very un-London style.
By Max Leonard
Embassy Electrical Supplies
76 Compton Street, Clerkenwell EC1V 0BN
Thankfully this EC1 haven for electricians with a discerning taste in exquisite olive oil also welcomes those of us who, while sharing the penchant for fine Mediterranean delicacies, struggle changing a light bulb unassisted. Don’t judge books by covers, or shops by exteriors: what deceivingly appears to be your everyday, backstreet tradesmen’s outlet has a fair portion of the premises dedicated to punting out owner Mehmet Murat’s selection of goods grown on family groves in the sunny climes of Cyprus and Turkey. Unconvinced? Then drop in for a friendly, welcoming tasting session and you soon will be.
By Eamon Downes
Bedford Square Gardens WC1
Gentlemen keeping abreast of popular culture will be dismayed to note the rise of the ‘chav’ in British society. The Chap Olympiad is an effort to counter-act this perfidious trend, being a ‘celebration of athletic ineptitude and immaculate trouser creases’ and Britain’s most eccentric sporting event. Taking place on the 17th of July in Bedford Square, events include the MartiniKnockout Relay and Umbrella Jousting, with both chaps and ladies welcome to compete. Dress will be period (any vintage era), tickets are £15 in advance, and honour will be upheld at any cost. Pip pip!
By Justin Toh
Dennis Severs House
18 Folgate Street E1 6BX • 020 7247 4013
Denis Sever’s House is like nothing else you’ve ever seen. A museum piece in a sense but also an art exhibit, a life’s work and a spooky experience that is incomparable, especially on the silent, candlelit night tours. Each room in the house is composed to set a scene, loosely based around a family of Hugenot Silk Weavers but intended to transport the visitor into a different world. The mantra is “You either see it or you don’t” with each room expanding out from a portrait and leaving you feeling like the family is just around the corner.
By Ian Marshall
London’s best-undressed party sees an astonishing number of ladies in corsets, ruffles and invited into the recreation of a Parisian absinthe salon. Aerialists swing from the rafters, while can-can girls high kick across the floor. Even more surprising is that this intimate space happens in Shoreditch, where just around the corner, hipsters in venetian blind sunglasses dance ironically to German krautrock. Back in the Belle Epoque, cocktails are de rigeur, and absinthe is the spirit of choice. The only anachronistic touch is the music – as the night progresses, out comes the and, and then the DJ, playing a selection of very danceable tunes. I swear I heard some 80s pop in there – or was it just a dream inspired by the green fairy?
By Justin Toh
Toff’s of Muswell Hill
38 Muswell Hill Broadway N10 3RT • 020 8883 8656
It is easy for a restaurant to label itself as award-winning, so I was a sceptical when told about the ‘best chippie in London’. I made my way to the unchartered hills of N10 to see what that was all about and left as a devotee of the fish and chips church: almighty was the plaice, almost larger than the plate itself and enveloped in a crunchy batter. Omnipotent were the chips, so tasty that I had to exercise my right to a free refill. Great veg pasties and fried camembert also on offer. This sounds like a ‘how to get a heart attack’ manual but hey, you only live once!
By Angelica Mari
The Frontline Club
13 Norfolk Place W2 1QJ • 020 7479 8950
If you are into journalism/photography/media, or just want to mingle with interesting folk who do that stuff for a living, The Frontline Club is for you. The place has lots of memorabilia from reporting daredevils who worked in conflict zones and if you are willing to start the conversation, you may even get to hear a story or two. Best way to get in there – it is a members-only club – is to keep an eye out for their film screenings and open events around themes ranging from war crime to current media issues. Or have some grub at their top restaurant downstairs; with a bit of luck you may meet a member who’ll invite you in.
Team JungleDrums tips
We just couldn’t resist putting together some of our own tips and secrets of the city, all with a sprinkling of Latin and Brazilian culture…
The Finsbury Pub, Manor House – N4 1BY
Wednesday’s at the Finsbury Pub are a real treat; as the weekday drinkers start to drift off home, an unsuspecting London local becomes home to a steamy jam between London’s finest flamenco fusion musicians. The vibrant jam session used to shake up the Oasis Bar just down the road, but it’s lost no passion or energy in its new home. Settle down a chair and see where the night and musicians take you…
Every Wednesday 10 till late
Cal Jader, JD collaborator and mind behind Movimientos
Railway Arch 260, Hardess Street – SE24 OHN
Tucked away down south (a realm somewhat mysterious in itself to those who seldom venture past the river), under the arches near Loughborough Junction station, the Whirled cinema bills itself as a member’s club; but don’t let this put you off. The cinema is an offshoot of the Whirledarts collective gallery/studios, and is super welcoming. From Thurs-Sat they show art-house and world cinema films in a lovely 60-seater theatre, with bar. From next-door Firezza you can also grab a slice to take in. Watch this space for a South American film night…
78 Bishopsgate – EC2N 4AG
Risen from the ashes of a church destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace is a Christian charity with an impressive multi-faith cultural agenda – the highlight of which is its Music of the World seasons – featuring musicians and poets from areas of conflict and other (non-Christian) faiths, allowing you to catch incredible artists from all over the world.
Robert Urbanus, world music connoisseur (Sterns label) and JD’s neighbour
72 Stamford Hill, London N16 6XIn a far flung corner of north London, the tiny Pangea Project is an oasis of tasty multi-cultural food and live music. The crowd and performers change radically from night to night, and there are plenty of excellent Latin acts, but half the fun is turning up here and not knowing what to expect. On Tuesday’s you can catch stand up comedy, or on Wednesdays from 6-7pm you can go and join the Choir (no spectators – participants only!).
The Horniman Museum
100 London Road, Forest Hill – SE23 3PQ
An incredible and truly ecclectic museum originating in the personal collection of a Victorian tea trader who travelled the world gathering curiosities as he went. You’ll find everything here from the museum’s iconic stuffed walrus to a warren of aquariums, 16 acres of gardens and a permanent gallery featuring pieces from Africa, the Carribean and Brasil, as well as one of the most impressive assortments of instruments from all over the world. What more, in winter the meadow is an ideal spot for sledging.
Clarissa San Pedro, JungleDrums designer
Roda de Choro
Tia Maria, 9a Victoria House, South Lambeth Road – SW8 1QT
It’s not easy to find choro gatherings these days – even in Brasil. Also called chorinho (“little lament”), this instrumental musical style was born in Rio in the 19th Century and is characterised by its fast rhythm, virtuosity and versatile improvisation. To root out what seems to be London’s only Roda de Choro, venture down (south again you’ll notice!) to Tia Maria, a tapioca house nestled in Vauxhall.
Gut Simon, JungleDrums commercial team
Whitecross Street Food Market
Whitecross Street, nr Old Street – EC1
The food market here is one of London’s oldest, and held on a small street in the City of London it’s a ‘hidden gem’ for food lovers, attracting a mélange of locals, food pilgrims and the bankers and traders from the dealing floors. Amongst the vast variety it’s the stall Brazil Flavour that has some of the longest queues. Serving a mouth-watering Moqueca (sea food and fish stew) and hearty traditional Feijoada with rice and Cassava flour, it seems Brasil’s new found economic prosperity is being mimicked in a City food takeover!
General market Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, food market: Thurs/Fri 11am-4pm
Natalia Revi, JungleDrums contributor
Secret locales and green festivals
The smoky, fragrant, and authentically exotic Bedouin tent of Cafe Cairo is without a static location, but rather flits from one mysterious location to the next, and settling occasionally wherever it lays it’s fez. Brimming with trinkets and tea, the cafe prides itself on a being a 24-hour sanctuary that intuitively caters to any passerby’s intrigued desires, whether it be a spicy Turkish coffee for the weary, or wholesome exotic food and magical live music for an intimate and unique gathering. Catch them if you can.
Now hurry along and play now!