Preserving London’s character

By | Category: Travel news

Earlier in the week we posted a story about the imminent closure of Gaby’s Deli– a cheap and cheerful Charing Cross Road café loved by the likes of Michael Gambon and Vanessa Redgrave (

Now word reaches us that not only are London’s new malls (step forward Westfield Stratford City) putting London’s local shops under pressure but Brick Lane – famed for its cheap, tasty curry houses and bucket load of character –
is to be sanitised.

Apparently Tower Hamlets Council has made the decision to crack down on the touts that line the ‘Lane’ in the lead up to the 2012 London Olympic Games. I hopes that the council sees sense and leaves the touts alone. According to the council, the hustlers are guilty of harassment.

Please. A cheeky chappy trying to tempt you into his curry house rather than the one up the road, with the offer of free bottle of wine or a basket of complimentary naan bread, hardly qualifies as harassment.

Unlike some Londoners I know, I am overjoyed that the capital will be hosting the Olympic Games in 2012. However, having lived in Beijing – where leaders used the 2008 Olympic Games to demolish the hutongs (small, narrow alleyways) that many Beijingers had called home for centuries – I hope that the pre Olympic clean up doesn’t go too far.

Brick Lane’s curry hustlers are a part of London life and the actions, sights and smells of that area invariably ranks as a highlight on any London visitor’s itinerary. After all who wants to live in or indeed visit a sterile city?

Beijing is beginning to regret replacing its historic hutongs with high-rises. Let’s hope London learns from China’s mistake and keeps its sanitisation efforts in check.

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