ONCE one of the borough’s least-loved areas is experiencing a revival. Homerton was blighted for years by a 1960s proposal to turn the Eastway into a highway that would have ploughed through Morning Lane, on to Islington and, linking with the Westway, whisked traffic from Hackney Wick to the M40 at Hammersmith.
Westway was built and it destroyed great swathes of West London. Though Eastway never materialised, the years of planning wrangles left Morning Lane a wasteland. A Tesco superstore was built at the west end of the lane and did for the few remaining food shops that were clinging on.
But suddenly two trendy eateries have appeared: the Railroad Café at 120 Morning Lane and Brew for Two (above) at 101, and a flower shop, Meade’s, opened at No 94. The Burberry factory shop just off the lane, in Chatham Place E9 6LP, became a magnet several years ago for affluent young Asians, especially from China, seeking designer bargains. Now the dear old Duke of Wellington pub at No 90, one of the last of Hackney’s proper boozers, has closed and is being turned into a factory outlet for Pringle (the knitwear, not the crisps).
The Railroad sits on a lonely corner. Once a barber’s, specialising in shaving Nike logos on the back of your head, it is a cool café, playing acoustic blues (hence the Americanish name) and serving beer and wine, lunchtime snacks and evening meals. There is space downstairs and sometimes poetry readings. Emma McGowan, who lives in nearby Isabella Road, loves it. “On Saturdays,” she says, “I go there for breakfast… in my pyjamas. I sit and play on my laptop… luxury.”
Brew for Two is a teashop with proper tea-sets, cups and saucers (old things found in junk shops). There are daily specials, sandwiches, cakes under glass and a garden at the back. This shop was once a tiny ma-and-pa newsagent’s where children bought Saturday sweets.
When it closed, it was left burnt-out for years. Today a hipsterish clientele sit and talk about art, occasionally the odd brave Japanese tourist group pushing one of their number forward to ask for a “pot of your English tea”.
The shop is owned by Graham Harradine, Eylem Binboga and Ender Boyraz. When I asked Binboga whether she planned Brew for Two carefully, doing research and setting targets, she said: “No, it was a gamble, I just wanted to run a teashop.”
Meade’s is special. A request for a bunch of flowers is met with a bunch of questions: Who are they for… what sort of person… what’s the occasion..?
Best just to say who, what and why and let one of the team make up flowers that speak for you.
The frontier spirit of these business people is admirable. Why have they set up in Homerton, and why now? The answer is the small clusters of one and two-bedroom flats rising up on vacant lots in the area, the developers encouraged by the revamped Overground going west through Homerton station to meet the Tube and the East London Line at Highbury or east to Stratford and myriad links. Young couples can afford to buy or rent homes in E9 (well, if parents or others can help) and creative people can often find studio spaces in former factories at low rents.
These young people want a gastro meal or a cup of tea and a bunch of flowers to take to Mum and Dad at the weekend. The pioneer owners of the Railroad, Brew for Two and Meade’s saw this new market coming and took a risk.
Stephen Vaudrey 270812
* Disabled access: wheelchair users will need help at these venues.
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