The London Underground has become an iconic addition to the capital’s historic infrastructure. London is a big city, populated by over 8 million individuals, and the heart of its success is largely due to the cultural dynamism. Everything from world-famous galleries, music venues, and museums to the Tower of London has contributed to the capital’s cultural success.
The Tube has helped it get to this point. The flow of transportation within the city has made it easy for people from different origins to share and exchange thoughts, ideas, and knowledge with each other. It is the Tube’s 150th year anniversary, and over the years, it has made Londoners feel recognised, created momentum, and broken down barriers as everyone experiences new culture.
This write-up celebrates what the Underground has given us by looking at tube stops that are populated by different communities. Grab a cuppa, sit back, and relax, as you go around the world in 8 tube stops. By Sohaib S.
Whitechapel – South Asian – Hammersmith & City Line | District Line
Whitechapel is a busy overground and underground station in East London. It is pretty much a South Asian London; flowing crowds of people headed in every direction, individuals running to make their prayer at East London Mosque, packed street markets selling cheap-bulk goods. All of this is powered by an energetic South Asian community. Indulge in the spices of Asia with an array of Pakistani and Indian restaurants spread throughout this area. A personal recommendation is the mix grill from Tayyabs who have top-quality traditional Punjabi cuisine.
Leicester Square – Chinese – Northern Line | Piccadilly Line
Leicester Square is London’s nightlife hotspot. It is clear why the area is such a big attraction; from Zoo Bar to Cafe de Paris, it really does have it all. Leicester Square is also home to many of the capital’s big communities. Soho is popular for being London’s gay hangout while Little Italy is a street filled with Italians enjoying a good time sipping on espressos.
The biggest community, though, is the Chinese—spread all across Exit 2 at the tube stop on the west of Charing Cross Rd. Chinatown will leave you buzzing with a taste of culture-rich food, Chinese music and dancing. There’s always something going on in Chinatown. I recommend the crispy duck with hot spare ribs from the Crispy Duck Chinese restaurant.
Edgware Road – Arab –Circle Line | District Line | Hammersmith & City Line
Edgware Road is clearly Arab-dominant, right from the second you turn onto the never-ending street from the Middle East. The blasts of sweet-scented shisha smoke from surrounding cafés and bars really sets a relaxed and chilled-out mood.
The obvious choice here would be Maroush—a high-class restaurant with fine authentic Lebanese cuisine. But fight the temptation of the fattet hummous and make your way to one of the two Helen’s on both ends of Edgware Road. A true Middle Eastern shawarma is hard to find in London, and Helen’s Café comes the closest to the real thing. Shawarmas are round flatbreads stuffed with cut-up pieces of succulent marinated lamb or chicken dressed in garlic-mayo and roasted on a spit. You can have pickles, tomato and chips all rolled up in your sandwich. I always go with extra mayo.
Notting Hill Gate – Spanish – Circle Line | District Line | Central Line
The Garcia Spanish Supermarket and a Spanish secondary school makes Portobello Road a gravitational pull of Spanish Londoners around Notting Hill Gate Tube Stop. Between 1750 and 1850, Portobello Road was a field of farm animals, snuffling in the yards going on with their day-to-day lives. The 19th century saw ambitious Victorians who destroyed 170 acres of property that was sold for development. Some architectural marvels still remain, though, and are now a part of a beautiful Notting Hill.
Galicia is a discrete Spanish restaurant hidden away the far end of Portobello Road. A personal favourite is their sherry sauce veal and tomato Galician chicken strew. That and the mouth-watering tarta santiago as a dessert makes a full Spanish delight. The puddings are quite tempting, too. Don’t be afraid to overeat—you can always burn off the calories in the markets full of fruit and vegetable traders, vintage treats, antique shops, and crafty delights.
Brixton – Jamaican – Victoria Line
There was an influx of West Indians into Britain during the 40’s and 50’s. The Empire Windrush was a ship which carried 493 Jamaicans that wanted to start a new beginning in the UK in 1948. It stopped just under a mile away from Brixton—this is where it all began. Fast forward fifty years and the area outside Brixton Tate Library was inevitably renamed the Windrush Square. It was a perfect way to celebrate the Afro Caribbean contribution to the Brixton community and the anniversary of Empire Windrush’s arrival.
Just across the street from here is Bamboula, an easy-going, bright Caribbean restaurant based in Acre Lane. The term bamboula was a dance that originated from a mountainside in St Ann, Jamaica, first performed by carnival queens. The décor and interior of Bamboula depicts exactly this; warm terracotta and bamboo shoots. They have delicious, authentic Caribbean cuisine such as steamed tilapia stuffed with garlic, okra, and thyme. The simmered curried goat is also one you cannot miss tasting. Bamboula uses original Walkerswood spices that were home-grown with special ingredients coming right from where the dance was originally performed.
Turnpike Lane – Turkish – Piccadilly Line
The London Borough of Haringey has, by no doubt, the biggest Turkish community in the English capital. The streets are crammed with Turkish patisserie shops, restaurants, banks, barbers, supermarkets, travel agents, and much more. Go south into the city centre from Turnpike Lane tube stop to hit Green Lanes: an ultimate Turkish paradise. A smooth change is seen from South East Turkey to Black Sea Turkey going down Green Lanes, each having different restaurant names and cuisine. Of course, the Black Sea area serves excellent fish.
Green Lanes is known for having cheap ocakbasi, which is open-air grill that usually runs for 24 hours at unlicensed hang-outs. There is also a neat shop dedicated to Turkish music with the best Baklava you can find in London. Here I would recommend Beyti which specialises in Asian Turkey, or Anatolian cuisine. They have superb, fresh home-baked bread that goes really nicely with the fried whitebait and hummus. Grab some Turkish kebabs and grilled sea bream and you’re good to go.
Hammersmith – Polish – Piccadilly Line | District Line
The British newspapers warned “The Poles are coming!” and they weren’t kidding—boy did they come—one million in total. Polski sklep, or Polish shops, started popping up all across London as a generation of prominent individuals blended in with London’s cultural life. Polish musicians, composers, artists, architects, gallery and museum directors, etc. began to mark their presence in London’s cultural environment.
The Knaypa is a Polish restaurant that is quite popular amongst the local Londoners in Hammersmith. The Knaypa translates into the restaurant—simplicity is key. Their homemade wild mushrooms and sauerkraut dumplings are a must-have. You cannot go to a Polish restaurant and not have some authentic pierogi.
Liverpool Street – Vietnamese – Central Line | Circle Line | Hammersmith & City Line | Metropolitan Line
The Vietnam War in the 70’s is the main reason for the boom in Vietnamese immigrants into London’s cultural pool. Thank god for that—Vietnamese cuisine is heavenly. Any true Vietnamese would tell you that pho is a must-have. It is a flavoursome noodle broth with rice, a building-block for the diets of many people living in Vietnam. It is filled with lemongrass, ginger, and spice. The crossroad between Kingsland Rd. and Old Street has been nicknamed the Pho Mile, and there are tons of restaurants here where you can try it for yourself.