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Zebee Read Series: Guide to Barbican

In our London Series article, we talk to James, a local who lives in Barbican, about life in the big smoke. James discusses the local bars and pubs, and his love for coffee shops. Read on to discover how best to spend a few days living in the bustling city centre.


YOU MATCHED WITH A STUNNER ON TINDER AND THEY’VE AGREED TO GO FOR DINNER AND DRINKS IN THE LOCAL AREAS. WHERE DO YOU TAKE THEM?


A one-minute walk from the Barbican, on a long lane, you'll find a street full of edgy bars and gastro bubs serving the many city workers. I'd take her to a bar/restaurant called 'Ask for Janice'. It's very chic and has a trendy finish. Serving small plates if glorious food (I recommend the pork belly) and a selection of good wine. The dimply lit interior makes for a somewhat romantic atmosphere.


THE DATE WENT WELL BUT YOU WAKE UP THE MORNING AFTER WITH A TEQUILA-INDUCED HANGOVER. DETERMINED NOT TO CALL THIS DAY A ‘WRITE-OFF’, YOU HEAD OUT TO YOUR FAVOURITE BRUNCH SPOT. WHERE DO YOU GO?


If I was feeling frivolous, then I’d take a leisurely five-minute stroll up to the corner of Old Street and snap up an outside table at Clerkenwell Grind. A coffee shop, restaurant, bar and nightclub all in one, this brunch hotspot serves up a mean flat white and egg’s benedict. Perfectly presented for that inevitable Instagram post, Grind is yet to fail me. Just stick it on the credit card.


If the hangover was unbearable and I was watching my pennies, then I’d stick to People’s Choice Cafe, just around the corner on Goswell Road. A monster, greasy-spoon fry-up for £7. No pretentious photo opportunities here or glamorous interior. Just friendly customer service and cheap prices.


THE PARENTS HAVE CALLED AND THEY’RE COMING OVER TO SEE YOUR NEW GAFF. YOU NEED TO CONVINCE THEM THAT YOU’VE GOT YOUR LIFE TOGETHER AND DON’T SPEND YOUR SUNDAYS IN YOUR PJS . THINK, SUAVE AND SWANKY. YOU ALL HOP IN THE UBER EXEC. WHERE DO YOU GO?


No need for the Uber, we’ll just take a scenic walk through the Barbican Centre, and end up on Silk Street. On the corner, you’ll see the Jugged Hare - a seemingly out of place country pub, donning hung pheasants and monk jack deer in the windows. Enter inside and you’ll be met with an array of taxidermied animals and friendly bar staff. Walk past the upmarket bar and down the steps into the grand dining room. Don’t get me wrong - this won’t be a cheap eatery, but by God, is it good food. Hunted game, pigeon pies and venison steak, topped off with a glass of red wine.


If this fails to enter them into a food coma, then I’ll take them back through the Barbican centre to one of the many arty-farty exhibitions or Shakespeare plays. My resident’s discount is almost as good as my Blue Peter badge, and I’ll flaunt it in on the 2nd level Martini Bar, overlooking the lake terrace outside.


(Think I’d still prefer a Sunday in my PJs though)


IT’S PISSING IT DOWN OUTSIDE BUT YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO CHILL?


For me, my local man-cave is The Bike Shed located at 384 Old Street. Nestled between the old railway arches, this is the perfect place to chill no matter the weather. A massive space with a well-priced restaurant, sofa/lounge area and a whole exhibition of new-wave custom motorcycles. I’d spend the rainy morning here on a sofa with my laptop or a book and a strong coffee.


IN TRADITIONAL BRITISH FASHION, IT’S STOPPED RAINING AND IS NOW A SWELTERING 30 DEGREES OUTSIDE. YOUR WHATSAPP GROUPS ARE PINGING LIKE MAD AND YOUR MATES ARE DEMANDING ORGANISED FUN. WHERE DO YOU TAKE THEM IN YOUR AREA?


Being situated in the City of London, there isn’t much in terms of big parks. I would probably suggest heading over to Shoreditch and finding a cool roof-top bar or terrace. Strongroom Bar & Kitchen is a 15 minute walk away and has a large patio terrace with an outside bar and bbq. I could happily sit there all day with a pint of Sierra Nevada.


AFTER A LONG DAY IN THE OFFICE, ALL YOU WANT IS A PINT OF LAGER AND A BAG OF NUTS. BEST BOOZER FOR THE JOB?


A hidden gem, also located just off Long Lane, is The Rising Sun. A small, no-nonsense, quintessentially British pub. Wooden wine barrels as seats, and a vintage interior that stinks of stale booze. I’m not sure why, but it just works. Legend has it that the landlord lost his pinky finger in a fight with a Smithfield butcher. An east-end geezer with a meat cleaver. Bloody hell.


IT’S THE WEEK BEFORE PAYDAY BUT YOU DON’T WANT BEANS ON TOAST AGAIN, WHERE DO YOU EAT FOR UNDER A TENNER?


That’s a tricky one. I’d struggle to find a sit-down meal for under a tenner, so would probably head to Whitecross Street Food market, about a five-minute walk from the Barbican. This place is heaving at lunchtime, so you have to plan your approach tactically. Head there around 2.30pm, when the stalls are closing down and you can pick up some bargains. Vendors will pile up the portions, giving away the remainder of their food. Too many to choose from, but there’s this Tandoori wrap stall that always delivers. £5 for a hefty wrap. Sorted.


ENOUGH OF THE DRINKING, LET’S GO BE CULTURAL. I’M TALKING AN INFORMATIVE AND EDUCATIONAL DAY OUT AND ABOUT. MUSEUMS, GALLERIES OR EXHIBITIONS. WHERE DO YOU GO?


Barbican centre? If you’re between 18 - 25, you can become a Young Barbican Member for free. This gives you huge discounts and gets you into the cinema for a fiver. The cinema is fab - they serve cheese & wine rather than coke and popcorn, and the seats are practically sofas. A great place to spend a Sunday evening after a heavy weekend.


AND FINALLY, WHAT SPOT IS MASSIVELY OVERRATED AND SHOULD BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS?


Cheapside down by St Paul's is pretty overrated. Just lots of mainstream shops and restaurants but not much of a vibe. It’s a ghost town on weekends.