It’s early. If we divide the day into 24-hour slots. Before established stores half-open their shutter, after empty bottles spread around the concrete. A new nation is settling down on the street which, during the weekday, pedestrians, dogs, and bikes pass through to reach their destination at Old Street, London Bridge, Bank or Blackfriars. On Saturdays and Sundays, the symphony of vegetables boiling in casseroles, cheese melting between bread slices, Guinness mixing into bloody mary to assemble the perfect blend, and coffee pouring into cartoon cups is heard. A constituent wonders if single-used products should be banned; if, no matter what the material: glass, cartoon, plastic, can, the harm human manifests is the same. "A poll should be held," one thinks. Within a couple of minutes, seconds, and moments, the weekend country called Broadway Market is founded.
The homeland of Broadway Market is desegregated. According to legend, once upon a time created by Zhuge Liang as a military strategy, in Hong Kong switched to rice flour from wheat due to environmental reasons; in Taiwan filled with crab, beef, or sweet potato; in Shanghai when steamed turned into a delicious soup, bao is here, in the middle of the market, right next to the musical act of the day, in its usual place. Maybe a couple of inches to the right from where it used to be the prior week. In Broadway Market, the places are not fixed neither to the ground nor to the adjacent neighbor. It’s flexible. "A dosa with potatoes in exchange for your chocolate churros," a vendor says to the adjoining one. The currency within the inhabitants is barter.
A regular day at the Broadway Market
No passport, no identity card, and no credentials is asked while entering. A couple of smiles, "Would you like to try a falafel? How about a Kolkati roll?" I’ve been asked. While walking, 2 distinct smell catches my attention. The first one is 5K (cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cloves and cumin), commonly known as Masala Chai, taking its origins from India, but as a known world traveler, making Broadway Market another stop on its journey. The second one, more dominant, a dark roast coffee and potent condensed milk, slowly dripping through a metal filter (phin). Ah! Vietnamese Coffee.
Chit-chat accompanies the lines forming, and a new language, let's call it Broadwayan is formed. Selam! আপনি কেমন আছেন, thử 宝 ? It’s approximately noon, according to the sun’s placement on the sky right. Today I’m a visitor at the Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market.
March 23, from an endless pace of footsteps
Accompanied by Opal - For Tet Remix
LOCAL: This week: with Nivi (Jasa) at Broadway Market, the creator of I am Nut Ok Cheese. The time: any given Saturday. The place: Third Culture Deli, a plant-based diner, American styled, Italian felt.
NEIGHBORHOOD BY NEIGHBORHOOD: The question in mind: What makes a neighborhood a desired landscape to live in, a community to belong? Is it the everyday stops, every week traditions or reasons no matter what come back to?
A POCKET GUIDE: Yard Sale Pizza, House of Momo, SenViet and many more. Everything can be delicious and vegan in London.
CRITIC: Can marketplaces help to coalesce neighhborhood’s diverse cultures?
ROUTE: Broadway Market Vegan Spots from Mare Street vegan burgers to Pocket’s falafel lines.
- I live in London but I am from Milan in my heart. I miss Italian architecture and dolce vita AKA easy living. Given my mixed background —my parents are Albanian and past cities I've lived in Milan, Istanbul, and now London— I feel that I still need to find the place where I want to settle. So far, NYC and Barcelona are on the top.
- I have recently found inspiration at The Castel Cinema which is a beautifully crafted little cinema in Homerton. The bar makes you feel like you are in the 1920s (it opened in 1913!). Super retro cool vibe with a diverse movie selection, some of which are even played in 16mm format.
- After living 6 years in London, I have just discovered: that I love coffee! I was never into coffee back in Italy as it was too strong, usually, they only drink espresso, and only here I started drinking coffee thanks to latté, flat white, dirty chai, etc.
- I love walking around Victoria Park with Angela (my partner) and Cliff (our lovely dog). It's a wide and open space, with plenty of greenery, little ponds, and secret gardens.
- I mostly shop vintage. A sustainable shop I like to cruise around: Paper Dress Vintage.
- A Londoner you must meet is Lawrence from Hackney Bread Kitchen. He is a professor who bakes at the back of his house in Hackney out of passion. The best focaccia you'll ever eat in the whole UK (and I can say this because I'm Italian). Not only he's super friendly, and into movies (he reminds me of David Lynch), but the passion that he puts in what he bakes is truly inspiring and deserves all the credits for it!
- Only a true Londoner would know where to get good coffee on a rainy day and. One of my favourite local hangouts is: Dark Arts Coffee Shop.
- In this erratic city, I complain the most about passive-aggressiveness. It's still something I can't understand and don't tolerate, but besides that, even the weather is not that bad, so I try not to complain too much.
- When I want to escape big city life: I go to Margate, a half plus one hour's train ride from London. Seems a bit like a copy of East London but more chilled and less busy. Lots of unique vintage shops, antiques, great food, and cute coffee and you get an amazing view of cliffs and sea.
Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market
Neighborhood: Hackney. Venue: Broadway Market. Local: Nivi Jasa.
Neighborhood: Hackney. Venue: Broadway Market. Local: Nivi Jasa. Words by: Hazal Yılmaz. Photos by: Alper Goldenberg.
What makes a neighborhood a desired landscape to live in, a community to belong? What is the je-ne-sais quoi that makes one choose to live in a space defined by postcodes yet separated from the adjacent street with a hunch? Is it the proximity to the schools, parking lot, a 24/7 open shop or on the contrary the isolation, the silence, the tranquility, the non-sound? Is it the closeness to the sky versus the soil? To some, it would be the ecosystem that surrounds it. The susurration of waves hitting the shore, the wind howling on the cherry tree branches, a little egret looking for their next food alongside the lake. A ramp? Not the first choice unless the house, flat, or apartment in question is located all the way up, maybe looking down to a bewildering panorama.
Fantom of the neighborhood
For a common human being living within the peripheries of E8 (Between Hackney Downs Park on the north, Haggerston in the south, Dalston Junction defining east and Well Street west including London Fields, unfortunately excluding My Neighbours The Dumplings to those who are not familiar) this question mostly would be answered by the closeness to Broadway Market; on weekdays the intersection of morning people running, getting their coffee from Climpson & Sons; noon sightseers chasing a place in front of L'Eau à la Bouche, afternoon tourers settling down at Dove with an Annie Ernaux book published by Fitzcarraldo Editions, bought from The Broadway Bookstore, night comers having a little drink at Off Broadway before heading at home or a Wednesday jazz night at NT’s Loft and on weekends where Mali rhythms are heard while eating baklava accompanied by Vietnamese coffee, where the cultures, languages, traditions, affirmations, and exclamations intermingle to form a brand new, temporary Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market.
A sneak peek of the Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market
Broadway Market reminiscences
For the last five decades, East London harbors many different cultures such as Gypsies passing through; Greek, Turkish, Caribbean and African communities. Once upon a time a Victorian street market called Trinovantum by "Brutus the Trojan", was a busy cart track road that help to bring food supplies to London around 3,000 years ago, as well as cattle from Essex and Epping Forest to slaughter. Part of the old "Porter's Path", a merchant's route between Hackney and Shoreditch, the street has existed since Roman times with changing uses.
The historic pedestrian route; Broadway Market was not only a vital supply route for a rapidly growing settlement but also an important area for supplying Phoenician merchant ships moored in the ancient London Pool. Still known today as the "Porter's Way", it was used to transport supplies from the rich pasture and wheat fields along the Lea Valley. The market stretched from the Isle of Dogs (Welsh: Ynys Dociau) and Billingsgate (King Belin's Gate) to what is now London Bridge. Until the 1980s, the roads through Hackney were all chained and padlocked between Friday afternoon and Monday morning to prevent the passage of private vessels. Rumor has it that the river was opened to the public after a group of people wanted to swim there at the weekends, and gradually the streets we travel today began to form.
The rallying place: Broadway Market
After the 1979 financial collapse, a Victorian-themed carnival was organized by two shopkeepers to keep Broadway Market afloat, to which all residents were invited. In 2004, 25 years after the carnival, the roads were closed to traffic and the market was designed by the Broadway Market Residents and Traders Association (BMRTA) so that it would not affect neighboring markets.
I am Nut Ok: A vegan addition to the market space
Nivi and Angela start I am Nut Ok at the adjacent street which is the school courtyard on weekdays. “By then it was a vegan market,” Nivi says. On the contrary of regular arrangements in which you have to apply, and pass through an assessment period before being admitted as a permanent vendor at the main street, Broadway Market Residents and Traders Association (BMRTA) invites them. “We were creating something unique, artisan vegan cheese, and this was missing from the grand total,” he says. A taste, even for non-vegans, indistinguishable from what they were used to, made from cow, buffalo or goat milk.
Give a few bites for this vegan cheesecake
“I think London is really East-focused and diverse when it comes to vegan food. As soon as you move West, the options are fewer. The East offering is more diverse, from Nepalese to Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine; West feels quite posh and (still good) but more classic; South has always been more Caribbean,” Nivi mentions, which makes me think about the effects of food on understanding culture(s) surrounding us, how through taste, smell and flavor we are more open-mindedly drawn.“Business-wise, I have to say that it has been an advantage having so many various traders around us, as it helped us grow faster and diversify our channels,” mentions Nivi about starting from a market stall before establishing a permanent place in Broadway Market.
Broadway Market locals
Photo: Hazal Yılmaz
Third Culture: A plant-based deli on its permanent place
I ask Nivi how the vegan scene from when they started at the Courtyard Market to today has changed. “A lot,” he says. In 2016, considered a dietary restriction, today a political statement, London’s, especially East London’s approach to veganism has changed a lot. It is easily noticed in daily life, through food. “Back in 2016 there were just a few vegan options and now you can basically enter almost every restaurant and find a broad selection. Because there is demand, chefs and tastemakers try to come up with new recipes, and taste palettes. Surprisingly, when we decided to open our deli in Broadway Market, there wasn't a single plant-based restaurant in the street, so we almost felt obliged. Third Culture Deli is an American-style diner combining Italian soul with plant-based recipes. The classic clam chowder soup is made from corn, to recreate another diner classic, the Reuben sandwich we use seitan. Every day either we transform non-vegan flavors and veganize them or we create new recipes,” he answers.
Nivi in front of Third Culture
I finish my Caprese sandwich made with Bluffalo notzarella and return to the open market area. Standing in front of the onigiri stall now, there is a distinct BBQ smell in the air. Once the last place for hungry farm animals to graze overnight, Broadway Market’s (culpable!) past is only visible through street and pub names nowadays. Sheep Lane, Lamb Lane and the Cat & Mutton Pub to name a few. Once the midpoint of animals proceeding to the slaughterhouse, today Broadway Market is the intersection and pioneer of an ever-changing culture. In three, five, or ten years, can we talk about a vegan Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market? Probably, in my opinion.
Who is the vegan chef to follow, where to book a table when you want your non-vegan friends to fall in love with vegan dishes, and what to eat late at night if you are vegan? We asked. Nivi gave us some tips.
Giving Nivi credit for this tasty guide
- A “must follow” vegan chef: Naomi from Seasons. We met a few months ago at a food pop-up she was running in Hackney (even though we knew each other but never had the chance to properly talk). She's an amazing baker and chef, and we are working with her on having a few pop-ups at our deli as we successfully did a collab together on fresh hand-made ravioli filled with our (I AM NUT OK) cheese. Delicious!
- When I want a hot soup, I let myself into the SenViet, for pho.
- If you are looking for home-cooked, comfort food my to-go is Andu Ethiopian Vegan Café.
- For a taste of handmade momos (Himalayan Dumplings) and Nepalese cuisine: House of Momo.
- When I want to have a vegan pizza the essential location is Yard Sale Pizza. Never return home without tasting Magic Mushrooms.
Some non-magic mushrooms
- Mamasons is the only address when it comes to vegan ice cream. My favorite flavor is: Ube.
- The vegan burger at Hogless Roast is my guilty pleasure.
- I always find Facing Heaven open for late-night snacks.
- Some vegan snacks that keep me company at movie nights in: crunchy oyster mushrooms and okra.
- A local vegan pub with delicious vegan alternatives: The Spread Eagle in Homerton.
- I can eat falafel every day at Pockets if they were open. I hate to queue but I'll still queue. If you can’t make it there on time, usually at 11:01 a.m. more than 15 people are already in the waiting line, there is another delicious falafel place 5 minutes walk from Broadway Market called Zeytoona. A tip from a local if you don't want to queue and are hungry!
Can culture(s) coalesce(s) through marketplaces?
After talking to Nivi, this is one of the sentences I underline amongst my notes: "I think the East offers more diverse, from Nepalese to Ethiopian, Vietnamese to Chinese cuisines; West feels quite posh and still good but more classic; South has always been more Caribbean and Jamaican."
Can culture(s) coalesce(s) through marketplaces?
According to John Talbot in an article he wrote on Londontopia in 2020, 44% of the city’s population represents various ethnicities and over 300 languages are spoken. Trust for London confirms this by saying 41% of Londoners were not born in the UK. Talbot describes in the same article that "It’s been observed that Pakistani Londoners have largely settled in the neighborhoods of Waltham Forest, Redbridge, and Newham; West Acton is home to a Japanese community; Tooting represents one of the largest collections of Indian residents and restaurants and Turkish and Greek communities made Enfield home. Brixton became an enclave for Jamaicans following World War II as nearly half a million Jamaicans and Caribbean natives moved to the United Kingdom." Today, we can perceive a neighborhood’s peculiar culture through plaques on the walls or storefronts, murals and graffiti, the pungent smell of spices, the tunes coming from instruments, the colors worn, and the words exchanged.
In a metropolitan like London, where settled diasporas, migration and ethnic communities shape and form the everyday culture, can market spaces be used as a better tool in order to blend cultures together, and adapt each other's customs, habits, and rituals more easier? Now, instead of what exists, I’m noting down what is missing from the Democratic Weekend Nation of Broadway Market.
Keida - Stand For Something playing on the record player
Mojito with lots of mints.
Ital with ackee, fried plantain, mango and pineapple
BROADWAY MARKET VEGAN STOPS
Facing Heaven, Pocket’s, OKKO and much more.
Cuisine: Reborn Sichuanese food concept from LA chef Julian Denis
Influenced by Cantonese, Yunnan and Shaanxi cuisines, Facing Heaven is a vegan’s go-to place. Especially before and after a long night out. Garlic and sesame oil “spanked cucumber”, purple gong bao broccoli at the center, dan dan noodles in front, msg margarita or organic wine in the hand. What else could you ask for?
Where: 1A Bayford Street E8 3SE
Heads-up: It’s named after Sichuanese "facing heaven" pepper. This means hot, spicy food all over.
Cuisine: Falafel aka Middle Eastern street food
It’s pretty rare you can convince a hungry, hang-over Londoner to wait in queue for food for more than ten minutes. But that’s exactly what Pockets do on any given Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Starting cooking these delicacies at Oxford, followed by Chatsworth Road Market, they made (lucky for us) their way into Netil Market in November 2020. And since their debut, there is no single day or hour we can bypass the queue to attain the ultimate goal: falafel pita. It’s not just the falafel, it’s the union of fluffy pita bread, crunchy green falafels, the classified sauce we finally dared to ask and learned was mango-based, hummus, tahini, garnishing and the final touch: boiled, roasted, fried potato slice.
Where: Netil Market, Thursday-Sunday from 11:00 a.m.
Heads-up: It takes about 2 minutes to layer impeccably one falafel pita. Yes, we timed it! Be prepared to wait in line for about 40 minutes.
Cuisine: Izakaya. Pacific Japanese plates from Hakata to Hawaii
If you are lucky enough to find a table outside of OKKO on a sunny London afternoon. Just keep it and keep the food coming. Our suggestion is to start with mixed pickles (including daikon) followed by Crunchy vegan roll, homemade gyoza and ramen accompanied with a nice bottle of sake of course. The lunch would turn into dinner and before you know it you are ordering Yamazaki 12 years.
Where: 10-12 Broadway Market Mews London E8 4TS
Heads-up: Okko is open every day, between 12:00-10:00 p.m. on Saturdays and 12:00-9:00 p.m. on Sundays, non-stop.
Third Culture Deli
Cuisine: Italian American deli classics with a plant-based twist
The only place where you can have Rueben made from seitan seasoned with Russian sauce and American style I am Nut Ok cheese; Caprese using Bluffalo Notzarella in focaccia seasoned with green pesto and you can also buy from the deli counter to keep company for your wine and dine nights in.
Where: 29 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH
Heads-up: If you time yourself well, you can have corn chowder soup and arancini balls with a cocktail.
Mare Street Market
Cuisine: Diner meets café meets tapas
A hip, leafy market, co-work space with shared tables during the day, loud and dance music by night. To some, this is the ultimate weekday hang-out where you can listen to Stranger Than Paradise tunes, to others, a brunch spot with long-time not seen friends. One thing is certain: Order a chipotle black bean burger w/ white cabbage slaw, sriracha, and pickles accompanied by fries.
Where: 117 Mare St, London E8 4RU
Heads-up: If you are looking for quiet, I need to have a couple of meetings online or IRL kind of co-working place, Mare Street is not it. The volume of the music and conversation is always up here. İdeal for people who are looking for inspiration.
The Approach Tavern
We are no longer in the E8 zone but there is a valid reason for that. Burger, chips and a touch of culture. Situated about 10-12 minutes from Broadway Market, this is one of the neighborhood local pubs where you can meet people at the bar and chat. Beer battered artichokes, and vegan black bean burger w/ coconut cream, mint, salad, “brioche” bun & fries is our selection from the menu.
Where: 47 Approach Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 9LY
Heads-up: The Approach Tavern has a gallery on the second floor. Check out the program.