The Gallery Cafe
21 Old Ford Road, London E2 9PL
020 8980 2092
link to the Gallery Cafe on Facebook
Set in the basement of a pretty charity-owned Georgian house in Bethnal Green, the Gallery Cafe is all its name promises and more. Established as a vegetarian and vegan cafe serving wholesome fare and the best chips in east London, the cafe also acts as an art gallery, a music venue and a teaching space.
During the week the owners run workshops in sewing, knitting and other crafts; the type of make-do-and-mend classes where you can enjoy a bit of home-made cake and a chat while you learn something useful. There are also regularly changing displays of paintings that enliven the narrow room with bursts of colour. (The current display is devoted to the vibrantly-toned naive works of Justine Roland-Cal.)
It is in its role as a music venue, however, that the Gallery Cafe really excels. The far end of the room is devoted to a stage strung with fairy lights, and they offer free live music on Friday nights and open-mic nights during the week. The owners seek out the type of local bands who will fill the room, and the crowd, with toe-tapping energy. The night I visited, the girls of The Jolenes gave a riotous performance and the Snakeoil Rattlers took us back to the Deep South with their home-grown swampbilly stories of trial and retribution. By the end of the night, the cosy layout of small tables and assorted chairs had been pushed aside as the music insisted on a dance.
No two nights are the same here, keep coming back.