Spitalfields. Close your eyes, try to imagine the area a long time ago. The fields of Spital, a priory that served as a hospital in 1197. When Nicholas Culpeper, botanist and humanitarian physician (he treated patients for free), opened his pharmacy in the 17th century, the area still had a countryside vibe. He could indeed go for a stroll and collect medicinal plants along his walk…
The meadows have long gone. A few squares survived. You might stumble on a few community gardens. The most beautiful slice of nature in the area, really, is the Columbia Road flower market on Sundays… There are little gems, though, if you take the time to search. Patches of green, here and there. One of them is at the corner of Commercial and Wentworth Street, a step away from Petticoat Lane.
Welcome to The Culpeper, named after the famous herbalist, which shop was only a few minutes away. How elegant this Victorian building looks with its beautiful tiled entrance, its terracotta bricks lined with white here and there… Proof too, that in London you can have it all: pub on the ground floor, restaurant on the first, hotel on the second, conservatory and tiny but sweet garden on the rooftop. See it as an ascent towards peacefulness, the lively chatter slowing fading away as you climb up the stairs.
The first sight, once you have passed the last step, usually is a mixologist, shaker in hand. Grab a cocktail menu as you pass the bar and choose a space outside, maybe by the lavender bush, or the micro patch of lettuce. Both herbs and vegetables are used in the kitchen and it’s very tempting indeed to nibble on a leaf of basil. The place is not big, you had been warned, but it has this intimate vibe London masters so well. The tables, used to the wear and tear that goes with the weather, show a palette of metallic colours under the distressed green paint, the perfect transition from garden colours to the city skyline – you can even see the Gherkin from here.
The cocktails, of course, find inspiration in nature. Well-balanced creations, playing with the right touch of sweetness and tanginess, drinks to nurse for while: Iced tea with limoncello and mint syrup, Culpeper Cooler with orange wine, rosé wine gets a Spritz upgrade and a touch of grapefruit… The menu, of course, changes with the seasons. In winter, the garden takes a rest, the conservatory welcomes private parties (oh, to book it for a romantic dinner, complete with fairy lights!) or workshops (book launches, pickling, sketching, botanical cocktail… or, at the moment, rooftop astronomy). You can even volunteer and help with their organic rooftop growing.
London as we love it: unexpected, heart-warming and trendy. Let’s drink to that!
The Culpeper | 40 Commercial Street, London