The party never stops at this coffee shop-cum-cocktail-bar-cum-rave spot.
Situated in a huge converted warehouse just off Brick Lane, you really can't miss Cafe 1001 – the barbecue area with picnic benches at the front takes up most of the street. And, made up of roughly four inside areas, the place is huge and there's way more than first meets the eye. In fact, walking from one section to the next, you almost have to remind yourself you're in the same one venue. Enter through huge glass doors at the front and you'll immediately hit a cafe-like area with deli-style foods and a coffee counter and, if you turn to your right there's a mini bar that serves cocktails during licensing hours. Head up some stairs and you'll find yourself in a large – almost student union-style – room with slouchy cushions, tatty sofas and booth areas, graffiti artwork, open piping, a TV screen and even a piano, too. Places like this are a rare find in London and it's a lot like somewhere you'd find across the channel in other European cities.
Head through to some black doors and you'll hit a very large warehouse space where events and parties take place – the area is used for everything from salsa classes and exhibitions to day raves. It's pretty dark and can be decorated according to what's going on. If you need the toilet, remind yourself you're in a warehouse in effect – they consist of metal toilets with no seats, so people after a sleek venue should probably head elsewhere.
The venue is one of the most laid-back in the area and you definitely don't have to be dressed up to get in. Staff are friendly and up for banter, while the venue attracts twenty- and thirty-something east London creative types as well as tourists on the hunt for “alternative London”.
This varies considerably from day to day. There could be someone playing the piano in the top room, a band playing downstairs in the cocktail space or a top DJ act in the back room. The venue brands itself as a "creative space" and it certainly matches up to this. Cafe 1001 is keen to encourage new acts to play at the venue and 90 per cent of the time it’s free to go and watch these bands.
Whether you're after a breakfast from 7am to 3pm, a sandwich or jacket potato from the coffee area or a barbecued hot dog, there's lots on offer and it's good value, too. Expect to pay around £4.80 for a beef burger and £5 for an aubergine and halloumi burger, while breakfasts start at as little as £2.90 for eggs on toast. The venue prides itself on the fact everything is made from scratch on the premises.
The venue is much more about what's going on than the drinks you're drinking. While the coffees, teas and juices are at a pretty standard cafe price for a couple of quid each, Café 1001 could improve a lot when it comes to the alcohol offering – beers are pretty much limited to cans of Red Stripe (at a painful £3.80 a can) from a bucket outside. The cocktails vary depending on who is making them, but they're about £7 a glass. There are shots and jugs available too.
The Last Word
Creative, eclectic and full of character, this east London venue looks to be a Brick Lane institution for many years to come.