Is it a cafe? Is it a bar? Is it a cinema? Actually, it’s a mix of them all – and more…
An interesting looking building on Bethnal Green Road, Rich Mix is a glass monolith being 90% window with some snazzy rainbow-coloured edging and an outer casing of steel flaps that presumably double as adjustable blinds. However, despite boasting such strikingly modern architecture and the bar area undergoing a recent refurbishment, the inside looks in a state of flux with bare concrete walls enlivened only by a splash of fresh red paint on one side.
The venue’s standing as a cultural hub for the local community is evident in the furnishings, with a fold-up stage and spotlights grabbing the eye more than the black cotton-lined sofas and leatherette armchairs straight out of Ikea. With its hard lines, this square blank canvas of a room could hardly be described as aesthetically pleasing.
Befitting a multi-purpose venue, the character of Rich Mix is probably best described as functional. Nearly everything is on wheels, including the makeshift bar and school-canteen style beech tables and chairs, so it can change at a moment’s notice depending on the event being catered for.
2008 events include the Bangladesh Film Festival, the East End Film Festival, Spitalfield’s Festival’s Big Sing, Tower Hamlets Summer University Showcase and Wise Words Comedy Night. Part-funded by the Arts Council England, the vibe is cultural and educational, with students regularly dropping in to make use of the free Wi-Fi connection.
Rich Mix continues to live up to its name, offering an assortment of food more commonly associated with a tea shop than a bar. The carefully coiffeured cream cakes and rich chocolate gateaux are absurdly tempting, but for those watching their waistlines there’s an impressive salad bar containing a rather exotic range of herbs, leaves and sundries.
The menus in both the bar and the adjoining cafe (which offers a more extensive choice) are freshened up on a regular basis, but traditionalists who don’t fancy the idea of Corona and couscous, fear not, the bar snack staples of crisps, peanuts and pork scratchings still remain.
As with the food, the drinks menu at Rich Mix bears as much resemblance to a Starbucks as it does to a swanky Shoreditch saloon. There are flavoured teas, Fairtrade juices and Innocent Smoothies aplenty, and while the alcoholic selection’s far from exhaustive, it’s not too bad with the usual suspects such as Becks, Corona and Asahi going for £2.50 a bottle and Peroni on tap. The Chilean house wines are £10.50 a bottle and spirits are £3 per single plus mixer.
The bad news is that drinks are served in plastic glasses, but the good news is that this is to enables customers to take them into the cinema, making for a relaxed atmosphere rather than the omen of violence that the deployment of plastic usually implies!
The Last Word
They say variety is the spice of life, and although Rich Mix can’t match the zing of some of its local competitors, it certainly offers something different.