Secret Streets: Manette Street W1

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Credit: flickr.com/photos/garryknight

From Greek Street it looks like a the kind of alley that would only be of interest for graffiti-tag bingo or catching chlamydia. In fact this tiny Soho thoroughfare just off Foyles has a fascinating backstory and a smashing secret rock-and-roll bar.

First the history: the street is named after Dr Manette from Charles Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities as it was his fictitious address. The gold arm-and-hammer that juts out of Goldbeaters House next to the Foyles building is described in the novel (worth a read if you haven’t by gotten around to it by the way):

“In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane tree rustled its green leaves, church organs claimed to be made, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall… as if he had beaten himself precious.”

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The gold arm-and-hammer on Manette Street features in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (credit: flickr.com/photos/chrisgold)

The arm-and-hammer that you see in Manette Street  is technically a replica though; the real one was given to the Dickens museum.

Manette Street was also once a hotbed for anarchism, which stretches back to when a radical socialist-communist club lived at number six; then, it was a sad, dilapidated block that resembled a “railway station, with groups of men, women and children sitting disconsolately amidst piles of luggage.” In the 1950s, the London Anarchist Group held outdoor meetings out on the pavement here too apparently.

There’s only one attraction on Manette Street today  but it’s a great one. The Crobar at number 17 is a suitably grungy rock bar for a street with anarchistic links: think Jägermeister and cranberry cocktails and frizzie-bearded bartenders that look like they belong in a Harley Davidson ad.

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Manette Street – no better place in London for a Jägermeister

My favourite thing about this place is the vintage jukebox with a catalogue of tunes by  the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Judas Priest. Be warned though, you’ll need some patience for loitering if it’s busy, as there’s inevitably competition to decide the next track.

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The jukebox

Other best thing about this place is it’s cheap and cheerful. Happy hour 4pm-9pm every day and £3 Bulleit Bourbon and mixers all night from Monday to Thursday, woop! An estate agent would describe it as snug, and you’d be lucky to nab of stool and it’s usually chock-a-block with its cadre of fiercely loyal raven-haired, rose-tattooed regulars. An experience.

 

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