From pie and mash to salt beef: The changing face of Chapel Market
- Credit: Archant
Chapel Market is a true old-school Islington high street. But like it or not, the profile of its shops is slowly changing. The Gazette asks whether the traditional stores can survive as customers’ habits change.
The good old days of Chapel Market: pie ’n’ mash and apple fritters.
To this day, it’s the gritty retail alternative to the commercialism of nearby Angel Central shopping centre.
But are the shops of Chapel Market beginning to move on?
Next to the laundrette, we now have The Little Viet Kitchen. Next to the Crown chippy, there is Delhi Grill, an Indian street food joint.
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And Thursday saw the official opening of Mercer and Co, a salt beef shop styling itself as a “contemporary lunch spot” by day and “creative cocktail bar” by night.
It was launched by Alex Foley, who has run The Chapel Bar in nearby Penton Street since 1999. Thursday afternoon saw 300 people visit Mercer and Co to take advantage of a special £1 lunch offer.
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This crowd, largely made up of professionals in their 20s, is the type Alex wants to attract to Chapel Market.
But he still believes places like Mercer and Co can exist alongside the famous traditional names like Manze, the pie ’n’ mash cafe across the road.
“Chapel Market is evolving now,” Alex says. “We have the Vietnamese and Indian kitchens, and the Terrace which does really good kebabs. The Alma [craft beer pub] has had a revamp, which is great – it has a hotel upstairs.
“But you’ve still got, in between all of this, the gritty cafes that have been here for years. I see people taking pictures of Manze’s all the time: it’s a famous institution.
“I can see Chapel Market improving in years to come. I think the shops will be renovated. But I think, and hope, the old shops will stay.
“There will be a few guys like me coming in but we need markets like this to stay true to themselves. I consider it the heart of Islington and more people need to frequent it. Hopefully we can help get people doing that.”
Of all the places to start a new business, why Chapel Market?
“To walk from one end of the market to another takes me an hour”, he says, “as I’m so busy talking to people. That’s the thing about Chapel Market – I love it because it’s still a community where people talk to each other.
“I think we are bringing something different to Chapel Market. People like salt beef, and it’s nice that people in Islington can come here rather than having to go to Selfridges, or Brick Lane.”
As well as the 300 people who queued for the £1 lunch offer, the changing face of Chapel Market’s shopfronts has the support of stallholders.
David Twydell, the outgoing chairman of the Chapel Market Traders Association, has run a fruit stall in the market for four decades.
He said: “Places like Mercer and Co are what you want. You want a few different options, rather than more cafes. And it’s good to have proper shops that are here to stay, rather than temporary pop-ups.
“Hopefully it can attract different people to the market. People travel for salt beef – I travel for it! When we go shopping in the West End, we’ll always stop at Selfridges for salt beef.”
Sadly, long-established shops like Kemble Jewellers and Highbury Jean Centre have shut in recent months. And David wants to see similar specialist shops come to the market in their place.
“There used to be some really good kids’ clothes shops here, and shoe shops like Panache. They are all gone. It’d be good to get some more choice here. That can be an asset, rather than another Costa or Waitrose.”
Salt beef, craft beer and Indian kitchens. Is Chapel Market moving in the right direction? Email our opinion section: email@example.com