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Quaffing at Spitalfields market – for now at least

Much as I adore everything about Utobeer at Borough Market, and shop there on a weekly basis whenever I’m home, it’s always nice to have more than one of something, which is why I was very pleased some months ago to receive an e-mail from Chris Gill telling me he’d just opened a speciality beer stall, Quaffs, at Spitalfields Market. Stonch got down there straight away last July and liked what he saw, but what with one thing and another, a three month boat trip here or there, it’s taken me about nine months to find a Sunday when I could get the bus down and have a look.

I’m glad I did. There are over 150 beers, about half of them Belgian, the rest consisiting of British, German, and the full range of American beers currently being imported by James Clay. The set-up is neat, clean and airy, there are tasting notes for each beer pinned to the shelf, and there’s a really nice touch whereby branded glasses for each beer are displayed with them, enticing you to imagine the pour, and helping demonstrate beer’s diversity. All the glasses are for sale too.

Chris is a very affable bloke and was doing great business while I was there. Quaffs also do mail order within the M25, can host beer tasting events and cater for private functions.

There’s just one problem. They’ve just been given four weeks’ notice to vacate the site.

There was a huge outcry a few years ago when large sections of Spitalfields, a shabby but hugely popular and utterly unique market, were ripped apart and replaced by glass, concrete and upmarket, aspirational chain brands. I’d much rather eat and drink in a Giraffe or a Leon than in a Pret a Manger or a Pizza Express, but I’d also rather see these brands on the high street where they belong rather than displacing individual traders in what used to be a quintessentially London landmark.

One of the compensations of the market being done up was the opening of the food marke in 2006. It was originally intended that this should consist of butchers and bakers, but instead it’s gone more boutique (hardly surprising in the context of how the rest of the market has been gentrified), with people selling artisanal bread, beer, cured meats and the obligatory three thousand different types of olive, as well as 150 speciality beers. While this luxury market-style set-up is almost becoming a brand in its own right, if you love food and drink you can’t walk around a place like this without a big grin on your face.

Unless, that is, you’re the manager of a chain cafe.

The big boys have protested, and insist the market is damaging their custom. Given that there was a queue of approximately fifty people waiting for a space at Leon when I passed, I can’t really believe this is true. But these big shiny chains pay very high rents for the privilege of being there, and so when they complain, small, artisanal businesses are shown the door.

As things stand, you’ve got four weeks to enjoy the delights of Quaffs. Get down there, buy their beers, and sign the petition that the market stall holders have got up against this latest example of the homogenisation of every corner of our lives.




I’d echo your sentiments about what’s happening at Spitalfields. Chris told me during the week – absolutely gutting. The chain restaurants benefit due to the buzz the food market creates.


That’s pretty shocking, given everyone fought long and hard to keep what currently exists of the market. Thanks for publicising.

The Beer Nut

As a voracious consumer of beer pornography, can I please request that you use higher resolution images when posting pictures of shelved beer. Resampling big images down to manageable size on a click-for-big basis is one of the very few things Blogger does well.

I’ve long given up trying to figure out why Blogger does the things with paragraphs that it does. From my experience it’s a lot more predictable in Firefox than IE, and when it does do weird things it’s best fixed via the HTML edit tab. I can’t offer much more help than that, really.

If you put the tags in manually, does it strip them when you click back into the Compose tab?

Mark Tichenor

Pete, are you using a Mac? I’ve found that the combination of Mac/Safari does not play nice with WordPress, and strips out all my formatting tags. I don’t have this problem when I access my blog through Firefox.

Anyway, the trend toward gentrification here in the USA has begun to demand smaller boutique shops such as Quaffs, almost in preference to major chains. It’s saddening to hear that’s not the case in the UK, especially when dealing with such a specialty niche. How much could Quaff’s’ business have damaged any national chain’s?


Try editing in html the returns seem to stick that way, most of the time. It does do strange things at time though. As to photo posting I increasingly post stuff on flickr and then link to my blog it saves storage space in ya blogger account.
As to gentrification, we all seem to love it, people at work would rather pay 4 quid for sarnie at pret than at the locally owned cafe next door where they make your butty in front of you. Also I can’t really see the difference between leon and pizza express isn’t just one 40 years older with 200 branches. When heinz can successfuly defend calling tinned soup “farmers market brand” there’s no hope for tiny beer shops sadly. I much rather see quality beer for sale in my corner offie.

I heart cupcakes

I’m absolutely gutted to read about whats happening to Quaffs. I’ve bought a good few beers there for my hubby and Chris and his wife(?) are really friendly and helpful. They were sorting me out a barrell of ale to take to a party in Germany – I’d best get down there this weekend.


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