Hanbury Street Calling

“Hanbury Street?” says my friend Xiaoyu to an incoming caller who interrupts her just as she is trying to make an outgoing call on my behalf – to ‘EE lost mobiles’.

“Ah yes, Hanbury Street!” Xiaoyu sounds pleasantly surprised.

I feel a huge rush of relief. Hanbury Street, yes, of course, we were there less than half an hour ago. I’d almost forgotten that in my current state of barely supressed panic.

Right now we are half way up (or is down?) Brick Lane market. The Lane is chocka with the usual Sunday two-way human-traffic congestion, slowly squeezing its way between Bangladeshi curry houses, galleries, coffee shops, bars and Jewish bagel bakeries. Cutting-edge trend-setters, meandering students, tourists and even proper locals are bottle-necking around artisan food-stalls, filtering through fruit-stands, delicately skirting around antique-displays, or perhaps even queuing at a London cab turned coffee-trolley (as you do).

But whichever way our personal preferences lead us to look and linger today, we all have to shuffle our way around broken dolls, eight-track cartridge decks, rusty cog wheels, mismatched vintage china, and battered suitcases laid out on blankets on the ground – while simultaneously endeavouring to neither slip on stray banana skins or squashed avocados lying across our paths, nor to slide on slimy and mouldy bits of cardboard lurking in the shadows underfoot.

They say that the joy of this market is that you never know what you will find, but the downside has got to be that it’s not exactly the best place on earth to lose your mobile phone.

Do you have a pink smartphone?

This is exactly what I have just gone and done. I’ve either dropped it, or, infinitely worse, someone has ‘removed’ it from my bag. Looking around, I’d had the increasingly sinking feeling that the only way I would find this particular piece of ‘bric-a-brac’ (I use the term loosely, it was a brand new smartphone), was if someone tried (un)wittingly sell it back to me.

Xiaoyu and I had retraced our steps, all to no avail. My bright pink phone-case is (or was) easy enough to pick out from the murky depths of my own shoulder-bag, so it would surely stand out against the black bin-liners and general debris gracing Brick Lane’s chaotic road-surface. Trouble is, that funky fuchsia would have attracted someone else’s beady eye by now…

True, it could just as easily have fallen into the hands of someone good and honest as someone wanting to make a fast buck from a good ‘find’, but I couldn’t be sure how the odds were stacked today.

This is Brick Lane, after all…

Xiaoyu had already called my number, only to find the phone switched off (never a good sign).

“Is your battery low?” she asked, having gone straight through to voicemail.

“Um, I don’t know, yeah, probably.” I replied despondently

We called back in Brick Lane bookshop, to see if anyone had handed it in after our earlier visit. “No, no-one has handed it in” said the shop-lady “yet” she added kindly.

There went my last trace of hope.


Looking for a pink hard-back cover

So I’ve just given Xiaoyu the go-ahead to ring EE. She’s just connecting with the lost phones department when the unexpected call comes in – from my number.

Talk about fine cosmic timing. Had it been a few seconds later I would have already requested that my phone be blocked.

“Yes, my friend has lost her phone.” says Xiaoyu to her Hanbury Street caller.

“Dopp-what? What’s that?”

“Dopp-ee-what? Doppio? Coffee shop? Number 90, I see, yes, thank you.”

Hanbury Street – a quiet tributary intersecting Brick Lane’s heady main-street undercurrents to offer a little respite from this busiest of Sunday thoroughfares (and it seems, some hope in hell of finding a phone you believed was irretrievably  ‘lost in action’ on the Lane itself.)

Oh joy, sweet relief.

We turn and head towards blessed Hanbury Street, and instinctively turn right, into  it’s west side, where Sunday crowds are sifting through from the Spitalfields area towards Brick Lane. Now, this coffee shop, No. 90, where is it?

Here’s one, although from it’s shop-front it looks like it might be called ‘Nude Espresso’, (not ‘Doppio’), and, if its street-number is anything to go by, it’s 26, (not 90). But appearances can sometimes be a bit deceptive around here.

Undeterred, I go in, and ask: “Good afternoon, have you got a pink smartphone?”

The barista behind the counter looks puzzled.


A pink WHAT, madame?

“Pink?” he replies “A pink what, madame?”

“A pink phone. Did you just ring us? We just had a call from a coffee shop in Hanbury Street.”

The man looks bemused.

“We are looking for number 90.” I offer, by way of explanation. The barista seems relieved, and tells us that No. 90 is over the east side of Hanbury Street’s juncture with Brick Lane. That makes sense, as we were browsing over there earlier. I’d dropped some hand-cream out of my bag and picked it up – but I must have let the phone fall as well without realising.

(So why have we rushed straight to west Hanbury Street like hapless tourists, instead of reverting to its east side like the savvy pseudo-locals we actually are?)

We scuttle off to scour east Hanbury. It’s colourful and varied, but we can’t find No. 90, nor does there seem to be anywhere called ‘Doppio’.



Colourful – but no door-number


Have you seen No. 90?


Has anyone here got a pink smartphone?


Could it be down here (even though it’s 49?)

We’ve now reached the end of Hanbury Street. It meets with a road that sweeps in at an oblique angle and curves around to run parallel behind Brick Lane. There are no more numbers to check out.  Where do we go from here?


The proverbial End of the Road?

It looks like Xiaoyu will have to ring the mystery caller at this fictitious No. 90. (They only certainty is that, wherever their hide-out actually is, they do have my phone.)

Just then, we notice that the guy from ‘Nude Espresso’ has been tailing us. He must realise how clueless we are, because he offers to show us to No. 90. We follow him off our perceived end of Hanbury Street and up that road bending round to meet it – which, we learn, while still Hanbury Street in name, is in essence is its quieter and less-frequented backwater. (How long would it have taken us work that one out?)


Still Hanbury Street (believe it or not)

And there, suddenly, is mythical Doppio, which turns out to be not only an Aladdin’s cave of all things coffee-related, but a peaceful modern-rustic haven in which caffeine-lovers can recharge their batteries (and, with a bit of luck, their mobile phone as well, especially if Doppio’s in-house genie has just found it for them).


Aladdin’s Cave of Coffee

We thank Mr Nude Espresso, and enter this gleaming coffee cave. A friendly ‘Doppio’ staff-member confirms that yes, she has my pink mobile.

“My colleague found it further up the street, and brought it back for you to collect.”

Hanbury Street – what a great place to lose your phone, meet helpful ‘Nude’ barista-guides,  find a superb coffee-shop – and, of course, get your phone back.

Doppio’s resident Phone-Finder has just gone out, so I can’t thank him in person.

But he’s just made himself a new long-term customer.

We order a latte and a cappuccino, and now that we can relax again, a celebratory brownie.

But first, let me put that bright pink phone of mine on charge.


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