Turn left out of Aldgate East Tube station in the shabby East End of London, and pretty soon you'll find yourself in the meandering, claustrophobic, buzzing street known as Brick Lane. The street, home to Irish, Ashkenazi and Bangladeshi immigrants for centuries, cuts from Bethnal Green in the north to Whitechapel in the south, and has become one of the best places in the city to visit.
Hindi music blares from tiny shops, faded posters cover wooden boards in front of vacant lots, and you won't get more than a few feet before you're propositioned by your first restaurant owner. For let's be honest; you're here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to get some of the best curry in the country.
Unlike most normal restaurants, it is common practice to negotiate a deal with the front-of-house man in the street before entering. A good deal is hard to spot on your first go (though you'll have no problem making repeated visits to gain the experience) but anything from 15-20% off is usually offered, and many restaurants allow you to bring in your own beer. Be prepared to try several proprietors before selecting your restaurant.
Some of the culture and nuances may seem a little impenetrable, but once inside, you'll find the curry is not. Most houses serve superb examples of a wide variety of dishes with a bias towards Bangladeshi curries, including some great jhalfrezis of the region, and nearly all serve a selection of pickles and sauces with poppadoms. Just don't - as one of this writer's friends did - order off-menu. The result will leave you in not inconsiderable pain.
Some restaurants are better than others - for some bizarre reason, all of them seem to have won at least one London curry award or prize for 'Best Restaurant on Brick Lane' - but the Eastern Eye, while it might look pricey, is not only very reasonable but offers some extremely good curry.
Of course, the night is far from done once the bill is settled. Up north is the Truman Brewery, 93 Feet East and Vibe Bar, which always has a party going. Down south, just off Brick Lane, you'll find the Rhythm Factory, a great live venue. And during the day - when you're less likely to be propositioned - Brick Lane is home to one of the finest record stores in the city: Rough Trade East.