Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 16th 2016
We Almost Met Prince Charles
Chist Church Spitalfields
That's it, crane your neck back just a little bit further. Yep Christ Church is one tall building. It might not reach the height of the Shard, but it is a whole lot more beautiful to look at. The centrepiece of Commercial Street, if not the whole of Spitalfields, the origins of Christ Church date back to 1711 when Queen Anne passed the 'Fifty New Churches Act' to provide religion for the 'Godless masses. The foundation stones were laid in 1715 and by 5th July 1729, first service was held.
But while Christ Church soars to the skies, my dad and I were looking for an excursion underground. To the right of the main entrance lies a sloping path leading down, down, down to the crypt. Once a burial ground: one's final resting place, it sounds like an unusual spot to pick for lunch, but that was exactly the purpose of our visit, for this is the Cafe in the Crypt.
Eating inside a crypt may sound dark and dingy, but the cafe could not have felt any brighter. Filled with natural light and incredibly spacious, these airy surroundings are made all the more delightful by its magnificent architecture: a mixture of curved stone arches, geometric white domed ceilings, and slab flooring gives the venue awe-inspiring grandeur.
I was very surprised to find that apart from one other couple, we were the only ones there. For a Saturday, I was expecting it to be a lot busier; perhaps it was because we arrived around three o'clock and the lunch rush had already gone. Whatever the reason, it worked out in our favour because not only did we have the entire area to ourselves, but we received excellent service.
Typically a place where you order at the till and carry the food to a table yourself, we received full table service. The staff were faultless: very welcoming, informative, and helpful.
There is no menu per se, as the meals always change, but you can peruse the counter at leisure to see what takes your fancy. You can choose from a variety of toasted sandwiches, pastries, cakes, soup of the day, and a selection of cold pasta and salad dishes that can be mixed and matched. All these were at very good prices for central London, ranging from £1.50 for a cookie to £3.90 for a focaccia open sandwich.
I went for spinach & tomato orzo pasta, while Dad asked for a beef pasty with (to my great surprise) quinoa & feta cheese salad. The portion sizes were just right for lunch; they filled us up, but didn't make us feel uncomfortable. The seasoning for each dish was spot on; Dad enjoyed the sweetness coming from the beef and the saltiness from the salad. I found the dressing for the orzo creamy, but it did not overwhelm the pasta.
Of course, I am never one to say no to dessert, so it was enviable that the cakes that tempted me on the way in would eventually end up on our table. Dad had a strawberry sponge cake with the fluffiest frosting ever.
I (and my weeny companion) shared a slice of cherry bakewell cake. Under a generously smooth layer of icing hid a hint of cherry jam, and the cake had a pastry base with a thin helping of chocolate. It really was the cherry (or should I say three cherries) on top to a lovely lunch.
Lunch may have ended, but our day out had not, because to our surprise, one of the staff came up to us and offered a tour of the church. He was not an official tour guide, so could not provide us with a full history, but you would like to learn more about the church you can book a tour for £6 adults, £5 concessions or £25 groups of ten or more. Like the crypt, the church is painted a glistening white, adding more height to what already seems like an endless ceiling. Detailed columns hold up the balconies and chandeliers give a warm glow.
The stark white makes the stained glass windows all the more vibrant. It was installed by Ward and Hughes of Soho Square in 1876 and depicts Jesus's ascension.
Our guide's favourite part of the church is our heraldic coat of arms with the lion and the unicorn. We entered from the back, so did not see it at first, but if you enter through the main doors, it is one of the first things you see. You can get an even better view on the upper levels.
My favourite feature, however, was the organ, with a crown and bishop hats atop. Installed in 1735, it fell into disrepair from the 1960s onwards, but a reservation project brought it back to its former glory, with work completed in 2014.
The church is free to visit on weekdays anytime between 10am - 4pm and 1pm - 4pm Sundays. There are several services you can attend on Sundays, including communion, children's church, Bengali service, and evening services. There is also a lunchtime service at 1pm on Tuesdays.
Christ Church and the Cafe in the Crypt can be booked for private functions too, such as weddings, baptisms, and funerals. There are discussion groups and other events held throughout the year too.
After a very enjoyable visit, we made our way to leave, when Dad spotted a plaque on one of the walls. Apparently the Prince of Wales had visited the church just four days earlier. We narrowly missed out on a royal encounter.