Tucked away alongside a railway line, Old Union Yard Arches is masking some hidden gems.
Admittedly it’s our job to pick up on the excellent under the radar arrivals hitting the capital, but I’ll level with you: I only found out about this one because I happened to stroll past it on the way to Tate Modern. And to be fair, it is quite easy to miss Old Union Yard Arches, the entrance to which is squished between the railway line and a pub. But for a small street, the Yard packs in a hell of a lot of talent.
Artwork across the entrance to Old Union Yard Arches encourages you to “Eat, Drink, See, Meet, Fly” all of which you can do in this cute little side street (we’ll get to the flying part later). There’s also a groovy reflective sculpture courtesy of Rachel Wilberforce, which lets you know you’ve arrived. Whilst a variety of business fill the arches, the dominant forces here are food and theatre, which just so happen to be two things we love.
In fact, the tone is set very early on; the first two arches of Old Union Yard are home to Union Theatre, which focuses on new, electrifying work, and boasts Olivier Award-winning actress Ruthie Henshall as a patron. A little further down, you’ll find The Cervantes Theatre, perhaps the leading Spanish-language theatre in the capital. They produce work in both Spanish and English, with an upcoming adaptation of Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits being staged in both, depending on the night you see it.
Those with a greater appetite for food than theatre won’t be disappointed; Macellaio RC serves carefully crafted Italian food, with a strong focus on steak, pasta, and Ligurian pissa. Meanwhile, Bala Baya brings a taste of Tel Aviv – and frankly, some gorgeous interiors – to town. Dishes like prawn baklava and saffron beef leap right off the page, whilst intriguing desserts such as parsnip & honey semifredo have got me itching to book. The outdoor seating, with lightbulbs criss-crossing the street, also make it a lovely spot for a summer drink.
Old Union Yard Arches also hosts The Africa Centre, which has been a “cultural hub for the African diaspora” since opening in 1964. Through outreach, events, entrepreneurship, and debates, they aim to raise up African voices and bring them to a wider UK audience, as well as helping to facilitate further development in Africa.
And finally, because I did promise to tell you before, you can even fly at Old Union Yard Arches. The yard is home to a branch of Flying Fantastic, who offer aerial fitness classes ranging from yoga to trapeze. With all this on offer, Old Union Yard Arches really is soaring…
Location: Old Union Yard Arches, 229 Union Street, Southwark, SE1 0LR. Nearest station is Southwark. See it on Google Maps.
Opening hours: vary from location to location.
More information: from their website.
Featured image: @curlytravelled
Also published on Medium.