The opening of Fora signals the emergence of Central Street. It’s now the place to be, says Katy Salter
A luxury co-working space, a destination restaurant, cookery schools (yes, plural) and art galleries – something has happened to Central Street. This once down- at-heel thoroughfare between the Goswell and City Roads is having a moment. Its location is now its selling point: perfectly poised for both the creative industries in Clerkenwell and the tech companies of Silicon Roundabout.
The cherry on the cake is the arrival of Fora, a new high-spec shared workspace at number 71. Its motto is “pro-working, not co-working” and its luxe environs are several steps up from the usual hipster hub. A look around the space reveals tricked-out kitchens, sound- proofed offices, Mad Men-style phone booths where you can talk in privacy, a yoga studio and a basement den complete with a library and a roaring fire. There’s even a special room where you can leave your rain-sodden coat and brolly.
There’s a basement den complete with library and roaring fire Fora’s plan is to open 20 “beautiful, inspiring, well-located, professional flexible offices throughout London,” according to its co-founder Katrina Larkin. “Clerkenwell is known as the design Mecca of London and an opportunity to acquire our first space here was not be missed,” she says. In fact, the second branch in the line-up is going to be in Clerkenwell too, nearby on Dallington Street. It’s due to open later this year.
Drawing foodies to Central Street like pigeons to a chip is Fora’s in-house but stand-alone Italian restaurant, Palatino (see Post, issue 35). It’s a first foray into EC1 for award-winning chef Stevie Parle (chef-owner of Dock Kitchen, Craft London and Rotorino). “Palatino is in between two major London centres of energy and creativity, Clerkenwell and Old Street, and I’m excited to be involved in both communities,” he says. Perhaps more restaurateurs will follow suit. Certainly, foodies were among the first to spot Central Street’s potential. Besides the long-established neighbourhood restaurant Fish Central, the road is home to two cookery schools: the quirky Food at 52 (it’s actually at number 96 – the name comes from a previous address) opened in the late Noughties, and the Central Street Cookery School at St Luke’s Community Centre (number 90) launched in 2012.
The Community Centre itself has had a makeover, adding the glass-fronted Central Street Cafe in 2015. A worthy addition to Clerkenwell’s coffee scene, it offers Union Coffee, a rooftop terrace and hearty brunches to local workers. A registered charity, all its profits go towards supplying healthy meals to vulnerable elderly people in the area.
Another forward-thinking charity, the Contemporary Art Society, which buys and donates art to museums and galleries, opened its cutting-edge HQ at 59 Central Street in 2012. The space, designed by architects Carmody Groarke, is a hub for artists, collectors and other art-world professionals. Incidentally, just up the road, on the corner of Central Street and Lever Street, is the Central London Masonic Centre. The Masons moved here when they vacated the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green (soon to be a private members’ club) in 2013.
And the Central Street revival doesn’t stop here. Islington Council is currently working on a “masterplan” to make the road more accessible, safer and more attractive, with new benches, cycle paths and other features. In the meantime, property developers are snapping up any vacant plots. It’s definitely the EC1 place to be.