Monday, January 21, 2013

Olympian Café

Executive summary by darmansjah

Jess Seaton, owner The Counter

THE scrum for Olympic tickets left thousands empty handed, and others desperately trying to pretend that they’ve always loved dressage and clay pigeon shooting. Yet for those wanting to tap into the Olympic spirit even without a ticket, a visit to a small industrial island in Hackney Wick should be a priority.

‘When the Games start, it’s going to be insane,’ says Jess Seaton, co –proprietor of The Counter, a brick and steel diner filled with retro furniture and gleaming iMacs. ‘Already we can hear the intercom, and the floodlights shine straight in the windows. God knows what it’s going to be like when the crowds get here.’

The Counter overlooks the Lee Valley River, a ribbon of water snaking through the industrial heartlands of East London. Raise your eyes above the bank and you’re greeted with the sight of possibly the biggest construction site in the world – the Olympic Park. It’s also close that customers are in danger of being hit by a stray javelin.

‘We didn’t plan this,’ says Jess. ‘We’re not Olympic sellouts! Before we opened there was nothing here.’ She’s not kidding. From the outside, Fish Island is little more than a ring of warehouses, shipping containers and lorries. ‘There’s only one road in here,’ says Jess. ‘It’s a secret community. But all of those dull warehouses are packed with creative people. Hackney Wick has the highest concentration of art studios in the world.’ The Counter’s superlative breakfast and views have drawn people in from across the city. And now its prime Olympic location has put the area under a global spotlight.

Despite worries that the Games’ proximity would push rents up and artist out, Jess has been happily surprised that this hasn’t happened. ‘This will never be a post-Olympics ghost town. We’ll still be here when the attention moves on, ‘she says. ‘It’s a very special area and everyone wants to keep it that way.’

The Counter,7 Roach Rd, E3;



See the final touches going on the Olympic site at The View Tube viewing platform (Marshgate Ln, E15;


A bike ride along the canal from Limehouse to Clapton passes right by the stadium site (

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