Eleven tables, fist bumps and friends – is the Eastenders Snooker Lounge the best local snooker and pool club in Whitechapel?
The Eastenders Snooker Lounge, just off Mile End Road, offers 12 hours of pool and snooker a day. It’s buried in the far corner of a small cobbled yard that was once home to celebrated eighteenth-century explorer, Captain Cook.
Beneath the sign for the lounge, there’s a large black door with a buzzer. It opens onto an empty tiled stairway with an oddly nostalgic smell of dog and dust.
The dog is Miku, a 10-month-old dog sprawled behind the bar upstairs. She gets a pat or two from everyone.
Inside, the snooker lounge is all about soul, not sophistication. Its owner, Azad Dunlop, 45, has focused on cultivating comfort, making it warm and winter-friendly.
It’s a friendly local members club where everyone knows each other. Players give Dunlop a fist-bump as they go in and out, and greet his son, sitting by the bar in his primary school jumper, playing on an iPad. You get the impression it’s like one big family.
People feel comfortable speaking their own language (I hear a mixture of English, Bangla and Slavic languages), and laugh when they muck up a shot.
Most members are Bengali, so it’s a good place for non-drinkers. At the reception, most go for reasonably priced fizzy drinks and bar snacks, but the fridge is well stocked with cans of alcohol, too, for around the three-pound mark.
After the bar-reception there are two rooms; one has three pool tables, the other has eight snooker tables. There’s no decoration and the windows are boarded up, so you can leave all your troubles at the door and get lost in the game from midday to midnight (they are open 12 hours a day).
The original Eastenders Snooker Club was an institution. Established in the early 1980s, you can still see its red-and-white sign above a graffitied door nearby Whitechapel Underground Station.
Growing up on Tinsley Road, just around the corner in Stepney, Dunlop and his brother spent their childhood there. Smiling, Dunlop tells me he has stories of its heyday that he doesn’t care to share.
When it closed down ten years ago, Dunlop got permission from the old owner to use the ‘Eastenders’ name and established the Eastenders Snooker Lounge.
Squinting in the daylight as you leave, you stumble into the site of Captain Cook’s old home again, and no doubt feel how he felt emerging into the daylight from the cabin of his ship.
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