Sandra Esquilant

Born and raised in Stepney, Sandra Esquilant took over The Golden Heart in Spitalfields in 1979 and has never left, turning it into the go-to watering hole for creative Eastenders. Tracey Emin, Gilbert and George and the Chapman brothers have all become regulars, and in 2002 she was ranked among the art world’s most influential people by ArtReview. More importantly, where did she get those glasses?

Jermaine Francis

Sandra Esquilant

The Nineties was Spitalfields’ heyday. It was the people that made it – the art and fashion crowds – you never had to watch your back. I could go round the corner and I’d never have to worry there was going to be a row.

Why did the art crowd come here? Because they’re unassuming people, and they’ll always be unassuming people. Doesn’t matter how well-known they get, they never get above themselves. They’re just real people. You can’t buy that – that’s something that comes with your heart.

These spectacles? Prada: £900… Only joking – they’re £2 from Tiger, over in the market.


Some of the new shops round here are great: The Mercantile London on Lamb Street has lovely bits and pieces. The cheese boys at Androuet are brilliant, they make the area a bit like it used to be. No pretence. Galvins, Wright Brothers, and Fiona at InSpitalfields – she’s been here since day one. She works her legs off.

Me, on the front page of The Telegraph? One of the most influential people in the art world? I thought it was a joke. I nearly died – it freaked me out. But it was quite special really. An old East End publican…

One of the best parties we ever had was to celebrate my 25 years in the pub. That was spectacular. I had lots of things going on outside, the champagne was flying. I got scared so I grabbed Mark Hix and said, “Let’s disappear, there’s too many people…”

When I came here there was one club in Shoreditch; it was called the Blue Note. I used to open at 6am, so when that shut they all came in here, along with all the fruit-and-veg boys.


I didn’t want a pub but my husband said, “Just come and see it.” I walked in that door and fell in love with it. It’s been the love of my life. I brought my three children up here.

I’ve always had nice young girls working behind the bar, and I treat them like my children. If there are fools talking to them, I won’t allow it, especially if they’re leaning over the bar. I don’t suffer ’em. Hoy out the horrible people.

I’ve been offered a lot of money. They sold The Ten Bells for £6m and The Commercial for £5m. I wouldn’t care if they offered me £10bn. Where would I go with that sort of money? It’d scare the life out of me. I’d have all horrible men after my money. 
I couldn’t think of anything more ghastly.