City Spice first opened its doors in 1996 on the site of a former sari shop. Alongside The Monsoon, it is one of the largest Bangladeshi-owned restaurants in Brick Lane, with space for 110 covers spread over two floors.
Before opening City Spice, its founder-owner, who was born in Sylhet and arrived in the UK in 1980 at the age of 19, had intended to fulfil his father’s wish that he should become a barrister. However, he soon became involved in anti-racism activism and community politics, setting up a short-lived garment cooperative just off Brick Lane. In 1981, he opened a privately-owned sari shop, Titash Novelties, at 138 Brick Lane, which proved a great success. However, a steady fall in sales in the early '90s as more local Bangladeshis opted to shop in Green Street in Newham resulted in the sari shop closing and City Spice opening.
The current owner took over the restaurant in 2011. Born in Bangladesh, he came to the UK as a young child and spent most of his life on Brick Lane. He now lives in Gravesend, where he previously ran an Indian takeaway and a convenience store. His father worked in the East End rag trade.
City Spice is open every day, except Christmas Day. It is estimated that around 40% of customers are foreign and British tourists. The restaurant also regularly serves groups of students from nearby universities. Approximately 60% of City Spice’s customers are walk-in while 40% have made a reservation beforehand. Most of the restaurant’s turnover – some 95% – is generated in the evenings. City Spice’s bestselling dishes are chicken tikka masala and chicken or lamb korma. Customers can also request the ‘staff curry’, the extra spicy lunchtime and evening dishes prepared by and for staff working in the restaurant kitchen and front-of-house. The 'staff curry' is prepared daily in most Brick Lane curry resturants, but is not listed on menus. All 13 kitchen and waiting staff at CIty Spice live in Tower Hamlets.
City Spice was the first curry house on Brick Lane to offer vegans an entirely separate vegan menu. The owner sometimes places adverts for City Spice in The Docklands & East London Advertiser. The restaurant uses Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and Instagram. It also has a website where the owner is pictured alongside numerous UK celebrities, including actor Matt Smith, footballer Jermaine Defoe and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.