The Best Restaurants In Spitalfields
Sheng jian bao, gooey Detroit-style pizza, and more.
Turn right out of Shoreditch High Street Overground, under the bridge, and past the guy playing The Weeknd on the windpipes, and you’ll be in Spitalfields. Once known for its community of artists, Spitalfields has turned into one big street art tour. (Every day, crowds take pictures of an inexplicable stencil of the Queen dressed in stilettos giving the v sign.) It’s OK though, because if you can ignore the tourists and often manic vibe, Spitalfields has one of the best selections of restaurants in London. Let this guide expertly lead you around that person setting up their tripod in the middle of the pavement to your ideal restaurant.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Noodle & Beer
There are multiple reasons why we quickly fell in love with Noodle & Beer. The first is the name. It speaks to us both personally and profoundly. The second, third, fourth, and all the rest were very much food-related. The thick (perhaps even worthy of two cs) tian-shui mian udon is unlike any udon we’ve had in London. Full of bite and sitting in a slurpable pool of a sweet, nutty, and Sichuan pepper-filled sauce. The other thing was the lang-ya tu dou, handmade crinkle-cut chips wok-fried in chilli oil with onion and pepper. And all the non-food related stuff? Spot on as well.
St. John Bread and Wine
What can we say about St John that we haven’t already? Not much. Apart from that Bread and Wine is one of the best restaurants in London, not just Spitalfields. A tad more casual than the St. John Street original, the menu at Bread and Wine leans more sharing. Think devilled crab in a curried sauce with coriander—the only sighting you’ll ever see of the green stuff at St. John—or crispy pig cheek salad with sweet shallots. Come with family, for a group meal, or, if you work near here, for the best breakfast around. Every day should start with an egg, brown sauce, and some brisket hash.
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Whether you’re a flexitarian, humanitarian, or disciplinarian, you should be eating in Bubala, a vegetarian restaurant on Commercial Street. Everything on the Middle Eastern menu at this understated spot is delicious, from the charred laffa flatbread and dips, to the scoop of tahini, date, and tangerine ice cream. It’s affordable too: you can have an excellent meal for £30 or less, and the bar is a great option if you want to book for a few plates and a bottle of wine.
It’s no secret that Dumpling Shack’s sheng jian bao are London’s most reliably tasty soup dumplings. Pan-fried for a crisp bite, packed with pork, and with a slurp of delicious broth, they tick all the boxes. But the other bits on Dumpling Shack’s menu, from prawn-filled wontons drenched in electric chilli oil, to a spring onion pancake that marries your softest and flakiest sweet pastry memories into something deliciously savoury, are also fantastic. The spot is part of the slick kitchens setup in Old Spitalfields Market so swing by, find yourself a place to perch, and get slurping.
Detroit Pizza London
This Detroit-style pizza place serves mozzarella-covered, marinara-heavy, deep-dish pizzas that taste as good as they look. A single £4 slice of its Red Stripe is enough to fill you up, but the dough is so chewy and so fluffy, with a layer of cheese and a river of rich marinara on top, that we're willing to bet you'll want a whole pie. Come here for a foolproof lunchtime spot and get a slice or two while perching on one of their stools.
While Brick Lane is famous for its Bangladeshi curry houses, our must-visit South Asian restaurant is a five-minute walk away. Gunpowder’s new take on Indian classics is something everybody should be trying. It’s not a regular meal by any means—think tamarind soup shots and venison doughnuts—and a lot of people want in, so be prepared to wait for a table. Believe us, it’s worth it.
To some Ottolenghi is a nobody. To others he’s the man who introduced chucking some pomegranate seeds onto a salad. To Planet Organic goers, he’s a deity to be worshipped. Whatever you think or don’t think about him, the restaurants that bear his name are a damn fine chain of kind-of-healthy restaurants. Head to the Spitalfields one for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s as reliable as they come.
My Old Place
We’re known for a lot of things in London. Mainly pints. And queues. And the two together. But there are probably other things as well. Dumplings are something we’re not so well known for, but My Old Place is one of London’s better options, and a very good choice when you’re looking for a no-nonsense Chinese restaurant in Spitalfields. Come for a quick and cheap lunch: order the dumplings, dan dan noodles, gong pao chicken, and whatever else, and be pleasantly surprised by the bill.
For the more passionately carnivorous, there’s Hawksmoor Spitalfields, the OG of the all-powerful steak chain. The bar downstairs is an ideal pre- or post-date drinking spot. Upstairs, the steaks are reliably tasty, as are the chips. Also, don’t miss out on a full-fat Old Fashioned if you want a truly decadent experience.
Few things are better than getting a drink or two, being overcome with sudden and dramatic hunger, and finding yourself in a pub that also offers some pretty good food. The Culpeper is just that. This pub/restaurant/hotel has a very inviting bar menu, from picky bits to main courses of pasta. And the restaurant upstairs has a slightly larger selection with sharing plates of whole fish or big bits of meat with sides. It’s an easy choice for an unplanned meal.
This old-school Chinese restaurant off Brick Lane can be a bit of welcome respite from some of the trendier spots in the surrounding area. This is a white tablecloths, big menus with pictures affair. The hot pots are excellent and much-needed for 90% of the year in London and the twice-cooked pork in chilli oil with buns is one of the tastiest (and biggest) things you can get for under a tenner in London. This is a great spot for a catch-up with mates, a last-minute dinner, or anything really.
The Kitchens At Old Spitalfields Market
As well as Dumpling Shack, there are also a load of other restaurants and mini-kitchens where you can sit in at the bar or take away food in Old Spitalfields Market. There are plenty of top options, from Yum Bun’s hard-to-resist pillowy bao to Fen Noodles—the hand-pulled noodle offshoot of Dumpling Shack—and it’s a real destination for lunch or casual, quick dinner.
Pilpel has locations in and around the City (including St. Paul’s and Aldgate), and considering the quality of its falafel output, that's a good thing. Inspired by working on his grandfather’s falafel stall in Israel, owner Uri Dinay’s round pockets are packed with rotund falafels, salad, and a generous dribble of tahini, plus red and green chilli sauces. For just over a fiver it’s a reliably delicious lunch go-to in Spitalfields Market.
A familiar ‘former food stall turned bricks and mortar’ story, Lahpet does decent modern Burmese food for the east London faithful. It’s mostly curries on offer here, but they differ in texture and ingredients. The lentil and mushroom one, in particular, is very tasty, and the shrimp paste dumplings to start are decent. It’s a casual restaurant for a casual hang.