Turn right out of Shoreditch High Street overground, under the bridge, and past the guy playing Ed Sheeran on the windpipes, and you’ll be in Spitalfields. Once known for its community of artists, Spitalfields is now, basically, one big street art tour. Everyday, crowds of tourists take pictures of an inexplicable stencil of the Queen dressed in stilettos giving the v sign. Someone, somewhere, is turning in their grave.
It’s okay though, because if you can ignore the tourists and sometimes Oxford Street vibe, Spitalfields has one of the best selections of restaurants in London. From something a bit British to something a bit Bangladeshi, let this guide expertly lead you around that person setting their tripod up in the middle of the pavement, to your ideal restaurant.
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, starting with their charred laffa flatbread and dips, to the scoop of tahini, date, and tangerine ice cream that you have to finish one. It’s affordable too, you can have an excellent meal for £30 or less, and the bar is an excellent option if you want to book for a few plates and a bottle of wine.
While Brick Lane is famous for its Bangladeshi curry houses, our must-visit Indian 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 spots that bear his name are a damn fine chain of healthy-ish restaurants. Head to the Spitalfields one for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s as reliable as they come.
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 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 O.G. of the all-powerful steak chain. It’s been recently refurbished which is nice, and the bar downstairs is an ideal pre- or post-date drinking spot. Upstairs, the steaks are reliably tasty, as are their chips. Also, don’t miss out on their full-fat old fashioned if you want a truly decadent experience.
Pizza by the slice is something that’s never fully made the journey across the pond from New York to London. There are a few places but not on the scale we feel is, well, necessary. Paradise Slice is a nice addition to Brick Lane, and its pizza is fairly decent as well. Stop in for a quick snack, or order a 20” ‘pie’ (as New Yorkers say) to share. Either option makes for a cheap and cheerful lunch.
What can we say about St John that we haven’t already? Not much. Apart from, Bread and Wine is one of the best restaurants in Spitalfields. Come with family, or for a group meal, or, if you work round here, for the best breakfast around. Everyday should start with an egg, brown sauce, and some brisket hash.
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 bigs 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 in affair. Their 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.
Old Spitalfields Market, a space that recently offered Wagamama at best, now has all sorts of excellent restaurants and stalls providing options to sit at the bar or to take away. There’s plenty of delicious options, from dumplings to desserts, and it makes it a real destination for a delicious lunch or casual dinner.
A Turkish institution on Brick Lane, Efes has been serving families, drunk revellers, and pretty much anyone in need of some seriously good meats and salads for years now. Every area needs a reliable, excellent Turkish, and Efes is the one to go to in Spitalfields. Mixed grill and cold mezze are essential, plus enough warm bread to sink a ship. This place is almost permanently busy and buzzy, so don’t expect the most attentive service in the world.
A familiar ‘former-food stall-turned-bricks’ story, Lahpet does pretty decent modern Burmese 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.
You know those places you take people when you want to pretend to be in the know? Som Saa is one of them. The papaya salad is refreshing and invigorating all at once, thanks to the chilli, and the whole fried seabass is the centrepiece your table deserves. Come here with friends, come here with colleagues, eat, drink, sweat, and have a good time.