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 is now, basically, one big street art tour. Everyday, crowds 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 often manic vibe, Spitalfields has one of the best selections of restaurants in London. Let this guide expertly lead you around that person setting their tripod up in the middle of the pavement, to your ideal restaurant.
There are multiple reasons as to why we quickly fell in love with Noodle & Beer. The first is their name. It speaks to us both personally and profoundly. The second, third, fourth, and all the rest were very much food-related. Their 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, their handmade crinkle cut chips wok-fried in chilli oil with onion and pepper. And all the non-food related stuff? Spot on as well.
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, or for a group meal, or, if you work round here, for the best breakfast around. Every day should start with an egg, brown sauce, and some brisket hash.
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.
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 their electric chilli oil, to a spring onion pancake that marries your softest and flakiest sweet pastry memories into something deliciously savoury, are also fantastic. They’re part of the slick kitchens setup in Old Spitalfields Market, so swing by, find yourself a place to perch, and get slurping.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
As well as Dumpling Shack, there are also a load of other restaurants and mini-kitchens for you to sit at the bar or takeaway in Old Spitalfields Market. There are plenty of delicious options, from Yum Bun’s hard to resist pillowy bao buns to Fen Noodles - the hand-pulled noodle offshoot of Dumpling Shack - and it’s a real destination for a delicious lunch or casual, quick dinner.
Pilpel has locations in and around the City (including St. Paul’s, and Aldgate), and considering the quality of their 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 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 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.