Booze-thirsty packs of people moving up and down the Kingsland Road is probably Dalston’s most common sight, and the jangling of bottles in blue bags its most common sound. But although this part of east is best known for parties, it’s also excellent for parties of two, four, or more. Here’s where you should be eating in Dalston.
Andu is a straightforward Ethiopian vegan café that’s BYOB. We say it’s straightforward because there’s only one thing to order here, their sampler platter. It’s made up of six dishes, ranging from vegetables to stews, that’s served with either rice or sour injera bread, we recommend the latter. It’s a great and cost efficient spot, as well as being a pretty healthy and very tasty one.
So, turns out that sliced bread isn’t the greatest thing ever. At least that’s how it seems judging by the amount of bakeries in east London these days, and, to be honest with you, we’re not complaining when bread is as good as The Dusty Knuckle’s is. This social enterprise bakery has been doing good things in lots of ways for a few years now and it’s a great little place for a pastry in the morning, or sandwich or soup at lunchtime. Things change daily, but look out for the vegetable sandwiches in particular, we prefer them.
After a long-winded legal battle with Chris Martin over the naming rights of his unborn child, Little Duck The Picklery was granted permission to keep its name and opened in 2017. It is, in essence, a giant middle-class kitchen. Everything is served in, on, or around terracotta. The menu is on two blackboards, reading like a weekly shop in the Ottolenghi household. There are 36 ceramic jugs of all sizes hanging above the hob. The small plates are decent: some good things, some okay things and some extremely pickle-y things that will make you go a bit wide eyed. It’s an all-day place so come for breakfast, lunch, dinner or, naturally, a pickling workshop.
The kebab is a stalwart of British cuisine and Mangal Ocakbasi is a stalwart of the Kingsland Road. The koftes are lovely, the salads fresh, and the bread dangerously addictive. This is a place to have a good time and eat good food with good people (your friends, family and the staff). Oh, and it’s BYOB, so happy days.
Snackbar is a breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch café slash working space on Dalston Lane serving excellent Asian-influenced dishes in a bright, industrial space that was probably once an art gallery. Or a squat. Or both, simultaneously. The menu spans from brioche toast soldiers with coconut jam and an onsen soy egg yolk at breakfast time, to kimchi and cheese or Balinese porchetta sandwiches, or tempura mushroom rice bowls at lunch.
The original Chick ’n Sours still holds a special place in our hearts (and stomach rumblings). Its location between Shoreditch and Dalston makes it, probably, the number one spot for a post-pint dinner in this area. The Korean fried chicken sandwich, dripping in gochujang mayo with a handful of daikon and coriander slaw, is even better than it sounds. The sour cocktails are also a cracking match, making this a great destination for a boozy (and messy date), or a catch up with mates.
Following the ‘this is what you’ll eat, and this is what you’ll drink’ naming approach pioneered by Chick ‘n’ Sours a few doors down, Beer and Burger is a sum (and restaurant) that will make you happy. As the name suggests, this is not a complicated place. And we’re glad for that. The burgers here are up there with the finest in the city - a little bit charred, still moist, and slightly (but not entirely) sloppy. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also twelve changing beers on tap. And if that wasn’t enough, they also serve chips and gravy.
An east London favourite for a few years now, Hash make what can only be described as extremely proper brunches. Their classic sweet potato and chorizo hash comes with spinach and a couple of poached eggs piled on top. Oh, and some umami dust. We’re not sure what that is either. Unsurprisingly this place pops off in the peak self-pity hours of 11am-2pm on the weekend, so expect a wait if you turn up then.
Ararat Bread is a teeny-tiny hole-in-the-wall bakery on Ridley Road making brilliantly tasty and brilliantly inexpensive flatbreads. You can have your naan topped with cheese and garlic for just £1, watch it bubble and sizzle under the rotating oven, before inevitably sticking it in your mouth far too quickly and injuring yourself in the best way possible. If you want meat, the keema is a quid more and the mince mixture is packed full of coriander seeds. Though it’s not essential, we tend to get an egg cracked on top as well. Whatever you choose, grab it, go, and then come back for more.
Pizza by the slice isn’t really a thing in the UK. We don’t know why. Someone, somewhere, probably with a name beginning with G, decided that the only slice we’ll eat on the move here will be a steak one. It’s a shame because if there were more pizza by the slice places like Voodoo Rays around, then we would all be much, much happier. Slices are £4 a go for the most part and it’s a very satisfying large snack or small dinner if you need something quick. The King Tubby - also, incidentally our childhood nickname - is a favourite, with a killer combo of sausage, caramelised onion, kale, and other delicious stuff. If you really want to feed a family (yourself) go all out with a whole one.
Some pubs require tactics. Bar positioning. Table grabbing. What to order, and what not to order. The Duke of Richmond in Dalston is one of these. Although you can have a full slap-up meal in the dining room, we think it’s best used as a beer and burger place - because it’s extremely good at both. The more casual dishes, from a bernaise loaded burger to a crab and chip butty, are ideal boozing snacks and can also be ordered to their outside terrace.
These days, restaurants like to tell us exactly what we’re eating, how it’s feeling, and the precise method of cooking. Things like “shy cauliflower cryogenically frozen for 14 years charred with the 2012 Olympic Torch” feel commonplace. Pizza Union is nothing like this. It’s the literal definition of fast food, but not the bad way. These are simple, tasty, crispy pizzas for under a fiver that will be ready in under five minutes. Sure, they’re not the best pizzas in the world, but they’re nowhere near close to being the worst.
Okay we admit, Hacha is a bar first and foremost, but there aren’t many places around Dalston that are good at both food and drink (or in this case drink and food). The atmosphere in this Mexican-inspired cocktail bar is distinctly relaxed. Nobody is taking themselves too seriously, because the only thing being taken seriously is the important stuff. And they really do take it seriously. We don’t know what magic made their water-like mirror margarita, but we do know that they disappear fast once you get going. Especially when you’ve got some juicy ceviche alongside them.