LDNGuide

The Best Places To Eat In Dalston

Turkish ocakbaşıs, chip butties, excellent Ethiopian, £1 naans, and homely Caribbean are all within a stone’s throw of each other in Dalston.
A spread of dishes on a window counter at Snackbar.

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

Booze-thirsty packs of people moving up and down the Kingsland Road is probably Dalston’s most common sight, and the jangling of cans in blue bags its most common sound. But although this part of east London is well known for parties, it’s also excellent for parties of two, four, or more. Here’s where you should be eating and drinking in Dalston.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Jake Missing

Vietnamese

Dalston

$$$$Perfect For:LunchTakeawayDining SoloCasual Weeknight Dinner

Every bánh mì from Bánh is made-to-order and the two shared tables of this spot by Dalston Junction are usually filled with other sandwich enthusiasts on any given lunchtime. The baguettes are perfect—crispy shelled with a fluffy interior—and the fillings are carefully made. The classic is pig on pig on pig. It’s char siu, pâté, a slice of pork belly roll, ham hock, a pork patty, and pork floss, and it’s totally perfect. There are rice bowls too and it makes for an excellent low-key lunch or dinner spot.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:TakeawayDeliveryLunch

This family-run Nigerian restaurant has served the community for decades. Aso Rock Restaurant has a jazzy neon-lit bar to sit with a cold Guinness, and a simple but warm, foliage-filled dining space, perfect for solo meals or casual group dinners. Get a satchel-sized box with a rice-based meal or soup-based meal. The latter, which includes the likes of egusi stew and okra stew, is led by their excellent speciality ayamase. All of the food can be sneakily pepper-heavy, so first timers—don’t load up your forks or hands too much.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:LunchTakeaway

Papo’s Bagels, an NYC-style takeaway bagel shop, wouldn’t look out of place in Greenpoint—and it’s no exaggeration to say that it may well be making the best bagels in London. It’s out of sight down the end of an alley next to The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston, but very much in mind given their fantastically crisp-crusted, chunky, doughy bagels. Papo’s is where to come when you’re looking for slabs of oak smoked salmon with schmear, capers, onion, and tomato. 

photo credit: Koray Firat

You might know Mangal 1 from an unruly birthday party, where grilled kebabs and swigs of beers from the offy were taken in tandem. You might know it from last weekend, when you wandered off from Kingsland Road in search of a nourishing doner wrap. Or, you might know it because Action Bronson seems to be here every time he’s in town. This is Dalston’s original Turkish ocakbaşı restaurant and it’s still an essential go-to, whether for melt-in-your-mouth lamb sweetbreads, or a blowout BYOB dinner.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

As you might have guessed from Acme Fire Cult’s name, this place is all about cooking things on open flames. Think hefty slabs of meat alongside a zinger mojo rojo and whole fish grilled on the big barbecue on the terrace. But in a plot twist, their real talent is making irresistible vegetables. The smoked potatoes come with a smooth, smoky tahini mayo and the fermented squash hummus is a macadamia-sponsored crunch party. It’s a great big group spot too, especially given it’s within 40FT Brewery.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:LunchTakeaway

In an area with plenty of Caribbean jerk options, it’s Ewart’s drum barbecue in the middle of Gillett Square that’s the most unmissable. Chicken thighs, wings, and pork belly chunks all emerge from its smoky innards, crisp and char from a jerk rub that favours smoke over spice. The setup is takeaway-only, but there are plenty of places to perch nearby, where the soundtrack is always complimentary.

Oren’s menu is eastern Mediterranean, calling on Israeli and Greek influences, plus some hybrid-type dishes. But the thing to know about this corridor-ish restaurant is that everything is really very good. Stone-baked flatbread still warm at the table, pickled vegetables and standout tzatziki ready to be piled on. A whole pork chop with roast garlic and preserved lemon perfect and a little pink inside. Much of the menu reads fairly simple, but tastes fairly fantastic.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

Escape Dalston’s busy main drag at this bright and breezy Japanese cafe to slurp bouncy udon and spoon miso soup while looking out across Kingsland Basin. The plain setup, blackboard menu, and set rice meals with tofu or mackerel mayo on trays make it feel like a canteen. And come midday, it fills up quickly with those looking for a quick lunch. But half the inside space is set up as a kids’ play area, so if you sit in, small people may run past your table.  

Unsliced rather than sliced bread is the greatest thing ever, as evidenced by the potato sourdough, squishy oily focaccia, and everything else coming out of The Dusty Knuckle. This social enterprise bakery has been doing good things in lots of ways for years now and it’s a great place for a pastry first thing (the morning bun), enormous sandwiches (any) at lunchtime, or sourdough pizza on the weekends. 

An Indonesian coffee shop that puts instant noodles into its toasties is always going to be a big fat yes in our books. The cafe and roasters on Dalston Lane specialises in Indonesian coffee as well as an array of sweet and savoury Indonesian snacks. There’s indomie (instant noodles mixed with corned beef, cheese, and onion, and topped with a fried egg) as well as an indomie toastie, martabak (a crispy beef-stuffed pancake made for dipping), and more. Ngopi is a charming spot for a couple of hours doing emails or a satisfyingly beige lunch.

Andu is a straightforward Ethiopian vegan cafe 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, and it’s served with either rice or sour injera—we recommend opting for the latter for maximum mopping. It’s a great and cost-efficient spot, and a platter of yesimir wot, gomen, and more, ticks both the tasty and healthy boxes.

Mangal II is part of the old-school of N16′s Turkish restaurants, but it’s also a restaurant that mixes the old with the new, plus low-intervention wines. Dishes still include homemade kofte, grilled onion salad (one of our death row dishes), and grilled lamb chops, but you’ll also find deep-fried chicken livers alongside a feta slaw, or courgette fritters with beef sucuk fat mayo and dill oil. 

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

$$$$Perfect For:Cheap EatsLunchTakeaway

Ararat Bread is a teeny-tiny bakery on Ridley Road making brilliantly tasty and brilliantly inexpensive flatbreads. You can have your naan topped with cheese and garlic for just a couple of quid, 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 bit more and the mince mixture is packed full of coriander seeds. 

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

Snackbar is a breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch cafe on Dalston Lane serving things like a moreish kimchi croque madame in an airy space. Thanks to the comforting and creative menu, and the summer-ready garden space, Snackbar feels like a reprieve from the sometimes chaotic energy of Dalston. A slice of tahini banana bread in the suntrap outside space is the perfect 2pm pick-me-up, or come by on the weekend for a fancy McMuffin-inspired creation.

There’s something of a perma-argument over what is the ocakbaşı to eat at in Dalston. One person’s Mangal 1, is another person’s Numara Bos Cirrik 2, which is another person’s Umut 2000. We often opt for the latter, if only because elderly Turkish gentlemen have invited us for soup at their table here, and we like that. Umut 2000 is a no-nonsense ocakbaşı restaurant. The smells coming off the grill consistently make our stomach do somersaults and the lamb ribs are Dalston’s finest.

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

Picking up a patty or two from Peppers & Spice has long been one of our favourite activities around Dalston. In fact, everything from this Caribbean takeaway favourite hits the mark. Their jerk—marinated, oven-cooked, and finished on the grill—is best slathered with a pot of fruity, punchy sauce, and although it’s not cooked fresh, the skin still retains a smoky hit. On a full plate next to their oxtail stew and macaroni pie, it makes for an extremely satisfying meal. Expect to queue, have a nice chat, and leave very happy.

photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsTakeaway

The first time we went to Micky’s, we arrived from the Army & Navy across the road 10 minutes too late. The fryers were gleaming, the little saveloy windows were empty, and there wasn’t a Pukka Pie in sight. But on top of the counter was a plump leftovers package. Compliments of the chippy. Haddock, fried chicken, and chips: some fat, some crispy, some soggy. All perfect. The fresh batch we came back for the next day was even better. 

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