Everyone has an opinion on Shoreditch. Whether you love it or hate it, your position will probably have something to do with how you feel about terms like ‘artisanal’ and ‘cold brew’. While some of the edgier (read: hipster) elements have moved on, the area’s still wall-to-wall with great galleries, shops and places to grab a drink or something to eat. And in terms of where it’s at food and drink-wise, it feels like the only neighbourhood that can rival to Soho’s theme park atmosphere.
Its location close to the City and Liverpool Street station does mean it gets its fair share of suits and blitzed Essex teenagers at the weekend, but they’re easily avoided if you know where to look. And whether you’re looking for a banging place for a drink and dance, incredible ethnic eats or a pretty dining room perfect for people watching, Shoreditch delivers. Here’s our pick of the best places to eat, drink, and rage.
Every good neighbourhood needs an all-occasion kind of place where you can grab a casual breakfast, oysters and fizz before a big night out, or a low-key dinner. Located inside the trendy Ace Hotel, Hoi Polloi is that kind of place, and looks like a very cool brasserie designed by Japanese architects. The food’s good, and the dining room is perfect for people watching and discussing things like gentrification and cereal cafes. It’s true that you can access it via the flower shop outside the hotel, but you can also access it via the hotel’s lobby like a normal person.
There are tons of places in the Kingsland Road area for a decent banh mi, but Kêu’s is by far the best. It does a busy trade at lunch and often closes annoyingly early (so check their opening hours before you go), but if you’re looking for a pit stop or something on the go, it’ll sort you out. You don’t want to be caught dead with a Leon wrap in this part of town, unless you want to be lynched by artisanal breadmakers. The chicken soup is also pretty damn good, and they offer salads and roast meats with rice if you don’t fancy bread. Grab a seat at the window counter and enjoy watching the local wildlife do their thing.
Viet Grill is all about great Vietnamese food and fun cocktails in stylish surroundings. While we love Cay Tre’s location for sheer convenience (and because we’re lazy), eating here just feels like more of an occasion - sort of like a couples’ cheese and wine evening, or a colonoscopy. The basement dining room is moody and just a little bit noisy, so it’s a great option for groups looking for a boozy dinner before hitting the bar on the high street, and the upstairs is a little more civilised but still fun. The food covers the bases nicely - solid pho and cha la lot (minced pork wrapped in a leaf and fried) - but the specials are really where it’s at, so keep a look out for whatever’s good on the menu that day.
There are restaurants that have a distinctive vibe and great food that make them worth the effort. Then there are restaurants that are useful for a variety of situations, and are good at getting the job done. Peruvian spot Andina, thankfully, is both - part utility restaurant that can cover everything from casual business breakfasts to last-minute group dinners easily, and part destination restaurant to go and eat things like ceviche and grilled meat skewers. As an unexpected bonus, turns out that Peruvian cuisine is great for people trying to be healthy-ish, as well as people swearing off gluten and other delicious things. You’ll have some of those in your party - it’s Shoreditch, after all.
It’s been a long week of reading memes at work, and you’re feeling the urge to go large. You want a strong drink - preferably in multiples of two - and something filthy and delicious to eat, preferably set to a banging soundtrack. As you’ve probably gathered, Meat Mission has all of those things - perfect burgers and hot dogs, sloppy wings, and so on - all served up in a former church (hence the name). It’s a little off the main Old Street drag, but worth it - once you’re in, there’s little reason to leave. Book ahead, and bring your lairiest friends.
Your difficult friend Becks is visiting from Earlsfield, but you want to be sure to get a good meal while avoiding an evening of bitching and moaning about ‘challenging’ ethnic food and small portions. Take them to Homeslice, a Valhalla for anyone who loves pizza, and let the sweet taste of red sauce and mozzarella wash over you like that one time you went to The Berkeley and got a neck massage. The pizzas are pricey but they’re huge, and you can get them by the slice if you’re indecisive or not super hungry. The drinks list is short and sweet, but they have prosecco on tap, which makes up for it.
Aside from drinking beer in the shower and eating cake for breakfast, one of the best things about being an adult is that you’ve experienced enough novelty to appreciate a good thing. If this sounds familiar, then 8 Hoxton Square is for you, with great food that has the whole farm-to-table thing down pat, but doesn’t shout about it like a broken car alarm, or a Crossfitter. Everything on the short French and Italian-influenced menu is really rather good, and unlike its Soho sibling 10 Greek Street (which we love), you can actually book. Breakfasts and lunch here are the antidote to an insane week at the office, and it’s also great for families during the day.
Rochelle Canteen is a brilliant British restaurant in a quiet square off the high street, with some of the most solid cooking in town. You’ll find it by wandering into Arnold Circus and looking for a small blue door marked ‘Rochelle School’. Ring the buzzer for the canteen and you’ll enter a hidden garden with a path leading to the restaurant itself. The menu is excellent (everything from a simple soup to a roast is fantastic) but the feeling of discovery is a huge part of Rochelle Canteen’s appeal. While the restaurant is known mostly for lunch service, it also opens in the evenings closer to the weekend, so you don’t have to take a day off to experience it.
We’ve truly lost count of the number of times that we’ve tried to arrange a group dinner on WhatsApp, only for some bell end to scupper our plans to eat somewhere half decent because their fitness guru tells them that dairy causes herpes. Pizza East is our pick of the neighbourhood’s casual spots for an easy-peasy dinner with a few friends. The pizzas and pastas are all reliably good, and there’s plenty on the menu - from grilled meat and fish to antipasti - to keep everyone happy. It’s also never a snoozefest since the crowd’s always up for a good time in the evenings, and as a bonus for your perpetually broke friends, a meal here’s usually wallet-friendly.
Lyle’s is a creative British restaurant that has been called literally one of the best restaurants in the world. It isn’t, but once you get past the hype, it’s actually a lovely place to sit and have lunch in Shoreditch. Everything from the industrial canteen space to the stripped-back British menu feels austere, but it really lets you focus on the small details, like the seasoning on a salad, or the subtle twist in a pumpkin soup. The laid-back vibe plays a part too - it’s a grown-up spot in a hipster neighbourhood that’s an equally comfy setting to grab a glass of wine with a friend, or to dive into a full tasting menu. Speaking of which, we much prefer lunch here, when the full a la carte is available and you can try more of what’s good that day - evenings are tasting menu-only.
Imagine you asked a trendy Shoreditch local to design a pub, and the Princess of Shoreditch is what you’d get - it looks like good boozer, but with a polished East End cool about it. No one’s ever going to mistake it for an old school pub but really, we doubt anyone will care when the food’s this good. The roasts are a local fixture on Sundays, with good-looking plates of rare beef, lamb, and pork landing on tables at a fair clip. The beer selection’s short but good, the crowd is young and fun, and they have a thing called ‘umami salad’ on the menu, which is probably just a plate of mushrooms in soy sauce. Probably not, actually, but you get the idea.
For some of the absolute best Vietnamese food anywhere in London, Sông Quê should be high on your list. It’s usually slammed with Vietnamese families and locals, most of whom have been coming here for years, and the dining room has the feel of a loud family canteen. We love the banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake) and the grilled quail is also very good, but everything on the menu is fantastic and the prices are super reasonable. It’s perfect for a fun (if not particularly polite) dinner with a big group of friends, or for a quick bowl of their brilliant pho.
Of all the Dishooms in town, this one’s probably our favourite, and not just because it’s the closest one to our flat. The service and Indian food is as good as we’ve come to expect, and while the queue is never as bad as some of the others, the verandah is what we love the most - it’s a lovely place to sit for the three days a year when the British summer kicks into full effect. The brunch is still one of the best in the area, but be prepared to get here early to beat the rush.
Barbecue ‘shacks’ are everywhere in London these days, but we can count on one hand the ones that are actually worth visiting. Luckily, Smokestak eliminates the need to count at all, because it blows the competition out of the water. The BBQ here is damn good - we could sustain ourselves on just the smell of this place alone - and the brisket and pastrami are must orders. Eating at the bar is also a good shout and worth it for the small bites you can order, along with a ridiculously good peach old-fashioned.
You’ve got plans to meet friends later in the week for dinner, and you want to go somewhere fun and exciting, and perhaps something involving a kebab. But you’re tired of anything involving railway arches and Knightsbridge, and you don’t want to come back home smelling of an open fire. In that case, you want to be eating at Oklava, where they’re cooking fantastic, creative Turkish food in a stylish setting that feels very Shoreditch. Mix it up with some flatbreads and grills, and definitely get some of the vegetable dishes as they’re as good as any of the meat plates. Over-ordering can be a problem as much of the menu is absurdly good, but that’s what we call “a good problem.”
Have you ever gone to a Thai restaurant and wondered to yourself whether the food even remotely resembles what Thai people actually eat? No, us neither. But in case you were, Som Saa is a good call. This excellent establishment is arguably the best Thai restaurant in London right now, with spot-on versions of face-melting Northern dishes like a classic som tam papaya salad, and gai yaang (grilled chicken with tamarind sauce). It’s a loud and lively spot to grab dinner and cocktails, and though there’s a long wait for a table at peak times, you can book if there’s six or more of you.
We Brits have always been good at this beef thing, but somehow, our steakhouses have always been rubbish. Hawksmoor changed that, and this, their original Spitalfields restaurant, is where it all started. You can get every cut of cow that exists, properly aged and cooked correctly, with one of the greatest sticky toffee puddings of all time for afters. It’s a polished experience that’s also pricey, but everything from the atmosphere to the service is spot on and worth the hefty price tag. The bar is also excellent in its own right, and makes some of the best cocktails in this part of town.
St John Bread and Wine takes the food at the legendary St John restaurant in Farringdon, and transfers it into an informal canteen-style dining room close to Spitalfields Market. The British food here is, as ever, excellent. The menu changes all the time, but literally everything is good, whether you’re a fan of nose-to-tail cooking or not. Don’t miss the freshly baked madeleines for afters, and you can grab their fantastic donuts to take away as well. It’s a good place for a casual small group dinner, or for long overdue catch ups.