Planning a trip to Blighty and preparing your stomach for a stodgefest? Fear not, Food Tour Guide, Charli Matthews, gives us the inside track on East London’s happening culinary scene and it looks darn delicious.
East London has always been known for having a dark side. Jack the Ripper and The Krays saw to that. But these days the area is becoming known for something a whole lot more wholesome: the food.
There are tonnes of places tucked away in the nooks and crannies in this ancient area of London. I’m going to let you in on a few of the secrets of Brick Lane and beyond.
Best for beer and British fare
Mason & Taylor
Mason & Taylor are big on local food and drink, seasonal ingredients and sourcing their beers from independent suppliers. They have a massive chalkboard covered in all the beers they have on offer. If you can’t quite decide, they do beer flights, where you get three third-pints of any of the beers they have on tap.
The menu is always changing here. They do lots of great traditional British dishes, and that doesn’t mean fish and chips or lots of stodgy carbs (necessarily). We do delicate and light on the island too. Ask the staff what they recommend and they’ll you straight.
Best for rooftop dining
One of Brick Lane’s newest additions, Forzawin is a rooftop pizza place. They’ve teamed up with street food vendors Pizza Pilgrims and Saint beer, a British brewing company. And that guarantees good food and drink.
Usually you pay through the nose for the views this place offers, but you can get three courses, a drink and entertainment for £25. They only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and you need to book in advance. So hop to it I say. I just hope you get some good weather.
Full Stop Bar
At the top of Brick Lane lies a cafe and bar that you could very easily miss. It’d be a travesty if you did. Full Stop used to be an antiques shop and a lot of what was on sale now makes up the eclectic decor.
They serve Square Mile espresso and recently made it on The Evening Standard’s ‘Top 50 Independent Coffee Shops’ list. Plus they’ve got locally brewed beers from Redchurch Brewery, with names like ‘Shoreditch Blonde’, ‘Hoxton Stout’ and ‘Hackney Gold’.
You’re in England. Drinking tea is practically the law. But this place is all about top quality Chinese tea, served with the care and attention the leaves deserve.
TeaSmith is hidden away in Spitalfields Market. It’s quiet, calm and charming. Head on in, settle at the tea bar and ask the staff for some recommendations. They know all there is to know about tea and they’re really keen to share. There’s something to suit every pocket and every palette.
Every visitor to Brick Lane should go here. And it’s open 24 hours, seven days a week, so there’s no excuse.
They’re famous for their salt beef beigels. (That’s the traditional spelling.) They are immense. Leave without napkins at your peril, because the ladies behind the counter are fast and loose with the mustard. I love going there for the atmosphere and the weird cross-section of East End society you’ll find inside: hipsters, homeless, labourers, locals, tourists and the odd celeb.
Fika is a Swedish restaurant on Brick Lane. I love the area they’ve got tucked away upstairs at the back. It’s feels like a tree house/ski lodge. It’s glorious in summer and cosy in winter. Food-wise there are all sorts of things you’re probably unlikely to have tried.
Their ‘Afternoon tea Swedish style’, involves chocolate balls and kanelbullar (cinnamon buns to me and you). And something called Flygande Jakob, which is ‘chicken pie with bacon, bananas and peanuts’. If that’s not worth giving a whirl, I don’t know what is.
There are so many curry houses on Brick Lane it’s really hard to pick one, so I vote for heading south off Brick Lane onto Whitechapel Road and walking the five minutes to Tayyabs.
They’ve been selling Punjabi food there since 1972 and it’s grown immensely. The masses have most definitely found this place, it’s always rammed. It’s also BYO, so if you’re there of an evening without a reservation, get something in for the queue. Try asking for the mixed grill, it’s not on the menu, but you should be able to get it. It’s good eat-with-your-fingers-fun.
Box Park is the world’s first pop-up shopping mall. It’s made up of shipping containers, and in each container you’ll find a different designer, shop or food vendor. Go for a look around and stop for either a Bukowski burger or something from Foxcroft & Ginger, their place always looks amazing. They put a lot of care and attention in to how they display they food, and pour even more into how they make their food. (Box Park is right by Shoreditch High Street Station.)
If you want to take the headache of finding your way around, but still want a bit of an adventure, experience Charli’s food tour walkeattalkeat.com