It’s top ten time! Here are my top ten East London Haunts!
#10: Indo: Whitechapel
This narrow establishment is a very popular late-night choice for people wanting to continue drinking after all of the fancy craft beer pubs shut their doors just before midnight. It’s easy to find; a crowd of people mark the entrance by gathering outside it.
It has a great selection of excellent beers, wines, and ciders, and apparently spirits too (though we’ve never bothered – 12am is not really cocktail hour) that change quite frequently. Last time we went (last night) we tried a black IPA and a passion fruit IPA, both very tasty.
The staff are often a little vacant, and I often feel like I’m inconveniencing them by asking for a drink, which would be my main criticism – but the vibe in general is so relaxed that to complain about the lack of proper deference feels pretty stupid. Great music, friendly atmosphere, but its popularity makes it just a bit cramped.
#9: Wagamama Noodle Lab: Soho
No, Soho isn’t East London. Yes, my Japanese teacher is going to lose all respect for me if she finds out #sorrynotsorrysensei but I’m just going to say it: I like wagamama. Technically, it does mean ‘selfish’ in Japanese – why on earth you’d name your business after a negative human trait is beyond me. And of course, it’s quite far from authentic Japanese cuisine – but I would always consider wagamama to be a kind of healthy fusion cooking. No, it’s not authentic, but it doesn’t have to be authentic to be good. Many Japanese get annoyed at wagamama for this reason, but the Japanese are renowned for taking ideas from other countries and modifying them (see: KFC christmas, curried cheese). I don’t think anyone ever has a leg to stand on with that argument – let’s all agree to Let Good Things Be Good Things.
Anyway, the Noodle Lab is a fantastic place where you get to try the newest creations and, at the end of your meal, vote on them. Some of them make it onto the wider chain’s menu (recent examples are the bao buns and vegatsu (vegan katsu curry with seitan).
#8: Arabica: Borough Market
This restaurant makes some of the most delicious food I’ve eaten in London, but its high price prevents it from ascending higher in my list.
Offering a range of middle eastern treats from flatbreads, hummus and baba ganoush to exciting mains that involve sumac and pomegranates, this is a great place to try something a little different, when you’re bored of all the big chain restaurants.
#7: Dishoom: King’s Cross (and Shoreditch)
Yes, there’s a Dishoom in Shoreditch, which is what I’m using to shoehorn this recommendation into a list that primarily features East London venues, and it’s very nice. But the King’s Cross option is better, and easy to get to. Not only is it bigger, but the quality of the food and service seems to be higher, and the downstairs bar (“The Permit Room”) is excellent. In both venues, the decor throughout is beautiful, reminiscent of colonial-era Bombay. The cocktails are wonderful (a personal favourite is the Viceroy’s Old Fashioned) and I love the food. Despite not being that spicy (I’m a chilli-head), the dishes are full of flavour. Waiters are on hand to help you get the balance of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ dishes. There is a reason this chain has expanded to several locations across London and even one now in Edinburgh.
Personal favourites include the mattar paneer (peas and cheese) and anything with prawns. Most of my friends get taken here at some point because it’s an absolute must. Prices not unreasonable, either.
#6: Arepa & Co: Haggerston
This surprising brunch place with a focus on Venezuelan cuisine has a range of vegan and vegetarian options as well as some fantastic coffees and a hot chocolate that you’ll want to make sure you savour, because it’s a sad event when your cup runs dry.
The ‘arepa’ is a classic Venezuelan bread, not unlike a thick, savoury, floury American pancake. Served with a choice of meats, egg, avocado, refried beans, and so on. Ask for the hot sauce.
Tucked away on the other side of the main road from Haggerston station with a great view of the canal, this place is fantastic to take shelter from the rain or watch the sun’s rays play on the water. A definite ‘Sunday’ favourite.
#5: The White Hart / One Mile End: Whitechapel
With a fantastic and ever-changing selection of beers brewed on site as well as some excellent guest drafts, The White Hart on the corner of Mile End Road (not to be confused with another White Hart closer to the City) is a busy hub of boozy activity that appeals to a wide audience. There’s good food on offer, too, but make sure to go well in-time. We’ve been caught out on a post-cinema Sunday before! The clock in general seems to be the main gripe about this place; the closing time seems to come over very suddenly, and before you know it you’re on the street drinking beer from a coffee cup – but at least they let you finish your pint. There’s also a strange older man who seems to own the place, sitting in the same seat every time we go in and staring coldly at us – but we always have such a good time that he’s nay bother…
Recently refurbished a little, too, and apparently there’s a pub quiz on that’s worth a go – though we’ve never tried it!
#4: Draft House: Tower Bridge (and Draft House: Seething)
Another excellent mini-series of pubs on our ‘regular’ radar is the Draft House. There are two within walking distance of our flat; one in ‘Seething Lane’ (near the Tower of London) and one on the other side of Tower Bridge. Both are excellent, both have great beer selections, both have great offers on beer paddles (3 x 1/3rds for £5 Mon-Weds).
I also quite enjoy the neon signage inside; I won’t spoil it for you.
Staff are super friendly and let you try before you buy, and it’s not so loud you can’t have a conversation. The pub food here is pretty good too, and though the range of vegetarian and vegan options is somewhat small, we don’t tend to go there for that!
#3: Dineorama: Shoreditch
The variety of food on offer here is excellent, and we always have a good time here after trying a little bit of everything. From tacos to bao to dumplings (all have vegan options) to pizza to craft beer to rum-based cocktails in the upstairs tiki lounge, dineorama has a lot to offer. Free entry before a certain time (7?) so well worth getting in early and prices are perfectly reasonable with enough variety to keep you going all night.
#2: The Diner: Spitalfields
A place that has so many vegan options that I end up with choice paralysis can’t not end up on my top ten. Great service, awesome drinks (I love their vegan coconut milkshake with a shot of espresso) and the food, while ‘diner’ style, is so moreish I often end up rolling out of there very satisfied!
Favourites include their tater tots, vegan chilli cheese fries, vegan philly steak sandwich, and, well, basically most of the veggie/vegan menu. Another great weekend afternoon place for a late lunch after some shopping in the market and surrounding area.
#1: Druid Street: Bermondsey
The number one spot for me is a whole road. Druid Street, which runs between London Bridge and Bermondsey, is home to a number of brewers who open their doors daily to sell their excellent creations.
Our favourite haunts on Druid Street have to be the Bottle Shop, which primarily features Brooklyn brewery beer but has a very wide selection ranging from local London breweries to interesting international imports, and Hawkes, creators of my favourite ginger beer (alcoholic and beautifully aromatic) and an impressive selection of ciders. Try the ‘graff’, which is a collaboration with Brewdog: half cider, half beer. It works!