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With tens of thousands of tourists descending on the capital for the London Olympics, it pays to be prepared when it comes to eating and drinking near the Games’ main events. If you want to venture further afield than the Olympic Park for a quick lunchtime pit-stop or an after-race snack, Square Meal reveals some hidden gems, all just a quick sprint from the action (or reachable with a little help from London Transport).
The scruffy aesthetic of this cheap-and-cheerful cafe – vintage cinema seats, brick walls and graffiti-ed murals – appeals to the artsy student community in this part of London. Pop in for generous breakfasts served with Square Mile coffee, or £5 homemade pies at lunchtime. If the sun is shining, repair to the no-frills yard. Counter Café’s sibling, The Container Café, is pitched even closer to the Olympic Park.
An independent burger joint with a liking for wacky and exotic flavours – including kangaroo and ostrich meats – the Greedy Cow boasts energetic vibes, fair prices and carefully sourced ingredients, plus the option of creating your own ‘bespoke burger’ from the toppings and sauces on offer.
This welcoming venue (pictured, left) combines the laid-back charm, cracking coffee and tempting snacks of an Australian-run café with a sit-down menu of upmarket modern-British dishes – as such it has proved a real hit with locals. Free Wi-Fi.
This area of London is known for its wealth of Vietnamese restaurants, and Namo, with its pretty setting and budget prices, is a good bet. Shabby-chic bohemia is the name of the game decor wise, while the kitchen specialises in staple Vietnamese dishes such as fragrant noodle soup. There’s also a decked terrace for sunny days.
This popular café in a bucolic park setting is adored for its full breakfasts, terrific sandwiches (a top tip is the ’nduja and pecorino toastie), wealth of gorgeous cakes, and well-made coffee. The quality is excellent, as is the value for money.
Square Mile brews, great music and simple, naturally good food are the stock-in-trade of this licensed café to the north of Victoria Park. The menu changes daily and the venue regularly hosts live bands, readings and supper clubs in its basement.
One of this area’s most serious restaurants, The Empress offers simple seasonal food with a nod to the Med. European tourists anxious for a taste of home can tuck into ham croquetas, char-grilled squid and peperonata, or T-bone steak and chips, all washed down with quality wines, heaps of which are served by the glass.
The smartest eatery you’ll find within a javelin’s throw of the Olympic Stadium, the in-house restaurant at H Forman & Son’s smokery (pictured, right) offers great British ingredients and a patriotic wine list. Three-course dinners hit the spot of a weeknight; alternatively, plump for a chilled-out Saturday brunch or full-on Sunday roast.
It’s the relaxed atmosphere and modern-European bistro food, not the urban location, that make this family-run restaurant stand out from the crowd. Indulge in ozone-fresh monkfish ceviche, the fluffy polenta gnocchi with purple-sprouting broccoli, or the bargain £10 Sunday roast.
Popping up within metres of the Olympic stadium from 20 July to 9 September, The Fringe is a private members’ club with a bar and cocktail lounge serving top-end snacks. The four-floor venue also houses lounges and private suites, and broadcasts live footage of the Games for guests. The whole shebang can be yours for a day fee of £50 per person.
Located by the river, in the Grade-II listed Chainstore building on Trinity Buoy Wharf, Nikki Beach (pictured, left) is an exclusive pop-up beach experience imported from St Tropez that brings together dining, fashion, art, music and entertainment while transmitting live coverage of the Games to its guests. Day membership costs from £165.
This temporary hospitality space offers weary spectators everything their hearts could desire – from top-notch food and drink, to private cinemas and late-night entertainment – and even massages and manicures. Day entry costs £294 per person.
American-style burgers, skinny fries, southern ribs, milkshakes and premium US lagers are the things to order at this fast-paced, fun-packed bowling-alley-cum-diner. Colours are bright, service is perky, and you can buy a package to ‘eat, drink, bowl’.
Seasonal British produce is the raison d’être of this small London chain. Sink into battered armchairs in the bar for an organic soft drink or pint of beer with a sharing board of ‘artisan’ nibbles, or head straight for the dining room for hefty helpings of rabbit terrine with summer peas, grilled sole with lemon and caper sauce or slow-roast pork belly with caramelised apples.
For Brazilian barbecue in a streetwise setting of plank floors, poster-lined walls and banquettes upholstered with recycled jeans, try this fun, easy-going canteen (pictured, right). Load up on marinated chicken thighs, chimichurri rump steak or giant portobello mushrooms with haloumi, finished with lashings of frozen yoghurt.
This top-flight pizzeria now has three branches around London; the original is located in the now super-trendy food hub of Brixton Market. Treat yourself to sourdough bases with simple, organic toppings – even the Italians can’t sniff at this gem’s authenticity.
This quality chain of Mexican canteens is always a safe bet, offering authentic renditions of Mexican street food in sharing portions. Salads, grills and burritos bulk out the menu, and there’s a heart-stopping pudding selection including churros y chocolate, and dulce-de-leche ice cream.