Discover the very best restaurants that East London has to offer with SquareMeal’s great guide to the best restaurants in East London. Having transformed itself into a hip and trendy London area over recent years, East London has seen a good deal of first class restaurants open up and now boasts a superb array of top dining choices. Head to Shoreditch and hang out with London’s cool crowds whilst Hackney boasts the brilliant Broadway Market, London Fields and Victoria Park areas, all full of great restaurants.
East London has become home to some of London’s top restaurants, from Michelin starred restaurants to some of the capital’s most fashionable dining rooms. SquareMeal has compiled this useful guide to the best restaurants in East London to help you find the very best restaurants available. You might also want to take a look at restaurants in Hackney, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch.
Every one of the East London restaurants featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s top East London restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with SquareMeal today. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.
Fish Island, just off Bream Street, makes a fitting address for the restaurant at H Forman & Sons’ smokery – although the venue is still “not the easiest place to find”. Nevertheless, it’s worth tracking down this useful little spot in among the industrial estates and street art of Hackney Wick, as there’s no better place than its terrace for a close-up view of the Olympic Stadium. Come for dinner (Thursday to Saturday only) to sample the Forman family’s famous ‘London Cure’ smoked salmon: with blinis or in a salad of crab, apple and fennel, perhaps with a glass or two of English or French fizz from the “perfectly complementary wine list”. Follow with turbot, scallops and clams with chorizo froth, or beef fillet and truffled dauphinois (the kitchen’s dial is set to ‘rich’, you’ll note). At the weekend, Saturday brunch and Sunday lunch are relaxed affairs with a grown-up vibe.
The Empress rules Victoria Park Village with quiet authority. Her loyal subjects are the area’s families, creatives and trendies; her seat of power is a light-filled corner site in good view of her
suppliers (Ginger Pig for meat, Jonathan Norris for fish). The concept lies somewhere between an international pub and an accommodating brasserie, while the thoughtful menu zips around the Med,
garnering ideas from here and there. ‘Crisp and gooey’ ham croquetas are as good as any in London, in-vogue small plates such as sardines with charred radicchio and chilli can be scaled up, while
mains proper range from ‘stellar’ onglet and chips to cod with cracked wheat and charred lemon. To drink, choose Negronis, draught beer or a bottle from the ‘genuinely interesting’ wine list.
The Empress Indian Restaurant
Circumstances beyond its control forced tiny Rawduck to move from Hackney Central to a more capacious home near London Fields. Now a happy addition to the food cluster at the Arthaus building (Lardo’s a neighbour), this café-bar has grown not only in size but also in stature. It’s a confident venture that goes all out to specialise in natural wines – the funkier the better – drinking vinegars and ferments. The scattergun global menu is slightly discombobulating (sub-headings include ‘pickles, salts and smokes’ and ‘milk by the gram’), and the kitchen’s powerful style brings together flavours that shouldn’t by rights belong on the same plate. Miso carrots and nori, pressed anchovy toasts, grilled aubergines with ponzu and (the weakest link) a raw duck ‘ceviche’ of sorts with orange and chilli was an oddball assortment, but assertively seasoned and well-paced. The concrete-heavy interior is very chic, though communal tables won’t be for everyone.
Once an insider’s secret on a seedy Bethnal Green backstreet, Bistrotheque has gone on to become a bona fide east London institution. Best known for its weekend brunch service, it’s always packed to the rafters and great raucous fun, thanks to the colourfully coiffed house pianist and decent nosh (plates of pancakes with poached rhubarb and pork chops with layered potatoes do it for us) and even better cocktails. The decor “just stays cool” and the clientele is a veritable Who’s Who of modern east London, with a host of designers, architects, artists and assorted locals using it for nibbles, drinks at the “magnificent” bar (“staff will make sure your glass is never empty”) and lively suppers – perhaps pressed lamb with spring vegetables, cod with romesco sauce, caramelised tomato tart with burrata or “the best steak tartare in the east End”. The food’s good, but the ambience is “amazing”.
Standing in line at venerable Tayyabs, it’s impossible not to wonder if it’s all worth it. But, once the queuing is over (factor in an hour), you’ll soon forget the hassle as the sound, smell and (finally) the taste of those sizzling hot tandoori lamb chops assails you. Since this “manic” family-run canteen started life on its east London backstreet in 1972, it’s been gussied-up just a little (the new bronze chairs and latticed screens actually look pretty smart), but it remains one of London’s favourite low-budget eateries, as popular with families and students as it is with rowdy City parties and mates on the town. Of course, you must have the lamp chops, but don’t overlook the biryani specials, “amazing” pumpkin curry and the better-than-it-sounds ‘dry meat’. Tayyabs is BYO, so choose something spice-friendly to go with your nosh. “Quick service” is exactly what’s required too.
“Cheap, cool and fun”, Lardo has a new recruit in the kitchen: ex-Spuntino chef Rachel O’Sullivan – but fans of this on-the-pulse pizzeria-trattoria can rest assured that little else has changed. The fire-breathing oven still churns out exceptional Neapolitan-style pizza, and the open kitchen sings proudly of the seasons. For a quick bite, the signature lardo and egg pizza with a Negroni or homemade soda should do the trick, but it’s worth enlisting like-minded friends to give the menu (and modern Italophile wine list) a proper going over. Dip in to small plates, secondi, snacks and salads: for example, leeks with creamy cod’s roe and almonds; mackerel with cucumber, samphire and borage; or a generous tangle of buttery tagliatelle concealing the plumpest fresh girolles. To finish, try homemade gelato or snappy cannoli. Rooftop bar and sister venue, Coppa, pops up nearby each summer.
As smoke fills a side road off busy Stoke Newington High Street, large buckets of charcoal are carried in to feed the roaring monster inside this Turkish ocakbasi restaurant. You're face to face
with the ocak grill as soon as you enter, and tables are packed tightly into the small room, but sit here rather than in the calmer extension next door, because the thrill of the grill is what it's
all about. A chilled cabinet is stocked with kebabs, chops, chicken wings and quails – just order a plate of juicy mixed meats and a pile of spanking-fresh salad, plus some creamy cacik (yoghurt
with cucumber and garlic) and tuck in. You can buy Turkish beer and red wine, but almost everyone brings their own – making dinner here even more of a bargain.
A "good concept" and a convivial proposition, this light and airy eatery serves up a daily-changing menu of small plates in a modern industrial setting. Rustic, peasant-style food with a French accent is the deal, complete with smooth terrines, hunks of bread and a wonderful selection of cheese and charcuterie (as you'd expect from the team behind Terroirs and Soif).
On your visit, you might find the likes of a creamy crab tagliolini, or perhaps pork chop, with chickpeas and courgettes. On a Sunday, go continental chic by dropping in for the fairly priced three-course lunch – plus a small supplement for cheese that we'd certainly advise you take.
Right next to Victoria Park, this regal Empress receives a number of important local dignitaries throughout the day: the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker… all pay their respects here. As a result, chef Elliott Lidstone’s menu is a celebration of the foodie scene flourishing on his doorstep – though his influences are more global. Bold, bright seasonal flavours are the cornerstones, witness prettily presented, shareable plates of fried duck egg and trompettes on toast or cured sea trout with orange, fennel and hazelnut. These vie for attention with generous mains of roast pork belly and apple sauce or cod with Moroccan-spiced chickpeas, monk’s beard, yoghurt and sumac. Other attractions at this art-filled bistro include “great” weekend brunch, £10 Monday suppers, BYO ‘frugal feasts’ and all-day tapas-style snacks to go with London beers, classic cocktails and modern wines from hotly tipped producers. Sadly, the service is less consistent than the food.
“Romantic and lovely” is one reader’s verdict on Chez Elles Bistroquet – a little bastion of Gallic joie de vivre in the heart of touristy Banglatown (aka Brick Lane). With its birdcages, all manner of decorative tiles festooned around the bar, a hotchpotch of prints, map and other curios on the walls, plus close-packed tables, French music, cheery service and a general air of cramped bonhomie, this place is unreformed bistro through and through. As for the food, look no further than rustic duck rillettes, escargots and oeufs meurette with oyster mushrooms followed by moules marinière, blanquette of veal or grilled bavette with confit garlic, marrow bone and new potatoes cooked in lard. To conclude, consider crème brûlée with pistachios or galette des rois (puff pastry filled with almond cream). You can also drop by for brunch or while away the afternoon with a drink and some charcuterie.
Chez Elles Bistroquet
Max Renzland’s well-used and well-loved neighbourhood bistro does a grand job of channelling the spirit of a Parisian café without descending into cliché. With its exposed brick walls, charcoal wool upholstery, red metal lights and vintage Editions Rossignol prints, the look is modern yet cosy and genuinely “authentic”. Great-value prix-fixe deals, plats du jour and petit dejeuner options at the weekend will provide everything from eggs mayonnaise and steak-frites to croque monsieur, shakshuka, tartines and pain au raisins. However, the kitchen demonstrates greater originality when it comes to dishes such as sea bass ceviche with avocado, basil and sesame croûtons or braised Vendée rabbit with confit ventreche bacon, asparagus, peas and artichokes, while desserts might venture into the realms of passion fruit pannacotta with mango sorbet and almond sabayon. The French wine list runs from decent vins de maison to more exclusive finds.