If you’ve ever spent time in Shoreditch during the early hours (or, let’s be honest, 8pm), then you’ll probably agree that this is London’s ditch. Scratch beneath its booze-sodden grime though and you’ll find a tremendous array of restaurants and bars worth visiting. Here are the area’s best breakfasts, lunches, dinners, cocktails and more, all within a 15-minute walk east of Old Street station.
Words: Neil Simpson
Andina 1 Redchurch Street, E2 7DJ (above)
Open from 8am (10am at the weekend), this vibrant slice of Peru from the guys behind Soho's Ceviche specialises in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Served up in a vibrant, canteen-style dining room, expect the likes of sweet potato pancakes with spiced chancaca honey, coconut whipped cream and seasonal fruits. Andina does a great line in pressed juices and superfood smoothies too.
Hoi Polloi at Ace Hotel 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ
If you’re an early riser then Hoi Polloi is your Shoreditch winner, because breakfast starts at 7am. Once you’ve overcome the feeling that you're dining in a Swedish sauna circa 1979, you're likely to wholeheartedly enjoy this collab between Bistrotheque (featured here for weekend brunch) and Universal Design Studio. Breakfast includes eggs, eggs and more eggs (including baked with roasted red pepper and almonds), pancakes, Bircher muesli and a full English.
St John Bread & Wine 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
Serving breakfast every day of the week from 8am, this sparsely decorated canteen delivers Brit food for adventurous eaters, such as blood cake with fried eggs and brown sauce, or devilled kidneys on toast. Founder Fergus Henderson says his bacon sandwiches are “the bacon sandwiches of your nocturnal fantasies” and if anyone would know, it’s Fergus.
Blanchette East 204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA (above)
This casual, pretty French restaurant from the Alary brothers makes culinary detours to North Africa. As with Blanchette Soho, the restaurant is decorated with murals by Aldo Gigli, with a large, Belle Époque-style female nude dominating the bar. Expect excellent cooking and cool, laid-back service.
Dishoom 7 Boundary Street, E2 7JE
The only thing we don’t like about this ferociously popular, casual Indian chain? Those massive queues at dinner time, thanks to no reservations. Which is why you should take advantage of reservations at lunchtime (or breakfast) to get your fill of the keema pau (minced spiced lamb in a buttered bun) and Dishoom’s silky, signature black dhal.
Lyle's The Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
This stark, Michelin-starred dining room serves up mightily bold food with a forthright British accent. Chef James Lowe delivers great value for money, while a cool, young army of staff add to the relaxed mood. At lunch there’s a choice of dishes – perhaps brill, black cabbage and fermented gooseberries – while dinner revolves around a four-course set menu.
Petit Pois Bistro 9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU (above)
Located above its basement sibling Happiness Forgets (more on that below), this sweet French bistro overlooks Hoxton Square. Come here to pretend you’re in a leafy Parisian square: either inside amid bare-brick walls and wooden flooring, or outside on the patio. A concise menu of French-leaning dishes – French onion soup, sole meunière – is offered for dinner.
Smokestak 35 Sclater Street, E1 6LB
Everybody’s talking about this BBQ smokehouse from David Carter, former front of house manager for Roka and Gordon Ramsay. The industrial, brooding two-floor site serves up small plates and sharing dishes of grilled meats, and the kitchen delivers: Crisp, juicy crackled pig’s tail will have you ordering seconds, and don’t miss the gloriously messy beef-dripping toast with girolles.
Tayyabs 83-89 Fieldgate Street, E1 1JU
This iconic, family-owned Punjabi/Pakistani curry house is always busy, doing a roaring trade in sizzling tandoori lamb chops, rich karahi chicken and blisteringly hot 'dry meat' since 1972. Whether you pitch up on Tuesday lunchtime or Saturday night, it always delivers – with an added party vibe in the dark, jam-packed basement.
Homeslice 374-378 Old Street, EC1V 9LT
Homeslice has certainly made a name for itself with its wood-fired pizza ovens. The 70-cover restaurant serves up just one thing and that’s massive, 20-inch pizzas. The innovative toppings, which change periodically, are what set Homeslice apart from other run-of-the-mill pizzerias. There are also craft beers and house wines in measurable magnums, so you only pay for what you drink.
Pizza East 56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Always jam-packed, this brilliant branch of the Pizza East mini-chain continues to deliver the goods. Fine pizzas with full-flavoured toppings include San Daniele ham with burrata, rocket and tomato or veal meatballs with prosciutto, cream and lemon. Pizzas start at £9 for the margherita and the Italian-leaning wine list does the job, with plenty of choice under £35.
Worth paying a bit more for…
Paradise Garage 254 Paradise Row, E2 9LE
This exponent of remarkable modish cooking is from Robin and Sarah Gill (of The Dairy, The Manor and Counter Culture, all in Clapham). This railway arch venue epitomises East End trends with its concrete floor, white tiles, filament bulbs and flashes of turquoise. Expect Nordic-influenced small plates punctuated by fermented, smoked or cured ingredients. Its experimental approach divides opinion, but that's part of the fun.
Sagardi Cordy House, 95 Curtain Road, EC2A 3BS
Massively popular in Spain, this steakhouse chain has chosen Shoreditch to open its first London branch. But this is no routine, grilled-beef joint – the gastronomic hotspot of The Basque Country provides the culinary know-how behind the menu. Txuletón is what to order here: steak from cattle that are at least six years old, which is seared over on an oak-wood fire.
The Clove Club 380 Old Street, EC1V 9LT
At £75 for the five-course set or £110 for the tasting menu, we’re in special-occasion territory by this point, but it doesn’t get much more special than this. Isaac McHale's cooking revolves around daringly modern menus, but the results are never pretentious. Thrilling delights might include anything from flamed Cornish mackerel with rhubarb and toasted oats to Yorkshire suckling pig invigorated with South Indian spices. By the way, pre-payment is required when booking for dinner here. Yep, you need a ticket for this hotshot.
Typing Room at Town Hall Hotel Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, E2 9NF
This was once the typing pool for Bethnal Green’s old Town Hall, but now it’s a chic, modernist dining room. Chef Lee Westcott delivers sleek, Nordic-inspired cuisine using a wealth of top-drawer seasonal British ingredients, so expect plates ranging from intensely savoury yeasted cauliflower with raisins, capers and mint to beef short rib with carrots, salsify and smoked bone marrow. It’s also worth shelling out for individual wine pairings from the extensive list (an extra £42 added to the £65, five-course tasting menu).
100 Hoxton 100-102 Hoxton Street, N1 6SG (above)
This low-lit, concrete-hued hangout gives fusion food a good name. Weekend brunch (11am-2.45pm) includes the Big Breakfast: fried eggs, spring onion hash, Portobello mushroom, crumbed pork belly, avocado salsa and jalapeño sauce. There’s also a superfood version, if your weekend body is a temple.
Bistrotheque 23-27 Wadeson Street, E2 9DR
Heading into its second decade as a hip fixture of the East End scene, this bright, industrial-looking space serves brunch (11am-4pm) accompanied by live music. Dishes include all the brunch standards, as well as pancakes with poached plums and smoked almonds, or chorizo with corn bread and eggs.
Princess of Shoreditch 76-78 Paul Street, EC2A 4NE
Dating from the mid-18th century, this boozer attracts hipsters and City slickers alike thanks to its unpretentious vibe, buzzy bar and upbeat cooking. Sunday lunch is all about roasts, from Yorkshire chicken crown to share and roasted pork rib-eye cured in treacle and beer, to roasted cod with prawns.
Kingsland Road is home to a cluster of some of the best Vietnamese cuisine in London – here are two of our favourites
Mien Tay 122 Kingsland Road, E2 8DP
Since opening in 2008, this original branch of Mien Tay (with a younger sibling in Battersea) has moved a notch upmarket and expanded into premises next door, yet it still draws crowds of diners to the Pho Mile with its first-rate south-western Vietnamese food.
Viet Grill 58 Kingsland Road, E2 8DP
Far better looking than any of its neighbours (bold wallpaper, dark wood and low lights), the placemat menu here is divided into small eats, Vietnamese curries, salads, noodles, meat and fish. Order the roasted ‘piggy’ aubergine for a combo including minced pork, spring onion oil and traditional dipping sauce.
Shoreditch is the land of the world-class cocktail, so you’ll be needing this hit list
Happiness Forgets 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
A low-lit basement den with no standing room, but bookable tables, this has become quite the bartenders' bar – without the posing or one-upmanship. Midweek is busy but calm, while the weekend brings more of a party vibe. The Negroni here is one of the best we've tried (trust us, we’ve done the legwork).
Nightjar 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
Most locals will have spent plenty of time being turned away from this cult bar, but if you've not been before, don't let the queue or the surly doorman put you off. Drinkable treasures – and often live music – await those who are patient, although it's best to book a table.
Satan's Whiskers 343 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA (above)
Where else but Shoreditch could vintage French booze adverts, stuffed animals, 90s hip-hop and a daily changing cocktail list combine to produce a bar beloved by its surrounding neighbourhood? Low lights make it good for dating, while being slightly out of the way means it’s become a real locals’ bar.
White Lyan 153-155 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
Famous for eschewing ice and citrus garnishes, this extraordinary establishment is much more than that. Owners Iain Griffiths and Ryan Chetiyawardana (Dandelyan) have created a truly experimental, yet really rather enjoyable experience with all cocktails pre-made and served up as required.
I wanna take you to a gay bar…
The Glory 281 Kingsland Road, E2 8AS
It’s a little further up the road than this guide strictly permits, but you won’t regret venturing north up Kingsland Road if you’re after a fabulous party. The product of Jonny Woo’s feverish imagination (darling of the east London alternative gay scene), expect cheap booze, delinquent drag and dirty dancing.
Prefer vinous pleasures? You’ll find this lot intensely pleasing
8 Hoxton Square N1 6NU
Black leather banquettes, painted brick walls, industrial lighting and a daily changing list of specials scratched on the blackboard – this place is a true local restaurant. Expect two-dozen wines by the glass and an extensive sherry list.
Merchants Tavern 36 Charlotte Road, EC2A 3PG
Michelin-starred queen bee Angela Hartnett teams up with husband Neil Borthwick at this slick space, which is several notches up from your usual tavern. What’s more, the amount of choice by the glass will blow you away.
Sager + Wilde Wine Bar 193 Hackney Road, E2 8JL
This corner plot has got it all: charisma in spades, pared-back urban decor (including somewhat uncomfortable benches), staff with a heap of knowledge and one of the most diverse wine lists in the area.
If you’re up for exploring slightly farther afield, take a look at our full list of restaurants in the Shoreditch and Bethnal Green area, with over 140 suggestions which you can filter by cuisine type.
This article was published 27 January 2017