Not quite as saturated with Essex boys on a night out as Shoreditch but still an area of East London that you'll want to tell your mates you've been cutting about in, Spitalfields has got a fair bit going for it. Especially when it comes to the food and drink department, and especially when you consider that it’s the only place in London where you can get hot and heavy with a St John bacon butty.
From Michelin Bib Gourmand-touting restaurants like Blixen and Gunpowder to simple souvlaki slingers like The Real Greek and jerk chicken magnates Cafe Caribbean, E1 is jam-packed with great places to trammel down an excellent breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It's also got some fairly serviceable cocktail bars and pubs, too.
Old Spitalfields Market is an obvious draw – and we've got a few of the market's vendors listed on this here guide of where to eat and drink in Spitalfields – but there's plenty of other places to grab a hot lunch and a cold bev in the area that are equally worthy of your attention. And your appetite. Definitely your appetite. Whether you're looking for a cute café to take a hot date or a restaurant to grab a louche lunch with a work colleague – we've written this guide (presented in no particular order) on where to eat and drink in Spitalfields to help you answer that age-old question of "where do you wanna go?". You're welcome.
Where to eat in Spitalfields
1. Xi'an Biang Biang
62 Wentworth Street, E1 7AL
Xi'an Biang Biang shot us down with a case of the glorious food sweats from the very moment we sampled its shredded chicken. Mounted in a pool of the chef's "special sauce", it's a starter that sets the tone for whats to come: which is great food, and lots of it. The hand-pulled belt noodles here are as good as you'll find anywhere in London and make the perfect sustenance to slurp down your gullet while you're sitting pretty in Xi'an Biang Biang's light and airy premises. That being said, the thin noodles – which typically sit in a fiery soup or broth – are banging, too. We'd recommend ordering bowls of both and regret absolutely nothing.
8a Lamb Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EA
Hunching over a burger from Bleecker as its liquid meat offshoots runs shamelessly down your hands and chin is an absolute mood. Started by Zan Kaufman, a former corporate lawyer from New York, as a street food truck in 2012, Bleecker now boasts multiple dangerously tasty burger joints around the city. All things considered, the Old Spitalfields Market spot might still be one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields. The sheer quality of the food served at every Bleecker is a testament to Kaufman's dedication. A cheese burger, black and white shake and side of hand-cut fries? That's good eating.
3. Wright Brothers
8a Lamb Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EA
It's hard to go wrong with a meal at Wright Brothers. As smart casual seafood specialists who know the subtle differences between bream and bass, Wright Brothers deliver a consistent eating experience (bursting with bivalves and crustaceans galore) at all of the group's London restaurants. The Spitalfields outlet is no different. £1 oysters everyday between 3-6pm? You'll find us firmly clamped to the seafood bar like the mother shuckers we are.
4. Galvin La Chapelle
35 Spital Square, E1 6DY
La Chapelle is the third restaurant from brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin. Having already achieved notable success with Galvin at Windows and Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, the two really proved that third time was also the charm when La Chapelle opened its swish doors back in 2009. The swanky restaurant serves French food as it was intended; decorated with heaps of care, panache and just the right amount of arrogance. The seven course 'Gourmand' menu is our favoured way to induce a luxury food coma. The menu obviously varies on the availability of seasonal produce (because, again, they're doing it right here), so forgive us for teasing you just a smidge here by uttering perhaps the four sexiest words in the English language: Lasagne of Dorset crab. Offt.
5. Canto Corvino
21 Artillery Lane, E1 7HA
What does a modern Italian restaurant look like? It looks a hell of a lot like Canto Corvino. Sleek booths, sexy lighting, sapid plates of lobster linguine. All of that (and more) is what you can expect to find at this excellent little restaurant that's undoubtedly one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields. While the secondi steaks aren't anything to sniff at it's the plates of pasta at Canto Corvino that act as a real siren call to our ears. Fat ribbons of pappardelle coated in Colne Valley lamb, parsley, mint and capers? Chanterelle mushroom maltagliati with truffle and pecorino? We'll see you there with a glass of chianti.
6. Pizza Union Spitalfields
25 Sandy's Row, E1 7HW
Good pizza doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Pizza Union is proof of that. While we're not adverse to spending money on quality food, it is always nice to know that are affordable options out there that don't skimp on quality. The margherita at Pizza Union costs £3.95. That's less than four pounds. That's less than a Waitrose meal deal. When you talk about value for money, Pizza Union has got to be one of the first places that springs to mind. "But hey!" you might object, "how good can a pizza that cheap be?" Well, matey, the answer is simple: very. One of the best pizzas in Spitalfields? You best believe it. One of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields full-stop? You best believe that, too.
7. The Real Greek
6 Horner Square, Old Spitalfields Market, E1 6EW
The best thing about The Real Greek is the chance to get messy with its big and sexy mezze menu. Scoop a warm dukkah-dusted flatbread into cooling taramasalata while you make your plan of attack. Grilled octopus with fava? Yes. Halloumi fries? Yes. A souvlaki wrap with loukaniko sausage homemade tzatziki, fresh tomatoes, red onion and sweet paprika to top it all off? It'd be rude not to. If you're not up for a full-on feast, the lunch boxes at The Real Greek adjoining deli are available from 12-2:30pm. At only £5.50, they're one of the finest and affordable hangover salves in Old Spitalfields Market, easily making The Real Greek one of best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields
8. Sichuan Folk
32 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
Got a hankering for Sichuan hotpot? Sichuan Folk is your best bet in Spitalfields. It's £22.80 per person for as much as you can eat, and let's just say that those with an appetite won't struggle to get their money's worth. When it comes to the dishes that aren't all swimming in a spicy communal jacuzzi, Sichuan Folk's dumplings, "husband-and-wife" offal, and the soft shell crab are worth your tongue's attention. Then again, so is just about everything here. It's the kind of food that Jay Rayner described as "what Tsingtao beer was invented for" – and, sipping on a cold pint of that very lager as debutante beads of sweat start their pilgrimage down our forehead, we can't argue with that.
65A Brushfield Street, E1 6AA
Forget about Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, and Donner. Blixen is where you should be spending your time eating in Spitalfields. The elegant French-style brasserie has one of the loveliest dining spaces in E1, making it a venue as equally suitable for a Hinge date that you actually care about as it is for a 'Nice Meal Out' with your dear old parents. A Cumbrian beef burger or a portion of crispy haddock with scallops are the orders if you're knocking about around lunch time; as for dinner, it's hard to go wrong with a plate of slow cooked lamb shoulder bun with artichoke barigoule. To not include Blixen on our guide to best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields would have been a travesty.
10. DF Tacos
The Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
The taco scene in London isn't even close to living up to the standards set by the multitude of trucks and street food vendors dotted across the US. There's no denying that but there's also no denying that DF Tacos wang out some of the better tacos going in the Big Smoke. God knows they're the best in Spitalfields by a country mile. Located in the Old Truman Brewery, DF Tacos does a tidy job at filling all of its soft tortillas pouches with crunchy slaw, salsa and a range of tasty fillings. Our pick of the litter is the pork pibil: an achiote and citrus marinated mound of pulled pork topped with sour cream and a hearty garnish of pink pickled onions. A couple rounds of those with a litre jug of frozen marg to keep you "hydrated" should set whatever occasion you're celebrating off just right. Even if that celebration is as simple as: it's Tuesday.
07B Commercial Street, E1 6BG
Rotis and rum. Rum and rotis. No matter how you slice it, that's a pretty dreamy combination of words right there. And Limin' is a pretty dreamy place to be when you're cutting about Old Spitalfields Market. In fact, it's one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields overall. Limin's macaroni pies, doubles and buss-up-shut rotis are all divine – the kind of dishes that keeps us up late at night and really bother our significant other due to the frankly unhealthy amount of time we dedicate to thinking about them. But, then again, can you really blame us when the buss-up-shut roti is that buttery, flaky and downright gorgeous?
12. Pleasant Lady Jian Bing Trading Stall
16 Horner Square, E1 6EW
Pleasant Lady Jian Bing Trading Stall specialises in one thing, and one thing alone: Jian bing wraps. If you haven't picked up a jian bing from Pleasant Lady's original Greek Street hole-in-the-wall or its ever-popular stall at Spitalfields' The Kitchens, you're royally missing out. Jian bing are a Chinese street food staple where a thin film of pancake-esque batter is crisped on a hot plate until its golden brown before being topped with egg, fermented bean sauce, fresh vegetables and whatever meat takes your fancy. Pleasant Lady's jian bing are the absolute business – founder Z He having ensured each crisp and juicy wrap is made with a meticulous level of detail. Whether you opt for cumin lamb, miso chicken, or Iberico char siu pork creation, you're in for a fucking treat.
11 White's Row, E1 7NF
"Gunpowder is a home-style Indian kitchen that showcases the vibrant, bold flavours of the subcontinent though responsibly sourced ingredients." Or, at least, that's what its website says. Here's what we say: Gunpowder is a standout Indian restaurant in a city that's not exactly struggling for quality Indian restaurants. Which really goes to show something. Order maa's kashmiri lamb chops and be prepared to never look at a docile little lamb with anything but a greedy, animalistic lust from then on. Nothing on the menu at Gunpowder's Spitalfields or City premises is likely to let you down. A Michelin Bib Gourmand well-earned in our eyes, as its position on this list of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields.
14. Dumpling Shack
Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield Street, E1 6BG
Dumplings have got it pretty sweet. Perfect skin, super hot, and full of a surprising amount of depth on the inside, they're pretty much what we'd want to be were we forced to be turned into an item of food. When it comes to who serves the best sheng jian bao in London, Dumpling Shack is the first name that will spring onto most people's lips. If it's not yet the first name on yours, you need to get them around one of those perfect, golden fried dumplings. Each bite bursts with volcanic flavour and a rich and silky mouthfeel.
15. St John Bread and Wine
94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
As the little sister of St John, St John Bread and Wine has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Fergus Henderson's second restaurant is just as poised. Located just across the street from Spitalfields Market, it also couldn't be in a better spot for catching the footfall of inquisitive food fanatics. Head chef Farokh Talati's kitchen runs a tight ship, slinging out achingly excellent plates of nose-to-tail specialties like calf's brains on toast and sweetbreads with smoked bacon and radish. Bread and Wine do also offer a corkage fee of £25 if you'd like to bring in your own wine and a cakeage fee of £6.90 per person if you want to bring your own cake. Seriously.
157A Commercial Street, E1 6BJ
It's hard to go wrong with a Hawksmoor. Steaks, wine and sides galore are usually a recipe for success, and it's rare you'll find that formula failing you at Hawksmoor's Spitalfields stomping ground. The bone-in prime rib is a hearty hunk of cow that can be made all the more decadent with an addition of grilled bone marrow on the side. Why? Because why the hell not. Even you even need to ask whether Hawksmoor is one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields, you've quite obviously never been before.
17. Poppies Fish and Chips
6-8 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
Owner Pop Newland has been cooking up classic East-End fish and chips all his life, and some time ago he decided to ramp up the quality, bringing in fish from Peterhead Fisheries via Billingsgate Market and recreating a 1940s feel in his two restaurants and takeaway counter in Spitalfields. We're really glad he did. Jellied eels and whitebait round-off a menu of classic chip shop favourites done bloody well, making it, undoubtedly, one of London's best fish and chips.
18. Merkamo Ethiopian
16 Horner Square, E1 6EW
Despite what some supermarket bought cardboard-y veggie burgers would like you to think, adhering to a plant-based diet doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on flavour. Merkamo is proof of that, serving countless heaped plates of traditional Ethiopian cuisine that you're able to curate to your own specifications. With eight different meal options including lentils, chickpeas, and roasted soya – plus two different side options and some of the best teff injera and lentil samosas going in London – we're pretty sure you could eat at Merkamo for lunch every day for eternity and never have the exact same plate of food. Probably. We haven't actually worked out the mathematics on that but, basically, there seems to be an endless variety of flavour combinations to be had at Merkamo. And you should explore as many as you can before clock it.
19. Flat Iron Spitalfields
88-90 Commercial Street, E1 6LY
Not including Flat Iron on this round-up of the best restaurants in Spitalfields would have been a huge missed steak. Get it? Missed steak? It's because Flat Iron is a steak restaurant. While these marvellous meat merchants don't take reservations, the £10 flat iron steak is one of the worst-kept secrets of the London dining scene. There's not many other (if any other) places in London you can get such a high quality haunch of bovine for such a reasonable price. No, it's not exactly an ideal restaurant to take a vegan to and we really wouldn't guarantee that anyone who likes their steak well-done won't be looked down upon but the steak is great and the atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed. And hey: at least creamed spinach counts as one of your five-a-day, right?
Lamb Street, E1 6EA
Smokoloko is not somewhere you should walk past if you're trying out veganism on for size. If just a single waft of the Spitalfields Market barbecue expert's grilled goods enters your nostrils you'll be jonesing for a fix of charred meat worse than Don Draper after a week without his Lucky Strikes. On the line of chain smoking, all of Smokoloko's meats are carefully selected and smoked for 6 hours in an aromatised mixture of cherry wood and herbs. And does that extra effort make for one of the best sandwiches in London? You best believe it. All of that smoky, juicy meat is riddled with flaxen strands of caramelised grilled onions and lovingly nestled into a fresh and fluffy flatbread sourced daily from a specialise bread stall in Dalston market. Eating that sanger? It's like packing on a nicotine patch of deliciousness straight to the dome.
21. Monty's Deli
16 Horner Square, E1 6EW
Oh, Monty's, we really do love you. It's hard to remember what our lives were like before Monty's slapping reuben sandwich came into it. The only thing we do know is that it was immeasurably worse. If you've never been to any of the Monty's Deli iteration in London – for shame! – here's what you need to do when you visit the Old Spitalfields digs: walk up to the counter, order the reuben with pastrami, and wait. When that sandwich does arrive – all just-moist-enough with its toasted rye shell given an inward lipidity by ribbons of swiss cheese, mustard, russian dressing and sauerkraut – here's what you do: EAT.
22. Ottolenghi Spitalfields
50 Artillery Lane, E1 7LJ
Yotam Ottolenghi isn't a man – he's a prophet. We've lost count of the number of times we've turned to Simple on a Tuesday night in search of something to jazz up our lives with a mid-week meal that actually tastes of something. We've also lost count of the number of times that's meant scuttling to the nearest Sainsbury's Local clamouring for a wedge of feta, half a pomegranate and two sprigs of thyme. While Ottolenghi's got a range of recipes that are perfect for cooking at home, the man's Spitalfields restaurant and deli serves dishes of Middle Eastern fare that puts all of our best attempts to shame. The pea, courgette, preserved lemon and goat's cheese tart is a tangy and fresh taste of the summer; the gochujang roasted free-range chicken with salsa verde hits you with a punch that'd Manny Pacquio wince. You win this time, Yottam.
23. Paradise Slice Pizza Shop
108 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
Paradise Slice is an independent start-up created by pizza-mad owners, Noura and Dan. Noura, who spent 12 years living in New York, has transported her knowledge of the New York food scene to London, aiming to replicate that dollar slice ethos at Paradise Slice's Brick Lane dough heaven. A plain cheese slice at Paradise is only £2.80. Hell, even the most expensive meat special can be in and around your mouth for £3.80. But the slices here aren't just affordable. The quality is top-notch, too. Paradise Slice uses a two-part fermentation method that means its dough receives a minimum of 70 hours proving before it's even come close to being ready for the oven. Grab and go lunch has never been easier at one of best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields.
24. Cafe Caribbean
Brushfield Street, E1 6AA
While it's now a firm Old Spitalfields Market favourite, Cafe Caribbean actually started out in 1993 a small outlet in Covent Garden. Owned and run by Warren Richards, an ex-professional boxer, the Jamaican food experts now ply hungry East London-ites with tabloid-sized plates of barbecued jerk chicken and oxtail with butter beans. All of the recipes at Cafe Caribbean take their influence from the food served in the Content District of Jamaica, Warren's mother's homeland. It's a compass pull to Jamaica you can taste throughout every beautiful roof-of-your-mouth-melting bite of fresh vegetable fritter.
25. My Old Place
88-90 Middlesex Street, E1 7E
My Old Place is a reliable old place to get your fill of hot and funky servings of Szechuan cuisine. It's well-deserving of its position on this guide to the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields for that reason, and many, many more. Sauteed beef slices; gong bao chicken; pork dry pot; home-style braised seabass with tofu. Those are our picks of the litter. But, honestly, it's all good, baby, and you'll probably need to visit My Old Place approximately 50 times over to even have a slim chance at sampling all that the tome-length menu has got to offer. Just take a scattershot approach and point and say "one of these" to as many of the classic Sichuan dishes as you can handle. If you must insist on being told what to eat, you won't be let down by a bubbling portion of the essential ma po tofu.
Pavilion on The Corner, White's Row, E1 7NF
You can tell a lot about a restaurant by the quality of its bread. Using that loaf-as-a-litmus-test logic, we'd say it's pretty clear that Crispin (and its championing of locally sourced bread from Dusty Knuckle bakery) is a place that gets it right. The Spitalfields café and restaurant serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner to a standard that's downright impressive whatever time of the day you find yourself there. Dinner plates of delicate crab and cod hit just as hard as the banana bread and three cheese and onion toastie on the brunch menu. Working with Fernando Berry of Otros Vinos, Crispin also offer a concise but regularly rotating wine list of low-intervention bottles from around the world. Therefore it's only natural you should pay Crispin a visit.
27. Som Saa
43A Commercial Street, E1 6BD
Located just off Spitalfields Market, Som Saa started as a well-intentioned street food pop-up in London Fields and his since found itself transformed into a corker of a permanent restaurant. Som Saa has certainly grown into its looks – confidently serving uncompromising plates of nahm dtok pla thort (whole fried sea bass) and mu parlow braised pork. With its high-quality dishes inspired by the pared-back cooking of the country's North Eastern region, Som Saa is an essential visit when you're scuttling about E1 with a hankering for fish sauce and chilli. It's been one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields since its opened and we don't see that changing anytime soon.
28. Yum Bun
16 Horner Square, E1 6EW
Founder Lisa Meyer began Yum Bun as a Saturday stall in Hackney's Broadway Market in 2010. The rest – as they say – is history. You can now find Yum Bun's delicious namesake buns all week at The Kitchens, Spitalfields Market and a range of other locations across the city. What's a Yum Bun? Yum buns are basically soft fluffy folded bao buns that are filled with everything from slowly roasted pork belly, cucumber, spring onion and hoisin sauce to panko-breaded cod, green chill, coriander and lime sambal, lettuce, and mayo. Our recommended method of discovering what Yum Bun's got in the tank is ordering a £9 Bun Box that comes with two buns of your choice, two crispy veg gyoza, and crunchy asian slaw.
Where to drink in Spitalfields
1. The Pride of Spitalfields
3 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ
Although it was formerly known as The Romford Arms – a denomination it shed some time around the '80s – we think that The Pride of Spitalfields' new name suits it rather handsomely. It is, after all, a public house to have pride in. Simple, comfy seating; a generous selection of quality beers on tap; and a clientele comprised of just about everyone in the vicinity who knows a good pub when they see one. That's The Pride of Spitalfields for you: a real deal pub that deals out pints with aplomb. Irrefutably one of the best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields. Mainly drink.
2. Discount Suit Company
29A Wentworth Street, E1 7TB
Discount Suit Company is one of those bars that has a name that makes it sound like its not a bar. The difference between DSC and a lot of those other drinking holes is that Discount Suit Company is actually a really nice place to grab a drink. And – whisper this quietly now because we don't want this going straight to DSC's head – it's exactly as cool as it thinks it is. Descend down the stairs into the bare brick, dimly lit interior and you'll instantly feel like you've walked into a realm where only the natty and hip reside. Cocktails like 'Bananarama' and the 'A Kick in The Head' aren't just smirk-worthy names, either. They're well-balanced drinks with a depth of flavour to match any of the city's glossier bars. Anywhere that gives the option to chain some homemade hummus with olive and rosemary breadsticks can do little wrong in our eyes.
3. The Golden Heart
110 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
If you're looking for a proper pub without any of the pretentious wankiness often associated with East London boozers, The Golden Heart is the place for you. The Commercial Street public house has decent food, good pints and the makings of a ruddy good time. Fold yourself into one of the booths for an afternoon of drinking Guinness and gossiping about Pete from accounts for the ideal Golden Heart experience. Atmosphere is half the battle when you're going out to drink and rest assured that The Golden Heart doesn't disappoint in that department. Landlady Sandra Esquilant has ensured the premises has retained its slightly sticky beating heart, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
4. The Ten Bells
84 Commercial Street, E1 6LY
Yes, you might find a few Americans horny for Jack the Ripper knocking about this boozer from time to time but don't let that put you off a trip to The Ten Bells for a drink. It's actually really nice. Potentially chequered past of serial killer clientele, and all. Nothing's fancy about this Commercial Street haunt – nor does it need to be. Keeping things simple means The Ten Bells keeps it focus on what matters: getting you bladdered. And that's not even mentioning the sizeable wine list and the fact that The Ten Bells houses more than enough beer to keep even the most ardent Untappd nerd satisfied. Even those of you that are more Old Fashioned than Fourepure will find themselves satisfied by a trip upstairs to The Ten Bells' nifty little cocktail bar. Join in on the quiz night every Tuesday for the chance to win a £40 bar tab and make some mates.
5. The Culpeper
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Whether you've placed yourself in the ground floor pub or rooftop garden, The Culpeper is somewhere that can suit just about every mood going. Especially if a symptom of that mood happens to be an insatiable thirst for pints and excellent plonk. The Culpeper's selection of beers ranges from continental draught lagers to locally brewed bottles but it's the completely natural wine list that truly separates The Culpeper out from the crowd of Spitalfields drinking options. A cocktail list based on herbs grown on the roof? That's just the sustainably sourced maraschino cherry on top of one of best places to eat and drink in Spitalfields.
6. The Gun Spitalfields
54 Brushfield Street, E1 6AG
So, you went and picked The Gun, cocked it and shot all other options down, huh? Well, you made the right decision, buddy. The Gun is a great Spitalfields pub to get in an excellent feed and some quality drinks, too. The 17th Century public house has been reimagined as what its website describes as "a modern bar for the modern drinker". What that means to you and me is that it's a pub you'll feel just at home at holding a pint of Amstel as a flute full of Moët – which is never a bad thing in our books. So, we'll drink to that. Lots.