Your ultimate guide: where to eat and drink in Spitalfields
From street food at Old Spitalfields Market to a smart casual dining experiences at Blixen and St John Bread and Wine, Spitalfields is an area full of great food and drink that's just aching to be explored
A funny little pocket at the crossroads between Liverpool Street, Shoreditch High Street and Whitechapel, Spitalfields is a small neighbourhood that more than punches above its weight when it comes to concentration of good places to fill your greedy pie hole. 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 Gunpowder or actual Michelin starred St. JOHN Bread and Wine, 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 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
Xi'an Biang Biang
62 Wentworth Street, E1 7AL
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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.
65 Commercial Street, E1 6BD
Got any vegetarian friends to impress? Take them to Bubala . Here, they’re not just an afterthought fed one grilled mushroom. No – here, they take centre stage, with no meat to be seen on the menu. The food errs on the side of that intersection between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean made so popular by Yotam Ottolenghi. So, expect many an aubergine, shmear of labneh and herby zhoug.
75 Commercial Street, E1 6BD
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While London may have an enduring love affair with neapolitan style pizza, it’s a bit of a toxic one, often overlooking the esteemed slices of places like NYC and Chicago. No longer though, as we have a sneaking suspicion Detroit Pizza may herald a shift in favour of square-shaped, deep dish pizza, and all the cheesy goodness that comes along with it. Be warned – your eyes may be bigger than your stomach, but these slices are no joke. Two pieces is enough to beat any fully sized adult. You will be full. But trust us – it’s worth it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Old Spitalfields Market, Brushfield Street, E1 6BG
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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.
St. JOHN Bread and Wine
94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
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As the little sister of St. JOHN, St. JOHN Bread and Wine has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver'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. The 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.
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.
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 .
16 Horner Square, E1 6EW
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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.
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?
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.
Brushfield Street, E1 6AA
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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.
My Old Place
88-90 Middlesex Street, E1 7EZ
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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.
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.
Where to drink in Spitalfields
The Pride of Spitalfields
3 Heneage Street, E1 5LJ
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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.
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.
The Golden Heart
110 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ
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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.
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.
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.
144-142 Commercial Street, E1 6NU
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Charmingly shabby in style, Commercial Tavern feels a little like a boozer from a bygone era. The sizable watering hole is everything you want from a pub: it has a decent selection of brews on tap, a wider choice by the can and bottle and, crucially, a food menu that consists of woodfired pizzas to soak up any excess booze. It's popular with the post work crowd, so be sure to get in early on a Friday evening.