E5 Bakehouse, one of East London's many great foodie spots — Photo courtesy of E5 Bakehouse
There was a time in East London when, if you wanted decent dining or even decent coffee, then you needed to get on a tube. Those days are long gone, and the East now boasts perhaps the densest and most diverse concentration of eating and drinking options in the city.
In recent years, a glut of gourmet food producers have emerged to add to the culinary scene, from salmon smokers in Stoke Newington to craft breweries in Broadway Market. This Saturday itinerary attempts to take in both the historical food scene, as well as the new, with a focus on the independent, local and homegrown. There are many omissions, from Stoke Newington Farmer’s Market to Walthomstow’s Eat 17. The below selection is based on what is feasibly possible to achieve in one day’s pleasant stroll and hearty eating of good food in London.
Brave the early start, and head for Billingsgate Fish Market. You need to get there before 7 a.m. Originating in the 16th century, this is still where most restaurants source their fish. Ogle the stacks of sharks, docile lobsters and piles of squid, and banter with the catcalling fishermen. Yes, it’ll leave you a bit fishy, but it does give a vibrant insight into market life. Sharks in Billingsgate Fish Market — Photo courtesy of Tyler Wetherall
Jump on the 277 bus, which will drop you at Mare Street, a short walk from the artisan E5 Bakehouse for a breakfast of sourdough toast, jam and coffee. Around the corner, Broadway Market will just be setting up, so you can lazily stroll without the crowds. Second only to Borough Market for the diversity of produce on offer, stalls range from British fodder at Eat My Pies to melt-in-your-mouth, home-smoked salmon from Hansen Lydersen. If there is a strapping Viking manning the stall, that is Ole, who offers tours of his Stoke Newington Smokehouse for the keen.
You should be about ready for a drink now, so head to London Fields Brewery, Hackney’s very own craft beer brewers. On Saturdays, they open up their tap room in the rustic warehouse space. You can take a tour at 1 p.m., 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. (on Saturdays), and it includes a tasting.
Depending on how hungry you are, make a detour via Hackney City Farm to meet Biddy the Saddleback sow and friends, a perfect excursion for kids. From here, walk to East London’s very own Michelin star-awarded restaurant Viajante. Located in the stunning Town House Hotel, Viajante is considered amongst the world’s best restaurants, with Nuno Mendes curating a multi-course tasting menu of exquisite originality and creativity.
If you don’t want to peak too soon, then opt for The Corner Room - the more casual and affordable space in the same building, where Mendes tries out his ideas. The Corner Room — Photo courtesy of The Corner Room
Walk off lunch with the 30-minute stroll to Brick Lane, via the multi-ethnic market stalls of Bethnal Green Road. Brick Lane is now the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi community, with dozens of curry houses, but it was once home to many Jewish families. They originated the iconic 24-hour Beigel Bake, with the best bagels in London and salt beef to salivate for. This area is now the epicenter of East London action, packed with markets, boutiques and a mix of tourists and fashion types. Head to the Boiler House Market for more international cuisine. The Dead Dolls House — Photo courtesy of The Dead Dolls Club
Finally, if you have any room, hit the Dead Dolls House in Hoxton Square for dinner. This multi-story, bohemian warehouse-turned-make believe mansion hosts a range of pop-up chefs, such as gumbo goodness from Swamp Things. End your day by lounging in the roof garden with one of their seasonal cocktails. Swamp Things' seafood gumbo at the Dead Dolls House — Photo courtesy of Swamp Things