But it’s also home to some striking examples of global cuisine; from tiny backstreet Japanese sushi counters to intimate Italian boltholes. And then there’s the Michelin star winners, the raucous BBQ terraces, and the decades-old institutions that everyone should tick off their London restaurant bucket list.
So, without further ado, behold the best restaurants in East London:
Café Cecilia | Hackney
A restaurant in East London with enduring ‘hot right now’ status, entirely earned thanks to its canal-side location, snappy monochrome interiors and mouthwatering small plates menu, spanning from sage & anchovy fritti to Guinness bread ice cream.
Details: Canal Place, 32 Andrews Road, Hackney, E8 4FX | Book here
Brawn | Bethnal Green
A no-fuss, but highly fussed-over Hackney restaurant from Terroirs’ Ed Wilson. Beautiful assemblies of seasonal ingredients are plated up in a minimalist dining room with a tender creativity that’s won the hearts of several of London’s top chefs and critics.
Details: 49 Columbia Road, Bethnal Green, E2 7RG | Book here
Sune | Broadway Market
Sune (pronounced ‘soon-ah’) opened its doors on Broadway Market at the end of 2023 and is already one hot ticket. That’s no surprise, really, given that a pair of hospitality legends are at the reins. Honey Spencer is a sommelier and wine director at The Palomar and The Barbary, while Charlie Sims is a restaurant manager who has handled places like Noma (the world’s No1 restaurant while he was there), and Mãos (which kept its Michelin Star while he was there). Now, they’re striking out on their own project: a neighbourhood spot offering the likes of smoked eel caesar salad, lamb neck with peppercorn gravy and mackerel & leek escabeche…
Details: 129A Pritchard’s Road, E2 9AP | Book here
Crispin | Spitalfields
Crispin really stands out amongst other restaurants in East London. And sure, that’s partly because it physically stands out, housed in a striking geometric glass pavilion just behind Spitalfields Market. But the cooking here is a cut above, too: chef Lewis de Haas puts together a seasonally-led menu of modern European dishes designed to share. Depending on the time of year you visit, they could feature charred friggitelli peppers with chorizo butter or pollock & saffron risotto.
Details: Pavilion on The Corner, White’s Row, Spitalfields, E1 7NF | Book here
Rogues | Hackney
Some people open a place because they love cooking. Some people open it for the drinks. Freddie Sheen and Zac Whittle opened their restaurant for the sheer love of restaurants, it seems – everything, from the ambient lighting to the relaxed but attentive service, has been meticulously designed to give you a really, really good time. The menu changes weekly depending on what they pick up at the markets, but you might dip into some whipped ricotta with smoked tomatoes; glazed duck breast with endive and harissa; mushroom XO and mussel rigatoni; or a pork chop with beer butter sauce. And incidentally, it all tastes really, really good too.
Details: 460 Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 9EG | Book here
Papi | London Fields
After a string of acclaimed pop-ups Hot 4 U’s Matthew Scott finally decided it was time to open an actual restaurant, which we are very hot for. It’s called Papi, and every dish is a stroke of genius; from the smoked rabbit sausage to cheeseburger tartare to the skrei cod with leeks plucked from Scott’s mum’s garden in Walthamstow. He’s managed to convince his pal Charlie Carr of Wingnut Wines to join him for the ride as well, and together the two are a match made in heaven with Carr’s eye for little known natural wines combining well with Scott’s insane creativity in the kitchen. Aside from those, there’s also cocktails. But not just any cocktails. There’s a Ribena Negroni, a Nesquik strawberry daiquiri garnished with sprinkles, a ‘Spicy Disco Lagarita’. The point being, this is not the place if you’re on a dry month…
Details: 1F Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PN | Book here
Abiding the laws of nominative determinism, Acme Fire Cult has inspired something of a cult-like following thanks to the grill skills of chef-owner Andrew Clarke. Housed next to a brewery (whose suds frequently make it into the recipes), and boasting a huge, heated outdoor area, it’s an intoxicating den of smoke, craft brews, and great music.
What do ex-Kitty Fisher’s chef Chris Leach and Smokestak founder David Carter have in common? Lard. Or, to give it its Italian name, Manteca: their Italian nose-to-tail eatery that started out as a pop up and proved so outrageously popular that they moved to much bigger digs in Shoreditch, and still regularly pack the place out.
The definition of “that great little place”. It’s tucked down a side street off Old Street roundabout, and doesn’t announce itself particularly obviously. But walk past Popolo’s window and you’ll see a crowd of diners sat up at a counter overlooking the kitchen, sipping vermouth and dining on Michelin Bib Gourmand-awarded Italian small plates. And you should join them.
Details: 26 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, East London, EC2A 3DU | Book here
St John | Clerkenwell
Ranked 55th in Restaurant Magazine’s 100 best restaurants in the world. Ranked in no particular position in The Nudge’s best restaurants in East London. We know which accolade we’d have on our website…
The Clove Club combines frequently overlooked ingredients in its set restaurant menu of innovative British food, placing it at #32 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Call them beforehand to find out what’s on offer, or for a chat – the staff are friendly.
Details: Shoreditch Town Hall, Old St, EC1V 9LT | Book here
One of the worst-kept secrets in East London. Enter via a buzzer, where this modern European canteen lies tucked away in the walled courtyard of an old Shoreditch school.
Details: Rochelle School, Greater Arnold Circus, E2 7ES | Book here
The Sea, The Sea Hackney | Hackney
Much like its West London counterpart, The Sea, The Sea, is part fishmongers, part restaurant. They take in daily shipments of swimmers fresh off the day boats, then descale, fillet, and occasionally dry-age them before sending them to some of London’s top kitchens. Including their own. That’s where chef Leandro Carreira puts together his highly inventive tasting menus, served up at their beautiful aquamarine bar…
Address: 337 Acton Mews, E8 4EA | Book here
Campania | Bethnal Green
A cosy, artfully ramshackle southern Italian restaurant housed in an old dairy in a courtyard tucked just behind Columbia Road. Hearty dishes take their inspiration from regional specialities like Amalfi’s scialatielli pasta, served here with lobster, or Puglian fishermen’s stew. Just add good wine, good company, and sunshine.
Details: 23 Ezra Street, E2 7RH | Book here
Oren | Dalston
Parked on a low-key corner of Shacklewell Lane with misted windows and the occasional rush of fragrant cooking and convivial chatter escaping from the door, Oren’s an irresistible treat. Chef Oded Oren lays on a banquet of mouthwatering Israeli dishes, from ox cheek on a bed of hummus to brill tartare with Kurdish cheese, all accompanied by a formidable wine list from Zeren Wilson.
Details: 89 Shacklewell Lane, Hackney, E8 2EB | Book here
Eline | Hoxton
What happens when two Pophams alumni, Alex Reynolds and Maria Viviani, team up to form a restaurant? Well the bread is good, as you’d expect… but unless you’ve got a really deep-seated desire for bread, that’s probably not why you’re here. It’s one of the best restaurants in East London for French food, with seasonally-led dishes offered alongside 100-odd hand-picked wines curated by Maria (and a little help from Kimchi, the couple’s wine connoisseur dog).
Details: Rosewood Building, Gorsuch Pl, E2 8HU | Book here
Bubala | Spitalfields
Simply put, one of the most exciting restaurants in London, thanks to its all-vegetarian menu (with the option to go all-vegan, too). Israeli-inspired small plates – burnt butter hummus; squidgy burnt aubergines and freshly made malawach (a Yemenite Jewish pancake) – are put together by Barbary and Palomar alumna Helen Graham.
Details: 65 Commercial Street, E1 6BD | Book here
The Marksman | Hackney
Everything you could want from a local, plus a little bit more. Namely, a roof terrace for breakfast buns and the Sunday papers; bar-setting roasts; and some of the loveliest British food in town.
Details: 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ | Book here
The Water House Project | Hackney
The long-awaited permanent incarnation of chef Gabriel Waterhouse’s mind-blowing pop ups. His aim is to create a fine dining restaurant that has the same relaxed atmosphere as a supperclub. And he’s totally succeeded.
Details: 3 Mare Street, E8 4RP | Book now
A Michelin-starred eatery serving up a £95 set menu for dinner which changes every day, put together by James Lowe (one of the founding members of ‘The Young Turks’ – a trio of chefs who were behind possibly the most successful pop up of all time, ‘Upstairs at The Ten Bells’).
Details: The Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ | Book here
Cornerstone | Hackney Wick
The first solo restaurant from Nathan Outlaw protégé Tom Brown, and a strong contender to being the best seafood restaurant in East London, thanks to the creative dishes and soothing, minimalist setting. And the Michelin man agrees.
Details: 3 Prince Edward Road, E9 5LX | Book here
Morito | Hackney
A mighty fine tapas spot, serving up Spanish-Moorish dishes like arak-cured trout, guinea fowl croquetas and slow-cooked pork shoulder in buzzy, beautiful surroundings.
Details: 195 Hackney Road, E2 8JL | Book here
Behind won a Michelin star within 20 days of opening. And if you still need any convincing, it’s a chef’s table dinner that puts you in the kitchen with Andy Beynon and his team of chummy chefs – only you get to sit around an 18-seat counter while they do all the work. They’ll casually blow your mind with an eight-course tasting menu that turns the finest seafood from the British Isles into dishes like oyster tacos and octopus tortellini dressed with sherry foam..
Details: 20 Sidworth St, London E8 3SD | Book here
Berber & Q | Haggerston
Middle Eastern flavours. American BBQ. Berber & Q is a railway arch grill house mixing up menus in all the right kind of ways.
Details: Arch 338 Acton Mews, Haggerston, E8 4EA | Book here
Nest | Shoreditch
Nest has everything you need to be a top East London restaurant: a project conceived by three pals, sustainable principles, low-intervention wines and a wholly creative ten-course set menu that’s dependent on seasons, changes every six weeks and zeros in on one meat, which would be a rare breed (think Mangalitza pork or Welsh wagyu) sourced from the UK’s most esteemed suppliers. Ah, and it’s in Shoreditch as well…
Details: 374-378 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT | Book here
Barge East | Hackney Wick
A 114 year old Dutch cargo barge moored up on the Hackney riviera, serving small plates of such impressive elegance, you’d never think they were being assembled in a kitchen the size of a captain’s cabin.
Details: Sweetwater Mooring, River Lee, White Post Lane, E9 5EN | Book here
Bistrotheque | Bethnal Green
Another bastion of modern British dining, this time in a Bethnal Green warehouse. And before you roll your eyes, this place opened in 2004, so it’s one of the true originals – and still great.
Details: 23-27 Wadeson Street, Bethnal Green, E2 9DR | Book here
A Dalston restaurant where you have no say whatsoever in what you’ll be eating. Luckily for you, it’s guaranteed to be delicious.
Details: 52 Wilton Way, E8 1BS | Book here
Liked exploring the best restaurants in East London? You’ll be needing a nightcap at one of the best bars in Shoreditch…