Itinerary Location: Leytonstone | Duration: 5 Hours
Here’s an idea. Open up a tube map, close your eyes, spin around three times and place your finger wherever the spontaneity gods guide you towards. It could be anywhere: Pimlico, Richmond, Dollis Hill, Brixton, Barbican. Heck, it could be any one of the 272 stops woven into the sprawling web of the underground.
Hmm. On second thoughts, allow us to nudge you in the very specific direction of Leyton.
Conveniently accessible via the Central line and the overground, this patch of Zone 3 is suburban but certainly not sleepy. It has acres of green space (Epping Forest is just down the road), properly good pubs, independent shops, along with organic wine bars, foodie pop ups and firmly established restaurants.
So join us as we venture to this not-so-far-flung corner of East London for a late-afternoon mooch down Francis Road – a pedestrianised street lined with cafés, a fantastic book shop and more to boot – before diving into some of the finest Thai food the city has to offer.
We begin our leisurely jaunt through E10 at Leyton Station.
Watch the traffic from both sides as you cross the fast-moving road from the tube stop. A mere 10 minute stroll from Leyton station, pass the library and hang a right to find Francis Road. The heart of Leyton Village, this unassuming stretch has a lot to offer. Start at the north end of the street and…
➊ WANDER DOWN FRANCIS ROAD | 4:00pm
- Yardarm: Nodding to the East End’s roots in maritime history, Yardarm takes its name from “a seafaring phrase referring to the time of day it’s acceptable to have your first ration of booze”. Yes, not glass, but ration. Inside the family-run shop, you’ll find shelves and fridges full of pickles, preserves, pies, cured-meats, cheese, natural wine, beer and a counter with a precarious pile of fresh pastries. While you’re here, why not bag a couple of condiments to elevate your pantry cupboard and sample one of the wines they sell by the glass – sit out front and soak up the comings and goings on Francis Road, or on a fair-weather day, soak up the rays in their south-facing garden.
- Dreamhouse Records: Across the road from Yardarm is Dreamhouse Records. It’s run by local muso Jon Clifford, who opened the shop after the pandemic, fulfilling a lifelong dream to open a shrine to vinyl. Tune in to the expertly mixed playlist and peruse the genre-spanning stock of records, cassettes and merch, as well as a mix of new releases, back catalogues and reissues.
- Morny: If you’re feeling peckish by this point, Morny is here to provide. Weekends are particularly busy with avid brunchers but at this time of the day, you’ll be able to avoid the morning rush and be there before it closes at 5pm. Our advice? Try one of their signature cruffins, crammed with flavours that’ll knock your socks off, from the Piña Colada – a heady combo of coconut rum curd, caramelized pineapple compote & pineapple sugar – to the Pretty in Pink, which comes stuffed with lemon verbena custard, raspberry jam, raspberry chocolate dip and raspberry sugar. They also make a mean doughnut alongside other speciality bakes such as lamingtons and éclairs. Armed with something deep-fried and sugar-coated, you’re all fired up and ready to continue onwards…
- Marmelo: You might not have space for another snack, but it’s certainly worth having a whiff inside this independent deli. Here you’ll find a wide selection of cheeses and meat along with seasonal vegetables, all tumbling leaves arranged in such a way that makes them resemble a Dutch Masters painting. There are also kitchen essentials, home-brewed Kombucha and they even offer a catering service.
- Phlox Books: This independent bookshop first appeared in 2017, when Francis Road was a far cry from the bustling hub it is today. Since then, its owner Aimée Madill has built it to be a destination store, loved for its mantra “books, booze, coffee”. Take in the cheery interiors and muse through books on travel, nature, wellbeing and poetry but don’t get too comfortable, there’s still plenty more to see.
- Venner: This little gift shop is a purveyor of all things pretty. There are natural beauty products, greetings cards and wooden baby toys, plus handcrafted candles and lots of dinky dishes. There’s a definite focus on sustainability and conscious consumerism, which’ll give you a feeling of satisfaction that money can’t buy. Except for just now, when you bought something.
- Karina Banks London: A relative newcomer to Francis Road, jeweller Karina Banks opened the doors to her eponymous shop and studio in April 2022. Inside, the vibe is serene with colourful canvases hanging against plastered walls and table tops laid out carefully with Karina’s handmade trinkets. There’s also clothes by fellow East-London native Bug Clothing and vintage homewares by Eesome. This might not be the day for buying an earthenware pot, but bookmark this boutique as somewhere to come back to.
➋ STOP FOR A THIRST QUENCHER| 5pm
Before you reach the end of Francis Road, deviate left along Richmond Road and walk 10 minutes to Filly Brook. Here you’ll find 18 beers on tap, including local brewers Gravity Well and Solvay Society together with a menu of biodynamic wines. They also host chefs’ residencies – at the time of writing, Pan-Asian chef Sophie Tang (a.k.a. Tangys) is serving some seriously delicious dishes that draw influence from her time spent in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Perch up with a pint or a glass of something funky but resist the urge to order the whole menu – trust us, you’re going to want to save room for dinner.
➌ TUCK INTO 10/10 THAI FOOD| 6:30pm
Meander another 10 minutes through Leyton’s residential streets heading towards High Road Leytonstone. Singburi might look unassuming from the outside, its yellow and green fascia a slightly abrasive contrast next to its neighbours, but trust us, this is where you will find some of the best Thai food in London. Over several years, the restaurant’s rep has reached giddy heights. The service is refreshingly old school; cash-only, BYOB, with blackboards written in chalk showing regularly changing specials. Think gangluang (razor clams and spicy pineapple curry), Southern prawn curry with betel leaf, sarb tod (duck confit ball, served larb style) and som tam korat (somtam with fermented fish sauce, gummy corn & dried shrimp). Dishes come served on mismatched crockery, kicking with chilli and glistening with lip-smacking sauces.
➍ GRAB A DRINK FOR THE ROAD | 8pm
You might be full to the brim with a Thai curry, but the night is still young – so why not stop at another local drinking hole, Mammoth Taproom? Tucked under the arches, the vibe here is utilitarian yet cosy, like a village hall – only without the smell of Douwe Egberts and stale Wotsits. Small-batch beer is the headline act here and there’s personality in every pint; some are cloudy and fruity, others murky and hoppy. Order one for the road before picking out another of those 272 tube stops…
Fingers crossed for the one near your flat.
➊ Francis Road, London E10 6NQ
➋ Filly Brook | 392 Grove Green Rd, London E11 4AP
➌ Singburi | 593 High Rd Leytonstone, London E11 4PA
➍ Mammoth Tap | Arch 1 Station Approach, London E11 4RE
Don’t want to end the night here? Check out our ultimate guide to clubs in London…
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