I can’t imagine being more proud of my (not so) little brother Iain. He’s always been such a dude, even as a little kid: the chilled-out one you could always rely on, with the sweetest temperament and big smile. Not much has changed since he grew up, except that he’s become the hardest working person I know – and thankfully all that effort has paid off. He was nominated for International Bartender of the Year in 2016 and the two cocktail bars he opened with the lovely Ryan Chetiyawardana (White Lyan and Dandelyan) have both won Best New International Cocktail Bar among many other accolades. Keep an eye out for him in 2017 as Trash Tiki, his progressive new cocktail project with the awesome Kelsey Ramage, will be popping-up at a location near you.
Here are his top recommendations for East London, in his own (rather colourful) words. Want to discover more of East London? Check out my area guide here! —————————————————————————–
To say “East London is full of hipsters” is to say you haven’t visited in a LONG time. Hipster has gone mainstream yet East London hasn’t, so where exactly do you think we all hangout? Yes, there’s now a Pret or two popping up and ‘OMG lots of people have tattoos’ (!!) but dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a thriving community of small businesses who want and need to show you a great time: whether it’s eggs over easy and a long black (sod off, it’s not called an Americano, that’s a cocktail) or legs for days and a long night. 😊
I live, breath, eat, drink and work in East London, which means from budget to big night out I’ve had the chance to experience most of what it has to offer. As I spend plenty of nights on the other side of the bar, I like to have a few recommendations for customers that aren’t at the top of your typical Google search.
What I’ve included below is my pick of the best East London has to offer with the added bonus of knowing every venue is owned by UK small businesses and that your money (and tip!) is going back to those who deserve it most.
So let’s get stuck into it…
Coffee: just beans and nothing but the best.
Lanark Coffee, Hackney Rd – Run by a couple of awesome Scottish dudes who make a great filter, flat white and all the rest. They also share the space with a furniture maker so there’s always something cool to look at while you wait.
Origin, Charlotte St – Bit of an upgrade from Lanark in space and style but still at heart focused on the coffee over all else. Should you ever want to take some home, they have a great selection of beans on sale and give you a free coffee with every bag. 😊
Brunch: the most important mid-morning meal of the day. 😊
Embassy East, Hoxton St – I know there’s a LOT of “Top 10 Brunch Spots” out there but this place is a true local secret. Easy going, great food and portions, but best of all – not a fucking avocado in sight. I love that weird textured green stuff as much as next guy but holy shit it’s nice to see people can cook eggs on toast and not automatically slap an avocado on the plate too.
Cream, New Inn Yard – Sharing the space with a gallery and magazine, this place screams East London in terms of interiors and prices. However, the chef who put the menu together is stellar and the quality of ingredients makes it really worth the treat.
Pubs: the most divisive of choices.
Sun Tavern, Bethnal Green Road – Irish Whiskey galore, pickled eggs and beers only brewed in the UK. Their playlist and DJs are killer and the guys behind the bar have some of the best banter around. Nuff said.
Hunter S, Southgate Rd – Brought to you by some great bartender-cum-owners who have an eye for detail. Food to beers to interior all on point. Fun fact: after a meal and many pints here one night when I’d first arrived in London, I discovered it’s a great place to get laid. Bon appetite.
Wine: no really, there are bars for that. And they’re fucking awesome.
P. Franco, Lower Clapton Rd – A bottle shop with an extra large communal table for you to drink at (if you choose to stay and you should) and a rotating chef that is always exceptional. I can’t praise this place or drink here enough. A simple concept, amazing value and truly interesting wines.
Newcomer Wines, Dalston Lane – A step up in price but the bottled grape juice they sell is too good to miss. Austrian focused down to the charcuterie on offer; you will try things here you’ve never heard of before or are likely to see again.
Restaurants: for those of you who are also sick of shitty burger chains with expensive branding….
Black Axe Mangal, Highbury Corner – Yes, this is not technically East but it’s THAT GOOD!!! A heavy metal “kebab shop” owned by a husband and wife who used to run one of the world’s most pioneering fine dining restaurants. Don’t miss the fleur-de-lis of bright pink cocks painted on the floor. It’s hands down some of the best food being served in London. Just go, trust me. And then go back on the weekend for brunch.
Legs, Morning Lane – For when you wanna #treatyoself and not cry as the bill comes. My favourite food joint to open in London this year, Legs exemplifies no bullshit cooking with quality ingredients and brilliant dishes. Magnus Reid knows what’s up. Note: both these places also have counter tops if you’re flying solo too
Pizza: cos if you don’t think it deserves its own section, we can’t be friends.
Yard Sale Pizza, Lower Clapton Rd – Go get sauced on grape juice in P.Franco but make sure you leave in time to get a slice (or you know, whole pizza) next door. Don’t say you’ve eaten pizza in London until you’ve eaten here.
Franca Manca, Broadway Market & Stoke Newington High St – I think these guys have taken some big investment recently and so might break the “small business” rule but good on them for making bank and then some. The back of the menu goes so far as to list the supplier for every ingredient, that’s how much they care, and it shows. This is what pizza should taste like and how it should be served.
Cocktails: If I know nothing else…
Note: I’ve worked as a bartender for over a decade around the world and now operate some pretty legit cocktail digs, one of which is listed below. I could fill 5 times this article just on where to drink in London but I’ve chosen 3 strikingly different, but ultimately can’t be missed places.
Three Sheets, Kingsland Rd – The best bar to open in London in 2016, fact. Two brothers originally from Manchester, with a great pedigree of bars behind them, opened this intimate drinking spot. Bells and whistles are nowhere to be found; nothing but killer drinks here.
White Lyan, Hoxton Street – Me and another guy busted the doors open on this place in October 2013 and it’s been a labour of love ever since. A cocktail bar like no other in the world and we like it that way. From cocktail haters to enthusiasts, this bar was built challenge the status quo and provide drinks and nights that are one of a kind. Come join the ruckus, please.
Satan’s Whiskers, Cambridge Heath Rd – Classic cocktails, killer hip hop and brilliant interiors. I don’t know what more can be said other than do not miss this place on a night out.
Late Night: if it’s after midnight and you’re not a pumpkin, what have you got to lose?
Bad Sports, Hackney Rd – This place is busy from the time it starts serving tasty tacos at 4pm. But they don’t stop until midnight and the bar downstairs goes til 2am, which means there’s still hope of decent food and drinks late at night for those who lose track of time. An increasing rarity in London.
Savage, Cambridge Heath Rd, – I’ve done more 5am parties in my life then I care to recall, so when I say finding one that is week after week *FUN FUN FUN* until the bitter end is like the unicorn of late night parties. Go here, dance your ass off and make a few bad decisions. Your soul will thank you even if your body doesn’t the next morning.
Extras: if you don’t know, now you know…
Rio Cinema, Kingsland High St – SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL THEATRE. That is all.
Andina, Redchurch St – Dietary requirements ain’t nothing here. Breakfast to dinner, they don’t stop serving and everything is TASTY. Top tip: get the artichoke tea.
Newington Green Grocery, Newington Green Rd – This place has everything fresh, delicious and nutritious. Ultimate stop-on-the-way-home-before-cooking-up-a-storm spot.
40ft Brewery, Abbott Street – These guys started brewing and canning beer in a shipping container just off Dalston Lane in 2015, and then built a bar in another shipping container next to it. That’s your Saturday afternoon sorted.
Root & Bone – A quarterly print mag of everything interesting in London. More than just new openings and what’s hot, this rag has real actual articles on a wide variety of topics around food & drink. Best of all, it’s free!
Want to discover more of East London? Check out my area guide here!