The Brick Lane Market is essential if you’re visiting London. Considered the heart of the East End of London, since the 1990s it’s become the alternative cultural center of the city.
Walking down Brick Lane, a seemingly endless street full of interesting things, you’ll discover hundreds of restaurants, cafes and pubs. Everybody is guaranteed to find something to their liking, every craving will be satisfied and every occasion will be properly celebrated!
Brick Lane is as authentic as it gets: for centuries, this area was home to immigrants, outsiders and even dissidents. At some point in its history, it was even used as a Roman cemetery, as it is quite close to the old city walls of London.
This is why nowadays Brick Lane has an inimitable charm and an exciting mixture of various cultures, styles and vibes—which all makes it the most real and modern part of London. Get lost in the legendary market, spend hours exploring the multitude of Bangladeshi shops, get a pint in the ever-animated pubs, and, when you find yourself hungry, check out some of our favorite places to eat, which will for sure allow you to fully feel that real London ambience!
1. Gunpowder: because what’s more English than Indian food?
In this small restaurant with a homey vibe and a family-kitchen cooking style, you’ll be able to experience the real diversity of Indian cuisine. It’s not your typical curries with mountains of rice on the side served in gigantic bowls. No—in this Brick Lane gem of a restaurant, the approach to cooking is drastically different. They serve small plates in an intimate space (the whole restaurant just seats 28 people maximum).
Get ready to try a completely new-to you-Indian cuisine: full of lively, brave and smart flavor combinations that pay homage to the owners’ roots on the subcontinent. All the ingredients are sourced responsibly, which is a lovely bonus.
2. Smokestak: for the English-style night out
With a mature vibe, dark wood, low lights and industrial touches, this restaurant reminds us of an ultimate bachelor’s cave. It shouldn’t be this exciting; after all, the concept of a barbecue is seemingly overused, but something about Smokestak just makes it different than others.
Maybe it’s the black fitted uniforms that all staff wear, or maybe it’s their fantastic pork belly and the beef briskets—we just can’t decide! However, we can’t help but admire the talent behind every plate. Even though some may think that Smokestak is the ultimate “dude food,” we think this restaurant—with its excellent service and an ultimate wood smoking technique—is well worth a visit.
3. The Owl & Pussycat: for a traditional Sunday Roast
If you are not familiar with a proper English Sunday roast, you’re seriously missing out. It’s—we’re going to say it in the most unbiased way possible—one of humanity’s greatest inventions. And there’s no better place to try it on Brick Lane than The Owl & Pussycat.
The Owl & Pussycat offers a great ambience—it is indeed animated and busy on Sundays, but fun and well worth the wait! The portions are filling, the meat is tasty and juicy, and roasted potatoes are cooked to perfection, all for a reasonable price. The staff even goes around offering extra Yorkshires and gravy, and if you ask us, that’s just the kind of attention we need in our lives.
Another great perk is that in the summer they open a sunny backyard perfect for dining out in the fresh air and sunlight. If you’re here in the colder months, there are billiards tables on the inside that serve as great entertainment.
4. F Cooke: for the archetypal English combo
F Cooke (150 Hoxton St.) is so iconic in London that it even earned a mention in the Financial Times.
This place is world famous and has not changed much in the last 100 years, still offering a totally authentic taste of the old East End with good food—namely pie and mash—and good service.
Widely known as the “original London fast food”, pie and mash are still among the favorite meals for proper English people of any age. A true comeback to the very basics, created with the simplest ingredients imaginable, a little bit of pie and a generous slab of mash are sometimes everything you need to make the day better.
The Cooke family has been serving pie and mash to Londoners since 1862, and recently it was announced that the restaurant may shut down due to the successor not being interested in keeping it. F Cooke is still open as of January 2020, so hurry up and try it while you can!
5. Poppie’s: for the most proper fish & chips
Poppie’s has this unmistakeable English vibe: a jukebox and a red telephone box are incorporated in the interior. However, despite this on-the-verge-of-being-over-the-top interior, it’s beloved by locals of all ages, as well as travelers.
The restaurant’s specialty is fish & chips, with tender, fresh-from-the-sea fish fillets lightly fried and seasoned with a touch of lemon and salt, and served with irresistible fries.
The menu also offers their fish grilled or fried, and you can choose between traditional cod, mackerel and haddock, and enjoy it along with a seafood platter. Also available for takeaway in cool retro newspaper wraps, these fish & chips are going to completely change your opinion on this English meal.
6. Popolo Shoreditch: for when you want to switch things up
Some days you want to jump in headfirst to explore the gastronomic side of culture, but others you are so overwhelmed that you just aren’t in for any more surprises.
If today doesn’t feel like a great day for eating traditional London foods, don’t worry—on Brick Lane, there are plenty of other offerings which won’t leave you hungry. We think everybody can relate to Italian cuisine being a safe bet for any occasion, and Popolo is yet another restaurant to add to your favorites list.
In this restaurant with a utilitarian, not-posh-at-all, industrial vibe, traditional Italian foods are served tapas style on smaller plates. Thanks to the open kitchen, you can look over at the chefs as they cook their well-made, familiar dishes. Whatever you’re craving, chef Jonathan Lawson (who trained at Theo Randall) has got you covered. Come have a relaxing meal (we recommend the pappardelle with hare ragú), enjoy a glass of Italian wine—and we promise that your day will all of sudden become much better.
7. Vegan Yes Shoreditch: Italian & Korean Fusion – for something completely different
If you’re so inspired by multicultural, funky Brick Lane that you fancy trying something unexpected and new, we’ve got just the place for you!
The only boring part about this restaurant is its name: “Vegan Yes Shoreditch” does absolutely not do justice to the spectacular experience you’re in for. Sure, you may have tried vegan food; of course, you have also tried Italian cuisine, and you may have even tried Korean meals… But have you ever tried it all at once, all on one plate? We think not.
In this relaxed but eclectic restaurant with a cafe-like feel, you’re in for a full culinary adventure at an affordable price. Try the traditional recipes with a fun twist to them, such as kimchi and pasta combined together in a perfectly balanced dish, and finish off with ridiculously good dark chocolate mochis.
If you’re still not convinced, everything in this restaurant is homemade and organic! Vegan Yes Shoreditch also offers various organic wines and beers to go with your meal, so how can it really get any better?Want our insider’s guide to eating in London? Just add your email address in the form below!
Maria is a Master of Food Science, an avid traveler and a passionate foodie. Some of her favorite things include cats, Sauvignon Blanc and skiing. Living in London made her a real connoisseur of Earl Grey tea, scones with clotted cream & preserves, and Paddington Bear routes. Her most beloved part of London is Covent Garden, especially Neal’s Yard.