Eating the East End of London

I always know American friends haven't visited London, or haven't been there in decades, when they regale me with their hysterical tales of  culinary misadventures in England, the awful, dull boiled food they remember or heard about from years gone by. 

Of course they're painfully out of date and there's lots of great food in London, thankfully a lot of it in the East End near where we were staying. I care about food but I'm not  an obsessed foodie, I'm more likely to bore you talking about a small house museum than the details of the latest micro greens. But on the other hand poor D. has become accustomed to me handing him the phone and asking him to take a picture before he digs into his dinner! Awful, I know but how do you think I get these photos?

We went to lots of great places but didn't worry too much about hitting all the hot new tables. Here's my list of places we enjoyed and would recommend. 

Perhaps our favorite find on the last trip was the wonderful Bombay brasserie Dishoom. There are several branches in London, including one in the new development north of Kings Cross and another in Covent Garden. But it's only the Spitalfields branch that makes the incredible Lamb Raan dish; truly worth traveling to the East End to sample. As you can see below, we enjoyed the food so much I forgot to take a picture until after we'd started eating!
The interior of Dishoom is charming and very atmospheric, tile floors, wooden tables and interesting cocktails. They don't take reservations after 6 pm and can be very tedious to wait in line so I suggest it for an early dinner or a late lunch. The fried okra (above) is fabulous and I love the Dal Makhani too. This is somewhere we enjoyed returning too and took other people.
Brawn on the Colombia Road is evidence that the Bethnal Green has changed considerably. It's a wonderful place and I recommend it highly. It's a restaurant that reminds me very much of Alice Water's Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The food is fresh, seasonal and has a simplicity that shows a dedication to flavor over style alone. 
The decor is "Brooklyn Organic Modern", you know what I mean; lots of hewn wood,  hip posters, blown glass lighting and mid century seating. It's hip and comfortable and the service is friendly and unpretentious. These people are serious about their food. Sometimes the pairings are surprising, white asparagus with clams for example, but each dish was a delicious, parred down and interesting in terms of flavor and construction. Well worth going out of your way.
The Corner Room in the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green is another  simple, modern, seasonally based place.  It's not a large space so it's best to make reservations but we had a couple of excellent meals here. The dishes (see below) included interesting combinations of flavors and a good range of textures to create something a little subtle and surprising. We intended to go back to try their downstairs restaurant  The Typepad, which features a tasting menu but we ran out of time.

Breakfast" If you're looking to see something of the old East End you can't do better than E Pellicci a fantastic old cafe on  the Bethnal Green Road. This is the place to come for a fry up, otherwise known as full British breakfast. If you're looking for "local colour" there are some real characters here, including the family who own it and switch from broad Cockney accents into Italian when they call back to their mother in the small kitchen. The whole place is listed as of  architectural interest for the plywood Art Deco interior. Opened by the same family since 1900 it's unlike anywhere else.

Beigel Bake This 24 hour a day Beigel shop is a local institution and you should expect a queue. Located on the ever changing Brick Lane it  reminds us that before this was a Bangladeshi neighborhood, it was the heart of the Jewish immigrant East End.I loved their Beigels but D. (a New Yorker) found them somewhat lacking. The queue moves quickly but's you'll want to know what you're having as they tend to bark at you. Everything is cheap and you might like to try their salt beef.I love the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel which makes a cheap breakfast at 2:40.  if you want to buy just the bagels you may have to come after 5pm, at 25p each they're a bargain

Duck and Waffle  This is somewhere entirely different in the breakfast stakes but worth considering nonetheless. I blogged about breakfast with a view here.

There are still lots more places to talk about including the incomparable Ottolenghi featured in the top photo. 

For more see my next blog post Eating in the East End of London - Part Two. 
Where do you like to eat in the East End?