You're out and about around the City and Shoreditch, it’s lunchtime and your stomach is waiting to be filled. You see lots of chains... but you want to avoid all this. You came to London to taste, not just to eat. You want to know where all the City workers' favourite hidden lunch spots are for a quick bite, for a longer Friday lunch, and which local eateries will deliver to you if it's raining! So here are a few insider recommendations for the best off the beaten path lunch spots in East London from a former City worker.
Bank to St Paul's
For the best Vietnamese Pho in town, head to City Càphê. You’ll see a queue leading up to the small eatery, but don’t be turned off by this. The queue moves pretty rapidly as speed is the name of the game. There’s usually little space inside, and so if it’s good weather take your pot of healthiness to a nearby square to slurp up the glass noodles and flavoursome clear soup with garnish. The summer rolls are recommendable too.
Photo credit: broadgate.com - HOP
Another alternative noodle venue is the small ramen chain Tsuru on Queen Street. They do other Japanese fare in the form of sushi and katsu bentos, but the chilli chicken ramen in a pot is perfect for a filling bowl before you head to your next stop. They also have a second store behind Liverpool Street station.
Photo credit: pintrest.com
Not fancying noodles and want something a bit more substantial? Head to Porterford Butchers for traditional roasted English sausages (an array of different types at hand), chicken wings or thighs, or other roast meats. And don’t forget to add a good portion of the best roast potatoes in town. For dessert, drop in to Euphorium Bakery and pick up a slice of chocolate tart or a delicate pastry.
If you have a longer period for lunch, Le Relais de Venise L'Entrecote (opposite Euphorium) does decent steak frites for a reasonable price. Eavesdrop on the latest currency and commodity trades or that non-discrete headhunter chat. A fancier, more for ambience filled venue is the Grand Cafe inside The Royal Exchange next to Bank station. The colonnaded atrium is worth a visit in itself, and you can sit on the ground or first floor to absorb the atmosphere and watch the passers-by.
Barbican - Moorgate
The Barbican is a splendid venue for performances and exhibitions. A little drab upon first sight, they also have an indoor garden which you may choose to have a walk in after a spot of lunch in the Barbican Kitchen. Go to Bad Egg for all day brunch and cooked eggs (surprise, surprise) in all sorts of flavours from around the world. After a filling lunch head to Notes; this spot is supposedly City workers’ favourite coffee. It admittedly serves good caffeine kicks to wake you up for the afternoon.
Photo credit: badegg.london - Bad Egg
There are far too many burger options in town lately, but one of the best I’ve come across is Patty and Bun, outside one of the main exits for Liverpool Street station. Only head there if you have at least an hour though, as the queue is slow-moving (service is also slow for Deliveroo). If you prefer a quicker service and you’re still gunning for a burger head to Byron instead off Spitalfields Market (a bigger but decent chain nearby).
Photo credit: pattyandbun.co.uk - Patty and Bun
For a classier joint for Middle-Eastern fare head to Kenza. Red velvety cushions and moroccan lamps fill the slightly hidden venue in Devonshire Square. Don’t have much time to sit down for an hour but fancy some falafels? Head to Pilpel off Spitalfields Market (there’s also a branch near St. Paul’s). The queues may be long but they move quickly, and you’ll get A LOT of falafels in one bowl and the salads are varied and scrumptious.
Photo credit: ekachai.co.uk
You may have noticed that in the West End there are several arcades with boutique stores. There are also interesting arcades to walk through in the City, including The Arcade opposite Liverpool Street station and Leadenhall Market further south. In The Arcade, head to Ekachai for South East Asian plates, and spot the small queue developing outside this Thai eatery serving salads and bowls of authentic Thai flavours to eat in or take away.
Photo credit: thelondonist.com
For the best dim sum in the area, head to Yauatcha in Broadgate Circle. They have macaroons and mini-cakes also for those who want to have a little dessert after their meal (or to take away). Fancy something sweet but not feeling like patisserie? Head to HOP Vietnamese for their mango and coconut milk and rice pots to take away (there is also a shop near Bank), and eat in the square or at Broadgate Circle. Otherwise head to Konditor & Cook in Spitalfields Square for a slice of great British cake (the carrot cake and Victoria sponge are favourites) or purchase mini-cakes and brownies to take away for tea.
For a really authentic and cheap Thai curry lunchbox, head east to Mama Thai. For Viet grills, dry noodles and curries head to Cây Tre. Carnivores should head to MEATmission which is also an increasingly popular hipster place. Not recommended for vegetarians as you’ll met with the smell of roasting meat as soon as you walk through the door.
Photo credit: culturewhisper.com - DF / Mexico
Fancy something British? Head to Sutton & Sons in Boxpark for fish and chips. Or if you prefer chicken, the best fried chicken in town is at the stand of Mother Clucker. They are closed on certain days so try to find out in advance before feeling disappointed. Otherwise you can head to DF / Mexico., the locals’ name for Mexico City, for authentic comida mexicana (Mexican food) and drinks including Jugo de Jamaica or Horchata (hibiscus or cinnamon juices).
Photo credit: londontown.com - Bel-Air
Or to keep things light, healthy and to get you dreaming of California, head to Bel-Air for fresh salads to choose from big sharing bowls, smoothies and drinks. You can always head to Brick Lane for the most famous salted beef and bagels in town, but if you’re based slightly north of the City, then an alternative sit-down option is Lower East Side Deli.
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