Hackney, Dalston, Bethnal Green. Heck, even Snaresbrook – east London has a lot up its sleeve when looking for somewhere to eat out.
Once a supper club, now a fully-fledged restaurant (and anything but squab), Pidgin has had critics in a fluster since 2015. And, on a relatively quiet road off Hackney’s main drag, it’s endeared itself to the locals too. To get the best idea of the kind of thing they’re serving, make your way over to their Instagram.
Though it’s named after cured pig fat, the folks at Lardo have become wary of meat farming in their old age, opting more and more for vegetables in their stead. They continue to work within the modern Italian blueprint they’re known for and charcuterie will always have its place on the menu.
Now fifteen years young, Bistroteque, based in an old clothing factory, is the best thing to come out of Bethnal Green since Patsy Palmer. The name may give you a clue, but though it appears a bit prim on the surface, dig a little deeper you’ll see they like to shake their hips. Expect dishes like steak tartare and salmon in miso broth, plus brunch at the weekends.
Actually more brain than otherwise, Brawn has been described as a ‘near perfect neighbourhood restaurant’. It’s where you’ll find rustic, comforting European cooking, and though it receives plenty of praise and attention, it’s happy quietly doing its own thing.
Verdi’s specialise in old-school rustic Italian food, via Stepney Green. As family-run restaurants often do, especially those operated by Italians, guests are treated like family. From rabbit pappardelle and beef carpaccio to wood-fired pizzas – the classics are all here.
During the first months of its opening, Bright was an essential stop for the food-curious, already famous for being the follow up to wine bar P. Franco. Since then, the heat’s died off a bit, but only to its benefit, mellowing out with locals and regulars keen on Bright’s short menu and good wine.
Snaresbrook has struck gold with this deli-restaurant serving Italian peasant food. Pig’s head bruschetta, pasta and risotto, and the bombetta itself: cuts of meat and cheese held together with cured meats. Try the original – pork with scamorza cheese and herbs, wrapped in pancetta.
Casa Fofo’s head chef (ex-Pidgin) brings a similar kind of modest progressive cooking as seen down the road. It’s tasting menu only, but this keeps the prices neighbour-friendly – £39 for seven courses, in this case.
Sushi, sashimi, and other delights – tempura, robata grilled skewers, et al – is one way to sum up Uchi. There aren’t many neighbourhoods with their own restaurant knocking out first-class Japanese food such as this. Hackney’s one of the few.
Hill & Szrok
Hill & Szrok is your friendly neighbourhood butcher… that also happens to be a restaurant. As any good butcher should, Hill & Szrok has a nose for the best of these shores – Fosse Meadows chicken, 14-year-old White Park beef, Middlewhite pork. This, of course, means the kitchen and restaurant is getting some of the most flavoursome and sustainable meat out there.
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This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.