Czech beers, Bloody Marys, live jazz and padrón peppers, East London’s gastronomic scene is more vibrant than ever. Digital Editor, Millie Walton picks some of her favourite spots for drinking and dining in the city’s hottest neighbourhoods
Discount Suit Company
This low-key little bar hides in the basement of an old suit tailor’s storeroom (hence the name), five minutes walk from Liverpool Street station so not so far off the beaten track that you start clutching your pockets, but still safely removed from the groups of city slickers swarming into every pub in sight come 5.30. Discount Suit Company attracts a genuinely cool crowd, the type who look like they’ve recently raided a thrift shop, matching the bar’s own ramshackle interiors and Motown soundtrack. The cocktail menu is impressive, but the bar tenders will also happily whip up something bespoke to suit your mood. There’s no kitchen as such, though you can order olives or a cheese platter courtesy of Neal’s Yard.
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Everything about Lounge Bohemia is cool. Firstly, there’s absolutely no way you’ll get in without an appointment, arranged in advance via text. Then there’s finding the unmarked door and being approved for entrance (there’s a very rigid no suits policy). It can be a little intimidating to say the least, but inside the atmosphere is relaxed and causal. Water is served in caravan style plastic jug and cups, whilst the menus are hidden in volumes of classic Czech literature, pages of which are also plastered over the walls. There’s a large selection of Czech beers on offer as well as shots served in test tubes and cocktails paired with tiny spoonfuls of canapés designed to enhance each alcohol’s flavour.
Old Street’s once secret, underground watering hole is fast gaining reputation for London’s best cocktails. The menu is mind blowing with page after page of classic and experimental alcoholic concoctions divided into three historic periods and the bar’s signatures. Order something at random and it’s guaranteed to stun purely for its creative presentation. Hug a Wild Cat (a delicious mixture of tequila, juices and jam), for example, is served in a Peruvian puzzle jug. The bar’s interiors invoke a sense of old school glamour as does the almost nightly live performances of jazz. It’s about as close as you’ll get to Fitzgeraldian decadence without a time machine.
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Black Pig with White Pearls
This unassuming tapas bar started out life as a one-off pop-up before planting permanent roots in the increasingly trendy Stoke Newington neighbourhood. The menu specialises in Iberican ham sourced from farmers in Spain and served in generous portions on wooden boards, though there are also great seafood and vegetarian options for the less meaty minded, particularly the sauce drenched octopus and the classic favourite, padrón peppers. Partners and co-founders, David and Melvin are always welcoming and eager to recommend.
The brainchild of talented trio chef Stevie Parle (Petersham Nurseries), Jonathan Downey (Street Vin Wine) and Ruth Spivey (Rotary bar and diner pop up) is a hugely welcome addition to the heaving Kingsland Road. Not only can you actually hear yourself talk (a rarity in these parts), but you can also relax in an elegant environment with hearty servings of really great Italian food and wine. The delicately flavoured gnocchi is undoubtedly the highlight of the menu, complimented by a chilli watermelon salad that freshens up the typically heavier dish. It attracts a more mature crowd to most of the usual Dalston haunts without feeling too pretentious or Mayfair smart.
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The more informal of Andaz Hotel’s five drinking and dining spots has become a weekend brunch favourite amongst hungover hipsters. Partly due to it’s inventive menu, which includes the Spitalditch Benedict (bbq pulled pork, Sriracha hot sauce, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce) alongside more timid options like bircher muesli and homemade granola, but mainly because of it’s DIY Bloody Mary bar. With bottles and bottles of infused vodkas, spicy sauces, juices and various pickled vegetables, it’s overwhelming even to the less blurry-eyed visitors. Thankfully there’s usually someone nearby to offer gentle advice without robbing you the satisfaction of ‘inventing’ your own bloody concoction.