If you've got the midday munchies and your belly is grumbling for some brain food after a hard morning's work, Containerville's locale is rife with gastronomy. While each neighbourhood outlet brings a different part of the world to the table, there's an East End spirit that all the establishments here share; to be creative, healthy, independent and conscientious of the environment (post pig-out slumps may still occur). Whether it's a market stall or sourdough bakery you're feeling this lunch time, or maybe a vegan café or a posh restaurant for that after work date; this area is just too goddam tasty not to dip into:
Buen Ayre (Broadway Market)
From Hackney to Buenos Aires, number 50 Broadway Market transports its patrons to the undisputed land of steak, Argentina.
As the eldest son of his parents, chef John Patrick Rattagan was his family’s chief BBQer. From the age of ten, he'd fire up the ‘asado’ every Sunday to sear delicious slabs of meat and luckily for us Londoners, never grew out of it. Across the Atlantic and thirty years on, 2004 saw John open up an Argentinian charcoal grill in the centre of Broadway Market, the first of its kind in the UK.
The steaming kitchen produces traditional Latin American mains that are executed with native mastery, such as sliced marinated ox tongue and juicy grilled sirloin, along with vegetarian options for the less protein-prone. Buen Ayre remains true to its indigenous cuisine till the end; afters include classics such as almond tart, Argentinian liquors and dessert wines; a sweet end to a cultivated sit down meal.
The Gamby Shack (Netil Market)
The display of bric-a-brac to the left and piles of old records to the right could easily trick passers-by into thinking there's a yard sale on in this shack. They'd be right, but the laid back salesman in the middle of the miscellany, complete with garlic garlands hanging behind him and a rastacap on his head, is a mean cook.
As his hand slips into a prep glove, his story comes to life. In the backdrop, speakers blare out swinging beats. Grinding hot red and deep brown spices into a fragrant paste for marinating of red meat, chicken or fish, he explains “With all this mixing, I’m trying to create one world, one love, one heart” - you can feel the good vibrations. In fact, at The Gamby Shack, you can even taste them.
This is a Gambian canteen with a heavy leaning towards fusion. There is a printed menu but the offerings are often improvised, with £5 getting you a huge portion of food that you’re guaranteed to eat to the bone thanks to co-owner Lamin Ceesay's mind-blowing flavourings borrowed from Africa, the Caribbean and even the Orient.
Bistrotheque (Wadeson Street)
A restaurant that is set in a minimalist refitted warehouse with grand lofty ceilings; the sense of height reflects the height of fine dining on offer at Bistrotheque. The beautifully converted garment factory is hidden within rows of industrial depots, the entrance earmarked only by the glittering of fairy lights. And the menu is just as discreet, detailing unpretentious dishes influenced by French gastronomy and British fare.
A little too much of a treat for just a midweek lunchtime stopover, Bistrotheque enjoys a roaring trade in the evenings and on weekends. During Saturday and Sunday hours, brunch is made a very big deal of with the likes of pancakes, steak tartare and pear and Stichelton salad, while dinner calls for Dorset crab with chicory and grapefruit or roast chicken with garlic and wild rocket. These delightfully reworked culinary classics are accompanied by an always buzzing atmosphere, as well as the tinkling of the baby grand piano courtesy of resident musician Xavior.
While a private 100-seat dining room rests below the floorboards, the sweeping ground floor space not only caters for Bistrotheque’s a la carte eatery but is also home to a Central American ‘Manchichi’ wood bar, which comes with its own menu and drinks list: think oysters and charcuterie washed down with cocktails. Whatever the occasion, this East End gem is sure to be an impressive but understated option.
Shrimpy (Schoolyard Market)
Arousing the nostrils with smells of the sea from the minute you enter the Schoolyard Market, Shrimpy takes the omega3 out of the ocean and puts in your plate in the form of grilled trout (the fish option is seasonal), mussels or – you guessed it - shrimp.
Your chosen seafood is blazed into smoky yumminess and tucked neatly into a brioche bun embedded with cucumber salad, creamy mayo and marsh samphire; ensuring this is one classy butty. Thanks to the versatile flavours and tender texture, Shrimpy’s is often apologising to lunchtime latecomers for running out of supplies – so get swimming.
E5 Bakehouse (London Fields Arches)
Occasionally, East Londoners might have the pleasure of seeing a bike trailer rolling around town to deliver fresh bread to locals and stockists. Relocated to under the railway arches near London Fields, the E5 Bakehouse is keeping old school traditions alive wherever it goes - expect to find a huge range of handmade sour dough breads in various shapes and sizes when you walk through onto the flour dusted wood floor. Bread is serious business here, made only with the finest organic produce.
Head baker Eyal Schwartz originally joined the kitchen crew as a disillusioned neuroscientist from Jerusalem looking for a hobby in his new hometown - he’s now helped make E5 one of the most adored gourmet bakeries in London. “Somewhere in the 60s a method to make industrial bread was developed and now 80% of all the bread in the UK is made in an industrial way, which creates a non-healthy, no-inspiring bread. I think now I've landed in the middle of this shift to 'where did the good bread disappear to?”
As well as rustic loaves exploding with savoury flavours (there’s everything from pumpkin and sunflower seed rye to rosemary and thyme infused feta, red onion and olive focaccia), there’s also a mouth-watering range of hand-baked cakes, cookies and tarts to tempt customers to the sweet side. Coffee is of course on the menu as well; the perfect accompaniment to a simple slice of top quality bread with a touch of locally-made jam conserve. Yum.
Henry and Pat’s Pizza Place (Netil Market)
Not forgetting the coal-fired creations that slide off the furnace paddle, the service at Netil Market’s new stone baked pizza joint is a major part of its authentic homely character. Run by two of the sunniest blokes in town, Henry and Pat have literally built the place up from scratch – erecting a square timber frame around a masonry oven to craft a simple open view kitchen downstairs, and placing an identical cubicle right on top of it to magic some alfresco seating upstairs.
The cute layout, rustic surfaces and chilled out vibe make this a summer experience that can’t be missed. Browned to toasty perfection, the plate sized artisanal open-pies are topped with ingredients sourced from the homeland that is Italia, with a selection of beers to wash away the crumbs.
However, if it’s fresh pasta you’re craving, check out La Tua stall at Broadway Market on Saturdays, or enjoy a sit-down meal in a more traditional setting on any day of the week at Franco Manca.
Deeny's Scottish Flavour (Broadway Market)
Deeney’s may only have been born to Scotswoman Carol two years ago, but the menu shows maturity beyond its years. Regional meats, cheeses and broths, as well as the national dish of spice infused haggis, are combined with the classic toastie; street food that takes the taste buds on an epic trip to Scotland and back.
Special of the century goes to The Macbeth, which takes a hearty amount of the perfectly-seasoned, melt-in-your-gob haggis and sandwiches it with molten cheddar, caramalised onions, mustard and rocket to create heaven in a mouthful.
G&T London (broadway Market)
Beyond the crates of farm-fresh produce at the entrance, lies G&T: an organic shop, vegan cafe and cosy tea house answering all the eco-friendly needs of its green customers. Once inside, your eyes will peruse ladder shelves full of biodynamic groceries like Suma rice, Yogi teas, Geo’s stew-in-a-tin and Alara cereals – but your nostrils will undoubtedly drag you nose first towards the good food and hot drinks counter.
Cooked breakfasts, miso soup and a range of freshly squeezed juices get the belly rumbling in the mornings. At lunch, expect scrumptious vegan options ranging from falafel and pasta bolognese to salads and seitan/scrambled tofu sandwiches. To finish off, there’s a decadent range of lacto-vegetarian cakes from increasingly famous Manna Bakery, like the apricot and walnut brownies which are best enjoyed with a creamy soy latte. Carefully selected from Union’s organic and fair-trade range, the coffee beans spread a golden aroma of wholesomeness across the premises once roasted.
Indeed, a feel-good joint with the respectable ethos of supporting sustainable agriculture, responsible business practices and the promotion of small independent producers; G&T proffers guilt-free indulgence made by a chef who definitely understands what tasty means, served with a smile by friendly staff that make this one to return to.
Mr Musubi (Schoolyard Market)
Bringing a taste of Japan to London Fields’ Schoolyard Market, the Mr Musubi stall plates up fresh iterations of a traditional snack - known to the East Asian island nation as Onigiri or more popularly, Musubi.
Served in a cute set of two with a dipping sauce, the savour-packed triangles are made by hand-moulding sticky rice together with a variety of authentic fillings and limited edition flavour inventions. Creative ingredient combos are not the only twist; co-owners, Tet Ogino and Mike Tsang, put their own signature on the native delicacy by first glazing and then flame-searing using a torch. Once finished off in fashion, they are coated in sesame seeds and wrapped in dried seaweed (Nori) for easy mess-free gobbling.