Check out the varied and lively bars of Shoreditch – from live music at Big Chill Bar and the amazing view at Boundary Rooftop to the whimsical charm of Callooh Callay. This being Shoreditch, expect classic cocktails, craft beer and hipster stylings throughout. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions. And don't forget to visit our guides to Shoreditch pubs and clubs.
Neil Rankin has now joined the Princess of Shoreditch and the menu has since changed. The review below refers to the previous menu. - The Food and Drink Editors, July 2014 Up the spiral staircase from the bustling downstairs bar, the dining room at this 250-year-old corner premises is a good-looking, cosy space. A dozen linen-clothed tables – candlelit at night – are served by a small team of young, efficient staff. Choosing from a menu that included wild boar scotch egg, Chart Farm fallow deer and a host of seasonal goodies wasn’t easy, but the kitchen more than fulfilled its remit. Rich ham hock, foie gras and pork knuckle terrine benefited from tangy piccalilli, and sour goat’s cheese was a lovely foil for the sweetness of roasted red and yellow heritage beetroot. Mains of beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce, and Cornish brill with pea purée and black pudding were done to a T; the last ingredient slightly overpowered the purée, but it’s a minor quibble. Simple but effective afters might be chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream, or an artisan cheese sold by the slice – the Lancashire ‘strong bomb’ is sensational. There’s a choice of wine by the glass and carafe, as well a wide range of bottles (including five rosés), which goes for interesting tastes over establishment favourites and is aware of current trends: the wine of the month when we last visited was from the Lebanon. There are also local beers, such as Wandle Ale from Sambrook’s in BRead more
Venue says: Beer lovers rejoice - @LDNBeerWeek is here! All of our real ales are £3 for wristband wearers. http://www.londonbeerweek.com/beer-tours
Strongroom Bar & Kitchen has been a Shoreditch fixture for nearly 20 years, which makes it a real veteran of the ever-changing scene in that popular area. The venue is home to the Strongroom recording studios, a free late-night music venue, and a restaurant serving food from breakfast onwards. Breakfast is served until 11.30am and includes some sandwiches (such as smoked bacon with baby gem, vine tomatoes and chilli mayo on farmhouse bread) alongside egg dishes and cereal. Char-grilled burgers dominate the main menu, with a variety of toppings and accompaniments, and there are sharing plates and small dishes as well. The extensive beer lays heavy emphasis on microbreweries both home-grown and international. Check their website for details of live music and DJ nights.Read more
Designer Claudio Silvestrin’s showcase modernist restaurant is highly memorable, though not perhaps entirely as intended. At peak times, noise in the glass, porphyry and limestone interior can be overwhelming, and staff have to dance round the large white leather and chrome chairs to catch anything softer than a bellow. The food, however, is often sublime, carefully sourced and skilfully prepared. Beef tagliata was a beautiful construct atop a marrow bone pillar, and its magliocco sauce a pure essence of beefiness. Tagliatelle with wild mushrooms and truffle appeared artless by contrast, but once again the flavours were resonant, yet subtle. Chard and soft cheese tortelli with toasted hazelnuts was a perfect marriage of flavour and textural contrasts. These creations come at City expense-account prices, so any disappointment is irksome – a crab and asparagus starter, while delightfully fresh, was scant and not shell-free. Then again, the set menu with its verdant soup and palate-teasing liquorice zabaglione seemed a bargain. Wines run the gamut from cheery glassful to splash-out showcase, and staff serve even the most modest orders with grace and flair. A special request produced the proud claim: ‘We are Italian, we can do anything.’ Except, perhaps, soften the acoustics.Read more
The menu is housed in an empty cassette case, the toilet is hidden behind a secret door in the wall and the cocktails have such cringe-o names as 'Ume? Yes You' and 'Fennel Countdown'. Sure, Callooh Callay sounds gimmicky, but the tipples at this long-established Shoreditch bar are the real deal. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable (no moody, 'I'm actually in a band’ hipsters serve here) and mix delectable elixirs like vodka and rhubarb with vanilla shrub and whisky with apricot jam and chocolate bitters (just ignore the names). The exposed brick walls, Milk Tray-coloured soft furnishings and abundance of tealights make Callooh Callay a very cosy spot to sit. Neither trashy nor pretentious, the vibe here is fun but still stylish, and, unlike in neighbouring bars, you won't be surrounded by swarms of obnoxious suits or stag-dos.Read more
Collective nouns are great, aren’t they? A mischief of mice, a murder of crows and, my personal favourite, a spaghetti of worms. A clutch can refer to many things, but it’s often a group of female chickens (not to be confused with a hen party). And it’s a fitting name for this hip East End newbie, given that – to paraphrase Henry Ford – you can have any dish, as long as it’s chicken. Not that this is any ordinary fowl, oh no: every piece comes slathered in one of six full-on marinades. Our ‘half bucket’ (thigh, drumstick and breast) arrived in a sticky slick of garlic and sweet soy; a dozen wings came in a sour and spicy sauce suspiciously similar to sriracha (a Thai chilli sauce found in Asian supermarkets). And because Clutch uses free-range poultry, each limb is firm and succulent (no bingo wings here). Portions are enormous; there are sides, such as double-cooked fries and a few salads, but you won’t need ’em. This is not refined or subtle cooking, it’s the kind that goes brilliantly with a beverage or three – there’s drinking until 1am at weekends. Tricked out in monochrome, it’s a highly stylised space, all diagonal floor stripes, stark walls and ultra-low lighting – even the communal tables are mirrored. If the decor sounds a little austere, don’t worry: on our visit, the lively Irish owners (two thirtysomething cousins plus a few siblings) were jigging along to loud, retro tunes. There isn’t a collective noun for dancing Dubliners, but there should be.Read more
Venue says: 'The Colour of Money' exhibition in collaboration with Silver Odyssey, featuring new works by Dijon Hierlehy and Ben Cooper - 5th March.
There's more to this Curtain Road bar and lounge than carefully crafted cocktails, DJs playing a bit of funky house and the odd visit from stars of stage and screen - though they all play their part, of course. Much of the appeal comes from its eccentric decor, with antiques, artefacts and Victoriana alongside mismatched furniture, lego tables, grand pianos, cake stands, gold busts and Betty Boop on a motorbike. Most, though, head down for the mixology classes, the cocktails and the live music, or for a look around a gallery playing temporary home to some big artistic hitters on occasion - including Grace Jones. The selection of cocktails ranges from classics drops to signature concoctions - the latter usually boasting a pretty creative bent. Feel free to ask them to knock something bespoke up for you if you wish though, they're good enough to know what they're up to. Make sure you keep an eye out for special events, too.Read more
Venue says: Plugged in Switched On: our famous open mic night is back next Tuesday! Sign up at pluggedinswitchedon.com to book your performance slot.
Café 1001 forms part of a pedestrianised eating and shopping strip that recalls nothing so much as Friday afternoon at the Glastonbury Festival, as food stalls and barbecue grills compete for attention with record stores (Rough Trade’s expansive shop) and watering holes (the Big Chill Bar is at the opposite end of the stretch). The entrance to the café welcomes a friendly bohemian crowd who gather to check emails by day, then glug lager and catch a DJ after dark. Most take their cans in with them, climbing the short staircase to a loungey area (not unlike a glorified sixth-form common room) and a music space at the back. There are other drinks, among them standard cocktails (£6.50-£7) and top-notch fresh juices. Food involves salads, soups, burgers, bagels and own-made cakes, served from early morning until late at night.Read more
Venue says: Fifteen London is Jamie Oliver’s restaurant and bar located near Old Street roundabout, serving up a daily-changing menu of modern, British dishes created by Head Chef Jon Rotheram and his team of apprentices. Fifteen promises to deliver an unforgettable fine dining experience, whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering, or a feast for a hundred people. The bar at Fifteen, now recognised on London's Gin Map, serves some of the finest gin-based cocktails around, as well as a wide range of craft beers and carefully selected wines. It’s an ideal spot for an evening out with friends, work colleagues and clients. Set up in 2002, the restaurant prides itself on social enterprise, training apprentices in the kitchen and helping them to further their career in the culinary world.
Jamie Oliver’s original Fifteen has rebranded itself as British under St John-alumnus chef Jon Rotherham, though its not-for-profit ethos – training disadvantaged apprentices in the culinary arts – remains constant. There’s no longer a restaurant/trattoria divide over the two floors (street level and basement) and the menu is now mainly small plates, with a few mains. What hasn’t changed is the approach: fine ingredients, treated without fuss, to be enjoyed. On a recent visit, good stuff started with breads (carrying a £4 price tag), served with ‘farmhouse butter’ and ‘chicken butter’, the latter a rustic, meaty melding of chicken fat and chicken morsels into the butter. Spare presentation and a retro feel came with devilled egg and smoked anchovy: lovely brown, salty mayonnaise piped into the halved hard-boiled eggs, joined by halved radishes (leaves and all). A summer salad, with many unusual leaves, had a rather salty dressing, while cuttlefish, courgette and herb vinaigrette was a perfect combination. A faultless main course followed: grilled salmon with baby beets and crème fraîche. Fellow diners were tucking into the hallmark roast chicken for two with gusto. To finish, lemon meringue pie packed a vibrantly lemony punch. Great food. Our only criticism? It was impossible to enter the disabled toilet without one of our party rising from the table.Read more
Venue says: Easter weekend celebrations! Book your table now! Call 020 7842 8516 or book online at www.the3crowns.co.uk
The Old Street area used to be a case study in bad urban planning. After the Luftwaffe had lain waste upon random buildings, dual carriageways were whacked on top; residents moved out, and small businesses died. It’s a wonder the Three Crowns survived at all, dwarfed as it is by brutal modernist buildings on all sides. A green-tiled exterior still reads ‘Barclays Stout and Ales’, but even as the pub was reopening in May, the building’s landlord was chipping this century-old facade off. A new generation of pub enthusiasts are reclaiming this corner site as their own though. The new owners have their priorities right: a big bar at the front, a good selection of craft beers, lots of appealing bar snacks, and quieter tables further back at the ‘smart end’ if you want a full meal. Beers rotate but Meantime brews are a constant, including its Yakima Red, an amber ale. On our visit, ‘guests’ included Hackney Brewery Best, and Wells Eagle IPA. The bar was rammed with edge-of-City entrepreneurs, well-groomed and studiedly cool, in contrast to the diverse hairstyles and body art of the chefs working in the open kitchen. Salted duck was cut into clean slivers, the sharply pickled endive and watercress cutting the fat. Cod had been crisped on the skin side, but once sat on a watery stock of artichoke hearts and potato, the fish quickly went soggy; the garlic in a well-made aioli rescued the dish. Blood oranges topping a meringue had been cooked down so that what remained was mostly wRead more
Make like Bugs Bunny and eat your carrots before descending the stairs to Worship Street Whistling Shop: it’s so dark you can barely see your feet. But the descent is worth the danger. You enter an equally dim room with the full complement of faux-speakeasy decorations. There are various seating options, some offering so much shadowy seclusion that you could conceive or even give birth to a child and no one would notice. The drinks here have always been right out there, both in conception and presentation. But even when they sound wacky, they have a tendency to taste great. Despite looking a little tired in places (a rumpled, stained drinks menu, for instance), this place is still cooking.Read more
Once under the rule of East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray (and apparently run by their old mum), the Carpenter’s Arms is now a friendly local. Middle-aged men with loosened ties drink alongside trendy fellas in Breton stripes and girls in retro dresses. That doesn’t mean the place has lost its heritage though. The decor is traditional: wooden panelling meets a cream paint job. A painting of the bad-boys-with-hearts-of-gold sits on the wall at the back-end of the pub, and two huge chalkboards list the place’s extensive beer selection. There are 55 bottled beers and 10 draughts available, sourced both locally and from across the globe. There are also around a dozen wines and small menu of classic British pub fare. On a weeknight, it’s busy enough to enjoy a drink in a buzzy atmosphere, but quiet enough to bag a bar stool or table within 15 minutes.Read more
The premises vacated by Mason & Taylor are now home to the second branch of the Aberdeenshire brewery of the same name, after the original in Camden. You can buy Brewdog beers in Tesco and Asda now, and it has bars in almost every major British city, but it still somehow maintains independence and an air of rebelliousness. Brewdog Shoreditch looks bit like a foundry (bare lights, bits of iron, moulded aggregate). It's not as sterile as it sounds, and there are wooden booths for a bit of privacy from the crowds. As with Camden, it’s often rammed with hopheads male and female – it's all about the craft beers here. There isn't a single sop for Carling or Krony lovers in sight. Everything on offer is a celebration of the endless drinking possibilities that arise when malt, water, yeast and hops come into contact, from the dark and spicy Alice Porter to the sharp and fruity Raspberry Revolver. The most popular brew, Punk IPA, has enough hops packed into it to dispel all memories of any brackish brown beer you might have tried and hated. Average beer strength must be about 6.5 per cent, and none of it's cheap, so best stick to half-pints. Brewdog Camden sells good pizzas and burgers; here it’s 'Japanese street food'. In a Scottish brewery's craft beer bar in London. Why this is so isn't clear. But it's not bad – a ‘gyudon roll’ was stuffed with slow-cooked, salty sweet beef, and ‘katsu skewers’ were deep-fried morsels of lotus root and okra on sticks with dipping sauce. I'm not sRead more
The two London Rivingtons could be called the mid-market arm of the very smart Caprice Holdings group (Le Caprice, The Ivy, J Sheekey), although prices still aren’t cheap. The dining space at the original is calm and white, with crisp linen and enough of both formality and trendiness to gratify different audiences. Contemporary art such as a Tracey Emin light sculpture add a splash of Shoreditch cool. Menus follow the distinctively British style set by Mark Hix, chef-supremo of Caprice group when the Rivington opened, using fresh, seasonal British ingredients from sustainable sources. The wine list offers an excellent choice by the glass or carafe. Which is all to the good, but the cooking for our Sunday lunch was pleasant without offering any kind of zip. Queenie scallops with garlic butter had mellow flavour, but hadn’t been cleaned properly; strathdon blue cheese and chicory salad, and Sunday roast rib of beef and yorkshire pud were decent yet anonymous. Fish and chips was somewhat better than you get in most gastropubs, though at twice the price. Since the Rivington opens early, there’s also a big choice of breakfast and brunch-style dishes. Perhaps these are what to go for.Read more
This Spitalfields steakhouse has wooed much of London since opening in 2006; word-of-blog has only served to create an even bigger buzz around the restaurant and its food. A case of the emperor’s new clothes? We think not. Hawksmoor’s USP is in supplying excellent produce cooked well, focusing on top-quality beef from renowned London butcher Ginger Pig. There’s a serious attitude to beef provenance and an impressive list of breeds; Longhorn is always available, but guest breeds range from Herefords to Lincoln Reds. The savvy staff do a terrific job of explaining the differences. Steaks are seared on Josper charcoal grills to crusty-outside, tender-inside perfection. The menu doesn’t stop at the bovine, with Tamworth pork ribs, crab and samphire salad, and lobsters all making an appearance. The luxe burger, studded with nuggets of bone marrow, might seem to be gilding the lily, but it’s certainly pretty good. For dessert, chocolate fudge sundaes and strawberry trifle are dependable options. Hawksmoor’s looks aren’t a forte (it occupies a mundane, low-ceilinged room behind a drab frontage), but owners Will Beckett and Huw Gott have long had dreams of expansion, and a new Covent Garden branch opened in 2010.Read more
This is still the star of the Kingsland Road Vietnamese scene. Big, light, airy, buzzy (if slightly resembling a school canteen), Song Que is constantly packed with happy customers including many families and a good showing of Vietnamese locals. There’s usually a warm welcome from one of the many staff, who deliver prompt, efficient and friendly service. Food is almost always first class and highly authentic – and good value. Flavours are full and true, and textures perfect, bringing the best out of each dish. Acolytes state that the kitchen makes the best pho in London, which is quite a claim, but the version served here is certainly excellent. Our assorted starters were excellent too, including a skilfully executed cross between a prawn toast and a banh mi: what seemed like a butterflied whole king prawn on a baguette slice beneath the minced prawn mixture – a real texture treat. We experienced just two minor negatives: not automatically getting a change of paper table covering, and having to troop across the room to the cash desk to pay by card. Still, it will be the excellent food that lingers in the memory.Read more
Venue says: Thursday is steak night at Mr Buckley's! £15 - 8oz onglet steak, bone marrow, fries and Camden Hells beer! #steaknight #hackney road
It’s just a bit too cool for school, the Hackney Road, where old pubs and corner shops shoulder up against wine boutiques and studios with blokes selling hand-whittled wooden spoons for six quid a throw. And then there’s Mr Buckley’s, a coolly understated two-level space serving high-concept, internationally influenced ‘small plates’ to the sort of well-dressed people who want to eat that sort of thing in east London. There’s nothing really wrong with any of this, but the food is hit and miss, the flavours so intensely concentrated that your taste buds can give up in confusion. We had the recommended three dishes per person. Only one dish – sweet and sticky jerk steak with smoked paprika and mango butter and sweet potato crisps – really delivered. Lobster mac and cheese, in theory a fun idea, just tasted odd and jarred with everything else – items such as ragstone goat’s cheese or asparagus and quail eggs, which by themselves might have been more pleasant to eat. Desserts were better for being one per person: notably, a moreish banana cake with peanut butter. Order carefully, or perhaps stick to the basement cocktail bar to get some of the hip local vibe.Read more
Sister to Clerkenwell’s Café Kick, good-natured Bar Kick is more expansive than its sibling. Most obviously, it’s spread over two floors. The bar at street level, the nicer of the two rooms, is a wide, lived-in space of retro continental allure with nearly a dozen table-football tables. As at Café Kick, drinks and snacks have a Latin flavour – Sagres, Super Bock and Estrella beers; grilled chorizo sandwiches; platters of Spanish cheeses, cured meats and olives; and even pan bagnats, baps stuffed with tuna, egg and tomato usually sold from vans around Provence. Entertainment stretches to poetry readings, stand-up comedy and speed-dating events.Read more
Hey, kids! With the aura of a chipper kids’ TV presenter, the Breakfast Club invites punters to wallow in an ersatz homage to an 1980s youth, with Roland Rat posters and the soundtrack of a ‘90s adolescence. Given that many of these now thirty-somethings have children of their own in tow, it seems odd to make them struggle by not providing a single high chair to cater to what must be a good chunk of the venue’s target demographic. Whatever, folks are willing to queue for the comfort food at weekends. A long list of brunch options runs from sweet – a moreish stack of french toast with cinnamon apples – to savoury, with a chorizo hash that makes you mop up every drop of paprika-inflected lard with your home fries. Burgers, burritos and baked potatoes round out the menu. It’s hearty and at times heart-stopping, though smoothies with waggish names such as the ‘Pommy Granny’ (pomegranate and berries) add a healthful note. The shabby chic crosses the line into needing some plasterwork in corners, and service was merely functional, but it’s a hit formula nonetheless for this mini-chain.Read more
Venue says: For more than 35 years we've been providing authentic Indian food to people around Brick Lane. We pride ourselves on friendly service, delicious curry and the best prices. We're also BYOB, and vegetarian friendly. There are daily specials, which are the choice of the chef. So next time you're in Shoreditch, venture one minute off Brick Lane and try Meraz.
Meraz Cafe is an east London stalwart - it's been serving Indian food from its location just off Brick Lane for more than 40 years. The menu features plenty of recognisable curry house dishes, including the likes of tandoori lamb chops, pakora, samosas and mixed grills alongside biryanis, chicken kormas, lamb shaslick, tandoori trout and ceena shathkora - a dish where beef on the bone is cooked with a citrus fruit native to Bangladesh. Keep an eye out for daily specials, too. There's no drinks license but diners are invited to bring their own bottles to drink at the table. Lassi options are also available.Read more
The original branch of Rosa’s (there are now three more) is located on a thoroughfare between Brick Lane and Spitalfields Market. It plays host to a vibrant young crowd of visiting tourists and local hipsters – you may even spot the odd pooch in a handbag. The dining room is clean and contemporary, with white-tiled walls, bevelled wood panelling and red stools at each of the small tables. The usual Thai repertoire is executed well: hot and sour tom yam soup was rich with lemongrass, tangy tomato and a generous amount of seafood. Of the recommended dishes, stir-fried slices of European aubergine were coated in a sweet, salty soya and yellow bean sauce, and laced with plenty of ginger and black pepper. In contrast, a salad of chargrilled beef strips in chilli dressing was lacklustre, with celery the prominent flavour. Rosa’s also does a roaring trade in takeaway coffee, made with Monmouth beans in a swish La Marzocco espresso machine. Service is mostly quick and efficient, but the coffee trade can hold it up on occasion. Drinks include Thai beer and whiskey, plus a handful of wines and east Asian teas.Read more