It’s been almost six months since I left the rough but comforting arms of Shoreditch and changed jobs travelling to the never-ending turnover of Soho. One of my colleagues recently changed jobs and his new 9-5 role is in Shoreditch. The SAME road my last job was, no less. I felt a slight sadness as I remembered how much I loved working in the area and couldn’t wait to tell him where to eat lunch in Shoreditch. His leaving gift from me being a blog post especially for him – Nick Christian – sorry for the delay but below is for you.
Franco’s Sandwich Bar & Restaurant
67 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3DU
As far as a good homely cooked meal is concerned, you can’t go wrong with Franco’s Cafe, whether it’s breakfast or lunch. Their full English breakfast is amazing and great value. Proper cumberland sausages which you MUST have on your plate if you go. Eggs cooked any way you like. You’ll frequently be eating breakfast with the local builders who have long ago discovered how fantastic Franco’s food is. The staff are extremely friendly at this family run cafe. Louis can often be seen whistling hello’s at the ladies walking by. Louis and Ricardo used to frequently adorn my bacon sarnies with tomato ketchup heart shapes.
Franco’s Cafe has many lunchtime specials, all displayed stretched across the wall. My favourites are the “Vegie Special” – a Portuguese Fritatta served in a roll with a salad garnish. This is in my opinion an excellent hangover cure. All pasta dishes are great but I’m a particular fan of the “Vongole” which is baby clams in a light creamy sauce. The pasta you choose to have is up to you – spaghetti or penne are the options.
Finally if you fancy something sweet after lunch, DO takeaway one of their traditional portuguese custard tarts. Don’t be put off by the appearance, they are fantastic.
B.L.T (Big Loaded & Tasty) Deli
55 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PT
You simply can’t be bored of the food served at B.L.T. First and foremost – get your name on their mailing list by giving them your business card or scribbling it down and popping it in their box on the counter. They email their daily specials which consists of different wraps every day, special salads, a selection of hearty filling soups and their daily carvery servings. If all of the above sounds overwhelming and gives the impression that it would add inches to your waist – fear not, they also offer low fat wraps and soups.
Everything they serve is fantastic (I’m not exaggerating). The Mediterranean fish stew is a winner but my absolute favourite is the Jamaican Jerk Wrap. Rice, Jerk Chicken, Collard Greens, Yam, Salad – all in a wrap. So good.
If they have something on their menu you like, I advise ringing them to reserve because once it’s gone – it’s gone – and you will be kicking yourself.
They also have a sister shop down the road called BLT Snacks but the menu here is significantly limited.
120-124 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3SQ
It’s with slight sadness that I write about the Strongroom as the Bar Manager (Dean Finch) has now left. He’s moved onto pastures new – so this is good news for him – but he was a fantastic asset to this bar – so I’m a bit disappointed that he has now gone.
The good news is that the chef Georgie is still here and she continues to produce an astounding food menu that could easily rival many pubs in London with higher statuses. The all time favourite food I loved eating at Strongroom Bar was the breakfast. So much so that I rapidly built up a plethora of images which I used to email Dean (and anyone else that I could get to look at what I loved eating).
Big winners on the Strongroom menu aside from their breakfast is Fish and Chips on a Friday – they are responsible enough to experiment with other fish aside from the cod and plaice which is so sought after in the UK. Friday’s fish usually consists of Hake.
When ordering drinks you will inevitably be tempted to try one of the chef’s Peri Peri Scotch Eggs as they are propped up at the bar luring you. The BEST scotch eggs I’ve ever tasted.
If you happen to be around at Christmas – persuade your boss to make Strongroom Bar the subject of your Christmas lunch. When I worked at Sitelynx, we had our Christmas lunch here in 2010 and Georgie did not disappoint.
Bluu Bar – now CLOSED (currently Bill’s Cafe)
1 Hoxton Square, Hoxton, London N1 6NU
Bluu isn’t really somewhere you’d go to for lunch – it’s more of an evening drinking establishment. This is not to say the food isn’t good – it is, but there are much better options in surrounding areas. That said there is ONE thing you should go there for – Fish Finger Sandwiches, served with fries. Heavenly.
35 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3PB
I can’t remember how I stumbled across the Ruby cafe
but I think it might have had something to do with the Italian man named Leno that runs the cafe who was in love with me. This is not me being vain – this is the truth.
I was glad when I finally did visit for lunch though as the food is simply amazing. I unfortunately never reached the level of their steak sandwiches or even the pasta which I would look at enviously – my favourite dish there was the soup. In particularly the lentil soup they served with toasted ciabatta. At £3 it’s a super cheap lunch. The sandwiches and pasta is priced at around £5-6. Not a bad price at all but could get expensive everyday. Also worth noting that Leno opened a sister cafe Ruby 2 in Hoxton Square, just next door to Yelo. This is much more of a sit-down venue with nice outdoor seating for the summer. They also have an alcohol licence.
Yelo – now CLOSED
8-9 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, London N1 6NU
Yelo is great for two reasons.
1. If you are craving pad Thai – because no one else in the vicinity offers decent pad Thai. The Bricklayer Arms on Charlotte Road has a Thai restaurant upstairs but having eaten there a couple of times I was thoroughly disappointed. Apparently the chef used to work at Yum Yum in Stoke Newington. If that’s the case, I’d say they did well when he left.
Anyway – Yelo – fantastic pad Thai and Jungle Curry, which brings me onto my reason; if you’ve been out drinking in the area and want something tasty and cheap to eat, you can’t go wrong with Yelo. That’s ONLY if you can’t be bothered to walk to a Vietnamese restaurant.
301 Old Street, London EC1V 9LA
58 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP
This brings me onto two of my absolute favourite eateries in Shoreditch/Hackney.
I feel very fortunate to have worked with my Vietnamese ex-colleague Kim Pham at Sitelynx. Had I not met Kim, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try Vietnamese food, no matter how willing I am to try new dishes. The dish that won me over was Cay Tre’s BBQ Pork dish. Wonderful BBQ pork loin with vermicelli noodles, herbs, cilantro, pickled cucumber. This dish isn’t only amazingly tasty. It’s super healthy too which is the pinnacle of Vietnamese food. It’s what sets it apart from Chinese food (that and the lack of fluorescent orange sauce).
Other dishes to try at Cay Tre include the wonderfully fresh and satisfying summer rolls. You say the word “rolls” to someone with reference to Asian food, and the image of something deep fried is immediately conjured up. Quite the opposite these summer rolls are filled with prawns (or mackerel, pork or duck if you like), coriander, vermicelli noodles and lettuce then wrapped in rice paper rolls.
Viet Grill is the sister restaurant of Cay Tre. In my opinion you go to Cay Tre for lunch or after lots of drinks with friends. Viet Grill has a slightly more formal decor. You visit for a nice meal with friends or your other half. If I want the BBQ pork dish I tend to go to Viet Grill as the pork has more of a chargrilled taste here.
Most recently a third branch has opened – Cay Tre in Dean Street, Soho. I’ve visited twice and have been satisfied but not overwhelmed. The food in my opinion isn’t the same. The service is slow and the prices are extortionate compared to the other branches. Catering for the tourists. Doesn’t impress me.
60 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP
Tay Do is great for no frills Vietnamese food. The reason I started coming here in the first place is because they used to have a lunch special for £4.30. You could have one starter (soup of half portion of sesame prawn toast) plus a main dish (a noodle, pho soup or rice dish). Completely bargainous and wholesome healthy food.
You can imagine how disappointed I was when they scrapped the lunch deal. When they did this, they also increased the prices of their dishes by an average of £2. I registered my disappointment here.
Nevertheless, the food is still very good value (they serve summer rolls!) and best of all – in the evening you can BYOB! Tay Do will tend to be extremely busy on a Thursday evening.
So there you have it. My guide on where to eat breakfast or lunch in Shoreditch/Hoxton area of London. There are some other places worth a mention but not worth too much air space;
Cantaloupe – Now CLOSED (currently Merchants Tavern)
35-42 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3PD
Good for burgers
128-130 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AQ
A classic – and the food will always be good here, but you really don’t have to try hard to get American food in London – do you?
98 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP
Where to Avoid
311 Old Street, London EC1V 9LA
Fatty hot lunch dishes. Everything smells the same, can’t be good. Also over-priced for what it is
37 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NN
As Sascha says: “Japanese” food cooked and served by Polish people? No thanks
The Hoxton Pony
104-108 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AH
Poncy, Pretentious – don’t go for food OR drinks! (Built for City Bankers)
The Breakfast Club
2-4 Rufus St, London N1 6PE
Hype and nothing more. Awful breakfast
Little Hanoi – Now CLOSED (currently Haché Burgers)
147 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3QE
Purely because my ex-employer used to have offices above this restaurant and often had cockroaches as lodgers!