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Nov 10, 2008 08:12 PM

Cheap East London Eats and Nightlife

Hey, I wanted to get a rundown on the best inexpensive food and bars/pubs in East London near the London Metropolitan University campus...specifically, what ethnic food is essential to try while in London? And any great quintessential British places that won't break my bank?

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  1. Coming from a Canning Town resident, I would exactly consider that East London, but whatever. You've got decent options in the area, but I wouldn't say anything quintessentially British (but what does that even mean these days.)

    You have excellent (bordering on home cooked quality) Bangladeshi food at Gram Bangla on Brick Lane which could run you anywhere from 3.50 to 7.00 for lunch. I've written extensively about the place and you can easily pick it up with a search. Especially good are the extremely Bangladeshi dishes (which are usually hard to find at even BD places) such as the fish chutney, shutki (dried fish), fish egg curries, etc. All in all it's a seafood restaurant which serves Bangladeshi peasant food and you should look at it as such (so don't expect amazing service, you order at the counter, and some of the strong flavors might not be for everyone, but it's probably my favorite cuisine in the world.)

    You also have Beigel Bake down further along Brick Lane which serves up serviceable bagels at very low prices. The bagels themselves aren't amazing, but their salt beef is top notch. I guess you could say this place is quintessentially East End and I know it's a major part of student life for QM and other East London uni students (I've had many a 4am bagel there. It's 24 hrs.) It's also one of the last gasps of East London's once thriving Eastern European Jewish population.

    While not immediately close, you can get to East Ham on the District Line in less than 20 minutes and eat at Thattakuda. This is an amazing Keralan restaurant that I've also been writing loads about recently.

    Other area stand outs include Shalimar on Brick Lane, but only for Friday lunch. They do traditional Hyderabadi style biriyani (which Thatta does daily) on Fridays and it tends to sell out within an hour of lunch, but it's pretty good. There's also two really really good paan stores on Brick Lane if that's your thing. Some other local spots include Ruchi on Whitechapel Rd which looks like a chicken/kebab shop, but has a 2nd counter serving a full range of Bangladeshi dishes at prices even lower than Gram (but you're taking a quality hit as well.)

    Mahjub Sweet and Spice on Bethnal Green Rd also has decent Bangladeshi food, but not up to Gram's standards. On the plus side, they have an awesome quail curry almost every day which Gram only does for special occassions. There's also Gourmet Sen on Bethnal Green Rd for Sichuan Chinese, but now we're talking longer walks from your base at London Met.

    If you want some stuff in East London proper I can give more than just Thattakuda as well as market recommendations.

    Also, if you're in the area on Sundays then the Brick Lane upmarket has a pretty good Ethiopian stall, but I haven't been wowed by anything I've had at the other stalls (or that one actually.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: JFores

      JFores, you are right about the flavors of Bangladeshi food not appealing to everyone. I find this is particularly true with regards to Sylheti food, which is probably what they serve at Gram Bangla. Even Bengalis from other areas find Sylheti cuisine a bit too strong for their liking. Which is why it has probably never gone mainstream as restaurant cuisine.

      1. re: medgirl

        Yeah, I agree on that. It's quite hit or miss. Whenever I take people. I usually get them to enjoy it, but it's a bit exotic for most. My Bangladeshi friends in NY generally didn't like food that's that village too (not only is most of the food at Gram Sylheti, but it's also veeeery gram Sylheti food much of the time. Changes daily so it can vary a lot though.)

    2. You'll love the nightlife around Shoreditch/Hoxton. Try Vibe bar, Mother, Macbeth and Herbal.

      1. For great cheap eats, I'd recommend heading to Kingsland Road (at the end of Shoreditch High St/Old St) for authentic Viet Namese - amazing food for small budgets - particularly Viet Grill (or its sister restaurant Cay Tre on Old St). Or head down Columbia Road to Stringray Globe for the best pizzas in London for only £6 (try not to let the incredibly rude service ruin your experience!). For 'British' places, go to Broadway market for pie and mash or jellied eels - cant get more quintessentially London that that. There are also some great pubs along Broadway Market to check out, with a food market on Saturday.

        9 Replies
        1. re: pj26

          Depending on what you'd consider cheap, I dunno about the Vietnamese around Old St. I like Cay Tre, but I also found it to be really expensive. Definitely not your run into for a fast bowl of pho kind of place.

          1. re: pj26

            On Kingsland Road and in the area, I like Que Viet a lot; the newer places seem to be doing a finer job and warrant more sampling/reporting.

            1. re: limster

              Que Viet is definitely worth a visit for the Pho and is certainly at the cheaper end of the spectrum, particularly since you can take your own wine, (although I hardly say Cay Tre is 'very expensive' - you could easily eat and drink well there for under £15 a head).
              Heading over to Mare St, Green Papaya has some great dishes and for something completely different but delicious - try Anatolia for amazing Turkish. Their lamb kebabs are fantastic!

              1. re: pj26

                Their pho prices are a bit excessive. It's 7 quid for a large when it should be more like 3.50.

                1. re: JFores

                  where in london can you get a large pho for 3.50??? that sounds v v v unrealistic. not saying that 7 quid is a good price. i would say £5 is abt what i would expect to pay

                  1. re: t_g

                    I'm just pound dollaring it. I accept that I will generally have to pay in pounds what I would usually pay in dollars. Using that logic (and it's usually decently accurate), I should be able to find 3.50 pho as I can easily find it for that back in New York (even as low as 2.80 for a very large bowl.)

                    1. re: JFores

                      Would be great if that logic was true! New York is famously known for people being able to eat out at decent places for very reasonable prices - London quite the opposite! Although the way the pounds is going these days, who knows...! £3.50 pho probably exists, but would be cheap for good reason

                      1. re: pj26

                        yeah i dont see why that shld be a reasonable thing to do - why not just compare it to how much pho costs in saigon? it's silly.

                      2. re: JFores

                        I usually double the dollar price and then make it pounds. At least for food, anyway. Other things in London I can get cheaper than in dollars, but food seems to have remained ridiculously expensive. I can get decent Indian in NY for $2.50/pp, but here it's more like £6.99 at least!