4 Redchurch St., Shoreditch
Brat is Welsh slang for turbot, so it follows that that’s the thing to order here. It’s a perfectly-cooked whole fish, grilled over a fire, and meant for sharing. It’s a technique they use for many menu items, including the bread (always a reliable indicator of the dishes to come), which is almost a satisfying meal in itself, grilled and made of flour from one of last standing stoneground mills in the UK. Even the cheesecake is smoked and accompanied by brown bread ice cream, a familiar treat in the UK and Ireland but rarely seen stateside. Once you have a bite you’ll wonder why.
70-74 City Rd., Shoreditch
Nuala is named for chef Niall Davidson’s little sister, and every detail of the restaurant speaks to the deep thought Davidson has put into it. The staff is friendly, the room is warm (thanks to the fire pit), and the food tastes like home—if you grew up in a remarkably talented culinary Irish family. The sour sourdough comes grilled with a good heaping of salted butter, made saltier by the dulse seaweed whipped into it (the Irish are big on seaweed). The beef tartare (a small mound of aggressively seasoned raw beef topped with a cured egg yolk and drizzled in a Guinness-infused sauce, with a few thick-cut fries on the side) is the best we’ve ever had. The wine list is the work of sommelier Honey Spencer (who cut her teeth at Noma Mexico) and emphasizes organic and biodynamic wines, playfully under the “wild things” section. It’s a good descriptor for Nuala in general: The food is earthy, and the interior resembles the modernist cabin—firewood included—we all wish we could escape to. A solid attempt at representing a slice of Ireland in London.
Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, Shoreditch
Margot Henderson knows a thing or two about cooking—her husband, Fergus, owns London nose-to-tail staple St. John Bread and Wine. But, Rochelle Canteen is about much more than food. This is the place you go to hang out, especially in the summer. At the sunny tables in the pretty courtyard, one glass of wine turns to two (or three?) as the afternoon passes by in a pleasant haze of good food and great people-watching. The food is traditional, almost retro, but there’s a reason the British spent most of the twentieth century tucking into mustardy Welsh rarebit and flaky, pastry-topped leek and chicken pies. It’s mouthwatering comfort food that makes us feel happy, full, and deeply understood. Subtle details like the Aalvar Alto tables and the line of straw hats hung along the walls make for restrained, chic decoration in the whitewashed-brick room. The light streaming through the floor-to-ceiling window is the main decoration. (For a dose of Henderson’s fare that doesn’t require a trip east, stop by Rochelle Canteen’s second location at the ICA on the strand.)
15 Micawber St., Shoreditch
As refreshingly untrendy as it gets, there's no need to share small plates or take a picture of your food at this Southern French restaurant tucked away at the back of a gallery. Here, the homestyle cuisine is just plain good and features old school Provençal dishes like lamb a la ficelle, grilled sardines, and a wonderful, warming Rum Baba without any extra frills. This is all the doing of young, self-taught chef, Alex Jackson, a protegé of Stevie Parle's (of Craft and Dock Kitchen Fame). Also refreshing are the prices, which are manageable for its young crowd, and the wine list, which features Viognier on tap along with a good selection of other cheap and cheerful picks.
49 Columbia Rd., Shoreditch
Catering to East London's hardcore foodie scene since 2010, Brawn serves up seasonal cuisine with an emphasis on provenance. Their cheese is from the venerable Androuet, their bread is from the one and only E5 Bakehouse, and their wine list features a good number of natural wines. And then there's the meat: This is nose-to-tail eating at its best—their house-made black pudding alone is worth the trip. A meal in their delightfully bare-bones dining room any day is a treat but their Sunday roast is what they're best known for.
Kennedy’s of Goswell Road
184-186 Goswell Rd., Shoreditch
Kennedy's takes the English concept of a typical pie and mash shop to another level. Not only do they serve fish & chips, the best being wing of skate and fish with a pickled cucumber, but you can also choose from steak and stilton pies, venison and red wine, and salmon and tarragon pasties.
56 Shoreditch High St., Shoreditch
At four locations deep (three of them are in the UK), this casual Italian joint can easily qualify as a chain. Their approach to pizza, however, is very mom-and-pop: all are made in a wood-burning oven, resulting in a chewy, crispy crust that's actually pretty hard to find in London. You can get a table inside the sprawling, industrial-looking dining room, have a quick snack at their bar, or order for takeaway.
Cereal Killer Café
192a Brick Ln., Shoreditch
With a menu that includes 120 different types of cereal (some of them extremely rare and difficult to source), 30 varieties of milk, plus a selection of Pop Tarts and old-school sodas, this place specializes in nostalgia for children of the '80s and '90s. Created by hilarious Irish identical twin brothers, Gary and Alan Keery, the flashbacks don't stop with Lucky Charms: The café is jam-packed with toys and trinkets like Troll dolls and Power Rangers action figures, and features a facade made of VHS tapes. There are multiple locations in London.
54 Paul St., Shoreditch
Inspired by a trip to LA and all its laid-back, healthy eateries, Andrew Bredon opened his own interpretation in London in early 2015. While he can't quite import the sunshine, he has managed to bring a healthy approach to food that is otherwise hard to find in London—it's not often you run into a to-go spot that has gluten-free and dairy free-options for both breakfast and lunch. He's also managed to create a space that has a nice informal quality with white marble tables and cheery yellow accents. We're expecting (and hoping) to see more pop up all over the city soon.
St. John Bread & Wine
94-96 Commercial St., Shoreditch
If you happen to be wandering through Spitalfields Market, make sure you stop into this innovative and lively restaurant. The menu constantly changes with seasonally available ingredients. As the name suggests, the baked goods and wine list are the superstars, but they're almost out-shined by the nose-to-tail style meat dishes.
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