43a Commercial St., Whitechapel
With its fan base firmly established after years of popping up in small cafe's in Peckham and then Shoreditch, Som Saa has since settled down into a cozy space with wooden tables and exposed brick walls, remained jam packed with walk-ins, and been nearly impossible to book. The reason: uber-spicy Northern Thai curries, soups, and salads that simply surpass most all the other Thai spots in London. Their Burmese-style curry and fresh, green papaya salad alone will make the standard pad thai a thing of the past.
27a Mile End Rd., Whitechapel
Unlike most of Soho House’s buttoned-up and exclusive restaurants, the Dirty Burger brand is a series of down-and-out tin-clad locales churning out ridiculously tasty and super-cheap cheeseburgers. (Vegetarians can order the "Cop Out," which is just as satisfyingly dirty.) It’s very purposefully a no-frills situation that’s totally worth the wait. There are more locations in Kentish Town, Shoreditch, and Vauxville.
Taberna do Mercado (Closed)
3 Old Spitalfields Market, Whitechapel
Chef Nuno Mendes shot to fame with the opening of the ever-so-scene-y restaurant at the Chiltern Firehouse—namely for his crab-filled doughnuts. At Mendes' follow-up, Taberna do Mercado, the concept is almost the antithesis of his glitzy, star-filled restaurant at the Chiltern. Here, in a whitewashed space decorated (or rather, undecorated) in simple wooden, country-style furnishings, Mendes and head chef Antonio Galapito are re-creating the food of Mendes' childhood memories in his native Portugal. In a sense, it's homestyle cuisine, but served up anew in the chef's trademark molecular gastronomy style. It's a tiny, well-priced menu accompanied by an extensive selection of excellent Portuguese wines and fortified wines.
68 Hanbury St., Spitalfields
Chef Rosie Healey (an Ottolenghi alum) mixes Middle Eastern and European influences to create a short menu of casual, homey dishes, from a lovely selection of seasonal salads to a super simple yet totally mind-blowing combo of nduja sausage on toast with honey and thyme (a highlight). And while the flavors are homey and comfortable, everything else is anything but: Everything from the presentation—dishes that look like beautiful, Modern Abstract paintings—to the building itself, which looks like it's straight out of Stanley Kubrick's2001:A Space Odyssey, are unflinchingly sleek and modern.
11 White's Row, Whitechapel
Fancified Indian seems to be the trend in London at the moment, with more and more modernized, gourmet offerings popping up right and left all over town. One of the standouts is this new spot that's serving up homestyle Indian in a cleverly restored ex-curry house. Here, small plates made for sharing like the Chettinad Pulled Duck and the Spicy Venison and Vermicelli Doughnut are the creation of their chef Nirmal Save of the Oberoi in Mumbai. Fun fact: The name Gunpowder is a fun twist as it happens to be located right near London's old artillery and is also a reference to the classic spice mix of the same name.
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