French, Italian, Korean and Portuguese; we’re munching our way around the world – without leaving the E1 postcode.
Inspired by the late night open-air canteens found across Thailand, the east London instalment of Smoking Goat is a social dining affair. ‘Aharn Glam Lao’ (Thai for ‘drinking food’) is the concept and it roughly translates to: order a bunch of small plates and share with friends over plenty of drinks. If, like us, you’re a spice fiend, do ensure to order more than one of the barbecue Tamworth pork skewers; it’s the only way to avoid a food fight. And if you’ve never tried larb, don’t leave without righting that wrong; a dry aromatic fried dish, ours was made with finely chopped liver and duck hearts and was sensational. The showpiece dish is a barbecued goat and turmeric massaman curry.
smokinggoatbar.com/shoreditch 64 Shoreditch High St, E1 6JJ
Blanchette Brick Lane
Gone are the days you could open a classic French bistrot and sit back as it was proclaimed a smash hit. So the fact that the original Blanchette pulled exactly that off in Soho deserves extra kudos. Now, as the restaurant launches a second site at Brick Lane, no one is resting on any laurels, however well-deserved. Instead, they’ve ramped up operations yet further and to sensational effect. Immediately your attention is drawn to the beautiful Parisian Belle Epoque-style bar and the seductive mural of a curvaceous woman reclining behind it, already the star of many an Instagram post. North African flavours dominate here. Don’t miss the exquisite Merguez sausage roll; lamb sausage is perfectly spiced with cumin and paprika, wrapped in a sweet onion confit and puff pastry. Then, there are the gratifyingly gooey cheese beignets with yet more confit onion (something of a theme at this irresistible haunt). This is comfort food at its best and Blanchette has all the hallmarks of a new favourite neighbourhood restaurant.
blanchettebricklane.co.uk 204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA
You may recognise the chef behind the pass here from Masterchef: The Professionals. Adam Handling’s The Frog offers up a playful menu showcasing his signature experimental cooking style, which is highly theatrical with drinks parings and even house-made Kombucha. Don’t miss the smooth, salty chicken skin-infused butter with bread, or the cheese doughnuts (just a couple of the lighter snacks). And if you really want something controversial there’s the carrot steak dish (M&S’s recent ‘cauliflower steak’ fiasco, anyone?). At £50 for an 11-course tasting menu it’s excellent value and with vegetarian and vegan tasting menus too, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choice.
thefrogrestaurant.com 2 Ely’s Yard, Old Truman Brewery, E1 6QR
Taberna Do Mercado
If you want pedigree, chefs don’t come more thoroughbred than Nuno Mendes, alumnus of El Bulli and exec chef at Chiltern Firehouse. His latest, Taberna Do Mercado couldn’t be further from the famous celebrity hotspot – in the best possible way. It’s intimate, understated and the kind of neighbourhood restaurant we have but dreamt of – until now. Settle in for a long Sunday lunch with a bottle of Portuguese red and stack up the small plates. Do try the Bifana sandwich; it’ll have you hopping on the next flight to Portugal.
tabernamercado.co.uk Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street, E1 6BG
As fusion cuisine goes, Korean and Italian isn’t the most obvious of combinations – especially when everything on the menu is animal product-free. Yes Vegan is one of those restaurants revolutionizing vegan food, not by trying to apologetically emulate meat, but by lavishing the greatest care and creativity on everything it does. Take, for example, the ToppoGnocchi, a mix of gnocchi and topokki (Korean rice noodle/cake); served up in a six-hour slow-cooked tomato sauce and spiked with gochujang (fermented red chilli paste), it is a revelatory flavour sensation. Make space for the dark mocha, a rice ball with a red bean paste center coated in dark chocolate. Sounds dubious, tastes delicious. Seriously, who needs meat?
veganyes.uk 64 Brick Lane, E1 6RF
Words: Liam Barker