Hungry for London: Fab East London Street Markets

Best burritos in London? At least the best from a truck on Whitecross Street. Mangia!!!

Grab a bib! It’s time for another filling installment in our “Hungry for London” series. Now, hit the streets…


If Borough Market is big, bustling and somewhat overwhelming, Clerkenwell’s small-scale Whitecross Street Market is a perfectly manageable and delicous source of lunchtime treats. Tucked on a low-key street just above the Barbican Center and on the edge of the whole Shoreditch/Islington East London hoods, it’s a few blocks of welcoming stalls cooking up fresh cuisine from all over.

A Whitecross Market scotch egg. Perfection!

I got there on a Friday at 11:30am as the vendors where setting up, and by 12-noon lunch was being served, full-on. On Whitecross between Roscoe and Dufferin Streets are friendly stalls of thai food, burritos, falafels, espresso, meat pies, sweet pies and pastries, fresh Italian meats and pasta and plenty of vegetarian options.

The espresso vendor (my cappuccino was foamy, rich and perfect) swore by his faves in this order: the Thai stand, the falafel kiosk and the burrito truck (though he changed that ranking order about three times within the minute we were speaking). I was charmed by the Italian vendor in his 60s at Ravello’s, dishing up amazing trays of traditional fresh Italian pastas and sauces, lasagnas and other cheesy, meaty baked winners. Ravello’s was also swarmed by local workers and construction guys (always a good sign).

Up for some pasta from the nice gent at Ravello's?

I also loved the guy at Eat My Pies. He had a display of tarts and pies which was to die for, but also a large array of big Scotch eggs which are breaded balls of sausage around a soft-boiled egg. There are about six varieties of balls with different sausages options inside (Thai Red Curry Pork Scotch Egg, Black Pudding Scotch Egg–even a 3-Bean Veggie Scotch Egg), and they all looked great. I tried the most traditional Pork Sausage Scotch Egg. With a dash of fresh sea salt and black pepper, it was perfect!

Also on Whitecross street, you’ll find a little stall serving hot Tartiflette (a hot mess of chorizo, Reblochon cheese, new potatoes and onions), a “Hog Roast” sandwich on Ciabatta with applesauce, sweet chili or mustard from the guys at the fab Roast of Sherwood stall. the aforementioned amazing falafels and burritos, and just more goodness all around. Yum.

And… If you fancy a proper restaurant or cafe to sit in, a short stroll from Whitecross Street is the big Barbican arts complex, a haven of world-class theater, music and performance. And the Barbican Food Hall is a heavenly, stylish food-court showplace with baked goods, proper restaurant and cafe fair, a wine bar and more.

Whitecross Street Market
Whitecross Street, Islington
London EC1
tel. 020 7527 1761
Mon-Fri 11am-3pm

The Barbican Food Hall: Gourmet grub before/after the show.


Read for lunch#2? Take a walk across East London from Whitecross Street through Clerkenwell (stroll by the cute shops and little eateries by Cowcross Street and St. John’s Lane, by the big Charterhouse Square structure). You’ll cruise by the breakfast mecca and foodie favorite, The Modern Pantry (not a “cheap eat” exactly, but a great meal that’s not totally exorbitant — and oh, so hip and attractive), and then foraging on, find your way to Islington’s Exmouth Street. There another little lunchtime street market awaits, full of its own stalls of killer international grub.

Exmouth Street is chock full of cool cafes, and stall-wise the most popular was decidedly Spinach & Agushi. Folks were queued up (about 8-10 diners-to-be were waiting as I arrived at 1pm) for rice and the warm stews that they dish out. It’s Ghanian and the rich aromas and spices of the lamb, beef or veggie sauces are intoxicating. Mmmmmmm…

Exmouth Street Market stalls

Another great Exmouth Street option is the French crepe stall, aptly named Crêpes & Galettes, just up the block and opposite Spinach & Agushi. They’ve got delicious savory and sweet crepes on offer; you can’t go wrong.

And also along Exmouth Street, you’ll find the fab pub grub of Medcalf. Get a perfect burger grilled right on the street in front of the cafe from Medcalf’s own “burgersmith,” who’ll grill up a free-range beef rib burger, or a Herdwick lamb burger, which comes with cheese, bacon or sausages, if you like. Inside, Medcalf serves up fab pub grub–Welsh rarebit, venison haunch with greens and grain mash and Guinness-braised ox cheek with purple sprouting broccoli were specials when I cruised by.

Exmouth Market

London EC1R 4QE
Farringdon tube
Mon-Fri 11am-2pm-ish (with Friday being the best day, with the most stalls open).

Pastries, jams and psychotically good treats abound in the Barbican Food Hall. Oh, the bounty!

Spinach & Agushi dish up the Ghanian goods on Exmouth Street.

John Polly is a former editor at NewNowNext. He now makes the magic happen at World of Wonder.