Hungry for London: Spitalfields & Brick Lane

You can eat the entire world on London's Brick Lane. Snarf!

On a recent visit, I arrived in London on a Sunday morning, starving—and antsy! So I headed over to East London’s Spitalfields Market for the big enclosed and covered shopping enclave to wander the stalls of vintage and current fashions, tchotchkes, music, T-shirts and snacks galore. The entire place is a shopper’s and stroller’s paradise.

An overview of the goods and stalls at Spitalfields.

Snacking in Spitalfields can get you some reasonably priced noodles at the ubiquitous noodle-house chain Wagamama, a hearty quick savory pie from a tasty outpost of Square Pie, or fun international eats at the stylish Mediterranean-flavored bistro Leon. All are reliable Brit franchises, and as a visitor, you needn’t feel shame for giving them a whirl. They’re easy, and when you’re shopping, that can make a difference.

After about an hour of stall browsing I purchased a fun clubby oversized tank top with Grace Jones’ face silkscreened on it (duh!), and then snarfed down some fresh oysters (6 for £7) at the McManus Brothers Oyster Bar stall.

I wanted to wander further in the neighborhood, so I followed the crowds milling around the nearby streets and within a few minutes I had stumbled into London’s Sunday-afternoon hipster mecca. Brick Lane and Dray Walk were a haven of record shops, cool clubby/edgy fashions, and tons of little bars and cafes. It’s a scene with a cool young crowd of arty twentysomethings, and perfect for shopping, roaming and pausing for the odd pint.

Fresh oysters. Thanks McManus Bros!

As you’re ambling around Brick Lane, check out the foodie trucks and stands in Els Yard by the Old Truman Brewery. There’s Daddy Donkey for its aptly self-proclaimed “kick-ass Mexican street food,” the refurbished red double-decker fun of the Rootmaster bus-taurant which doles out tasty vegan food from a repurposed city bus, and Al Volo, a welcoming cafe serving up simple and authentic Italian.

But best of all, along the blocks of warehouse-packed Brick Lane, you’ll find massive old buildings (an old brewery and other industrial spaces) transformed to food markets and stalls of madly diverse international cuisine. As you wander through them, pots of stews are bubbling in every kiosk, grilled meats and veggies are sizzling all around you, and stir-fries, tamales, tempura, pad thai, paella, curries and everything is cooking at stalls crammed in one after the other.

The spaces around the Old Truman Brewery are a indie food-lover’s dream, especially inside the Boiler House structure. Go, survey all on offer, then grab some grub and sit at big communal tables either inside or outback on the patio. BON APP!

Here’s a good link to a NYC foodie’s account of his Sunday Brick Lane visit:

And a good place to begin to get into the Sunday afternoon Brick Lane madness is at the Sunday Upmarket. Enjoy!

Catch this bus for fine veggie fare just off Brick Lane.


Sunday shoppers along Brick Lane. Eat. Shop. Love.

Old Spitalfields Market
16 Horner Square
Spitalfields, London EC1 6EW
tel. 44 (0) 7247 8556

Old Spitalfields Market
9 Horner Square, London E1 6EW
tel. 44 (0) 20 7539 3580

Square Pie
Spitalfields Market
16 Horner Square, London E1 6AA
tel 44 (0) 20 7377 1114

Spitalfields Market
3 Crispin Place, London E1 6AA
tel. 44 (0) 20 7247 4369

McManus Brothers Oyster Bar
Spitalfields Market
Brushfield Street, London E1 6AA
tel. 44 (0) 78 7808 8386
Open Every Sunday.

Inside, killer global food stalls await.

Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane, Shoreditch
London E1 6PU
Sundays 9am-5pm.

Daddy Donkey
Els Yard, The Old Truman Brewery
Hanbury Street, London E1 6QL

Rootmaster Vegan Restaurant
Els Yard, The Old Truman Brewery
Hanbury Street, London E1 6QL
tel. 44 (0) 79 1238 9314

Al Volo
Els Yard, The Old Truman Brewery
Hanbury Street, London E1 6QL
tel. 44 (0) 20 7377 0808
Open daily.

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