8 True Hidden Gems of East London

Suzy Rabikowska

Do you think you’ve seen all there is to see in East London? You’ve seen the hipsters in Shoreditch, eaten bagels in Brick Lane, gazed at quirky art in Whitechapel Gallery, and maybe even ventured out to Dalston to listen to some live music. But the East End doesn’t end there – it’s where it begins. If you want to broaden your cultural horizons and beat the queues then check out this list of local and affordable places in East London.

The Broadway Theatre

1. The Broadway


Nathans Pie and Eels
Courtesy Matt Cheetham
The Broadway in Barking is a performing arts venue with regular live music, dance, drama and comedy. This modern spot attracts theatre lovers from East London as well as Essex, and is at the cultural heart of the community. The Broadway is known for its friendly atmosphere and a variety of shows. The ticket prices are really affordable and there are many free shows every month. The venue is used for professional performances, but also hosts events by community organisations. The Broadway provides free exhibition space for local visual artists, so if you are after some original art this is also a place to put on your list.

2. Nathan’s Pies and Eels

Restaurant, European

Iliyan and Ina, owners of Ezo Bistro
Courtesy of Ezo Bistro
Tucked away in Upton Park, this small family business has been serving classic pies and jellied eels since 1923. If you fancy some traditional mince beef pies, home-made mashed potatoes served in green liquor (made from parsley) or gravy, this local place is definitely worth a visit. The decor is slightly outdated, but this adds to the charm, and the quality of the food is exceptional. It is based near the Upton Park football ground and just a bus ride from the Olympic Village. Nathan’s has been a popular spot for generations of Eastenders and attracts numerous West Ham fans, so if you are heading out to get some pie and mash make sure a game is not on.

3. Ezo Bistro

Bistro, Cafe, European

Located in the Borough of Barking and Dagenham, this recently opened café is introducing the intellectual side of drinking coffee to Barking station. Ezo Bistro features art created by a number of homeless artists, which have been bought by the Café Art charity, chessboards and an extensive collection of books. The aim is to provide food and coffee that can be experienced in an intellectual environment. You can enjoy your hot beverage and a wide selection of delicious crêpes and sandwiches in comfy chairs and indulge in one of the books, but don’t worry if you don’t finish. The owners, IIiyan and Ina, are happy for you to take it home for a while until you are done. Some of the titles from their collection include, Marx’s Comunist Manifesto, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,as well as a selection by David Foster Wallace, to name just a few.

4. Roman Road Market

Market, Food Court, European

This is one of the coolest places in East London to get a real bargain (although it is in Zone 2). Less known than Camden or Brick Lane, this local market is situated on the oldest trade route in Britain. The stalls are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if you visit on a Saturday you can chose from 200 different ones lining the whole street. Affectionately referred to as ‘the Roman’ by the locals, this old-style market sells a whole range of items from clothing, makeup, jewellery, shoes to antiques and household items. There is also a food court with fresh bread, cakes and pastries. Make sure you get some churros and choose a caramel, chocolate or fudge sauce!

5. Turkish Food Centre Leytonstone

Market, Mediterranean

The Hornbeam
Courtesy The Hornbeam
If you are after Mediterranean culinary experience this is a place to do your shopping, or worth checking out for a one-off visit. When in TFC you can stock up on local as well as exotic fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and explore the delicatessen counters where everything is sold by weight. The store has its own bakery offering freshly baked bread, Turkish sweets and savoury products. Most of the products available are from Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, although you can find many African and Polish specialities also. Some of the highlights include one-kilo bags of oregano or chilli flakes, one-kilo jars of olives, five different types of goats cheese and countless varieties of picked vegetables. The TFC has also started a Cultural Events Project, which organises books fairs, film screenings, photography exhibitions and other events. TFC has 13 other branches, including Dalston, Catford, Tottenham and Enfield.

The Hornbeam Café

This café in Walthamstow uses local, organic and fairly traded food to create delicious vegetarian meals. The chefs use fresh fruit and veg from Organiclea workers co-operative, who have a growing site in Chingford, and the same produce is also available to buy at the Saturday market stall. The cafe also offers home-baked bread from the Fementarium, Blackhorse Workshops and they also bake sourdough in-house. Some of the best include pan au levain and rye sourdough. It is also involved in many local projects that focus on conserving resources and helping people live more sustainably. It seeks to encourage sustainable living and is encouraging the community to live and operate ethically. The cafe has a zero-waste policy and is currently aiming to reduce their energy and water footprint. The dishes in the cafe generally cost £3 to £6 and are created using seasonal produce so the menu changes daily.

The Hornbeam Café, 458 Hoe St, London, UK, +44 20 8558 6880

Genesis Cinema Studio 5

Genesis Cinema

If you have been to Whitechapel then you must have come across this old-school local cinema. It has been recently renovated by a team that designs film sets for a living. The atmosphere is relaxed and eclectic and you will find older locals enjoying their coffees alongside creative professionals whizzing away on their laptops. The cinema has three screens with Screen 1 being the biggest. Screen 5 is more of of a boutique screening room with armchairs and a cosy atmosphere. Apart from an amazing interior, the ticket prices are another reason to visit. To top it all off, there is an excellent Bar Paragon upstairs selling great cocktails and a small pie and mash kiosk. The cinema hosts numerous events such as ‘Genesis Poetry Slam’, ‘S4 Film Club’ and ‘The Good, the Bad, the Unseen’.

Genesis Cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road, London, UK, +44 207 780 2000

6. Ochi Cuisine

Restaurant, Jamaican

Located in Leyton, Ochi is a Caribbean takeaway, although most of the dishes available are Jamaican. The wide variety of flavours and spices make this a suitable place for meat lovers as well as vegetarians. The food is freshly prepared every time. When you go there make sure you are hungry because the portions are massive! Saltfish is one of the most frequently used ingredients in Caribbean cooking so when in Ochi make sure you order saltfish fritters or ackee and saltfish. Some of the most popular dishes include fried plantain, jerk chicken, oxtail or a selection of fish dishes, like snapper or fried beam. And why not also go for one of the Ochi drinks, like the carrot and ginger mix or fruit bunch?

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