The Best Cafés in East London, England

Alongside coffee and tea, Esters offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options in East London
Alongside coffee and tea, Esters offers a variety of breakfast and lunch options in East London | © Jonathan Simpson / Courtesy of Esters
Photo of Kathryn Beeson
5 June 2020

A mooch around East London’s markets, art galleries, museums and parks can only be improved by a quick caffeinated pick-me-up, and a long, leisurely brunch is the perfect catch-up-with-a-friend meal (as well as a guaranteed, 100-percent-scientific cure for one too many the night before).

Indeed, cafés and East London go together like your famous double act of choice. To help you get your fix, Culture Trip has asked our local insiders to recommend a few of their favourites for you to try. Whether you’re after classic brunch dishes, delicate pastries or adventurous eating, you are sure to find something to satisfy.

The Haberdashery

Cafe, British, Contemporary, Coffee, $$$
Map View

A regular on London food-award shortlists, Stoke Newington’s Haberdashery offers classic brunch dishes and lunch options done brilliantly. The full English, french toast, eggs benedict and smashed avo are all there, taken up a notch by the café’s emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients and cook-from-scratch mentality. Soup, sandwich and cake options are switched up regularly to keep the menu fresh. Natural woods and strips of bunting create a pleasantly vintage feel, and there’s outside seating, too. Recommended by local insider Huda Awan

Esters

Cafe, Coffee, British, Contemporary, $$$
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Esters_London_Copyright_Jonathan-Simpson-Esters-Coffee-Photographer-003
© Jonathan Simpson / Courtesy of Esters

Esters is all about seasonality, sustainability and experimentation – and we love that. It only sources its coffee from roasters it trusts, and all tea comes from plantations that are less than six hectares (15 acres). This lends itself to an exciting range of breakfast and lunch options alongside eggs-and-sourdough classics, done really well. It’s big on supporting local suppliers and sources whatever it can’t make in-house from as nearby as possible. You can’t reserve a table here, so you’ll need to be prepared to wait or get here early to beat the queues. Recommended by local insider Huda Awan

Jolene

Restaurant, European, $$$
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Casual vibes, an ethical approach to sourcing ingredients and roomy, industrial-chic interiors combine to make Stoke Newington’s Jolene something special. The team keeps things fresh with menus that change daily and elevated (though not at all inaccessible) dishes made from sustainably sourced and seasonal ingredients. Options range from beautifully prepared small plates (Tuscan salami, freshly made focaccias and pickled anchovies all feature) to more substantial meals like braised pig-cheek cannelloni and whole mackerel. Recommended by local insider Huda Awan

Pavilion Café and Bakery

Cafe, Bakery, Coffee, French, British, Dessert
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Pavilion Bakery Broadway Market__London_Courtesy 01
Courtesy of Pavilion Bakery

Hackney’s tiny Pavilion Café and Bakery doesn’t overstretch itself. Instead, it has picked a few specialities and practised them to perfection. Sourdough bread, pain-aux-raisins and spiced cardamom buns are what punters queue here for, alongside the well-loved brunch options on offer. There are outposts on Columbia Road, Broadway Market and by the west boating lake in Victoria Park – a beautifully scenic spot for brunch when the skies are blue and the sun is shining. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee

E5 Bakehouse

Bakery, Dessert Shop, European, $$$
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E5-Bakehouse_London_Courtesyweb
Courtesy of E5 Bakehouse London
You’ll find Hackney’s E5 Bakehouse spread over three railway arches – an atmospheric location for this popular bakery and café. E5 Bakehouse bakes all of its delicious artisan goods on-site, so you’ll struggle to find a fresher Danish anywhere this end of town. Its scalded loaves and cinnamon buns are rightly revered by a diverse local crowd of families, couples and groups of friends who come here to slow down, relax and enjoy a coffee or two before heading out in the afternoon. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee

Snackbar

Cafe, British, Chinese, Japanese
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Trailblazing Dalston spot Snackbar offers seasonal, upmarket café fare influenced by global flavours. There’s nothing else quite like it in this part of town, and if you’ve ever wondered what an upmarket McMuffin might taste like, it’s worth dropping in. The decor is airy and sleek – perfect for a lunch out with that special someone or for a spontaneous treat. Menu choices cover Asian and European flavours, plus some revamped café classics – think chicken caesar salad made with roasted chicken, chicken skin, parmesan, egg and nori. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee

Dusty Knuckle Bakery

Bakery, Cafe, Pastries, Coffee, $$$
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Interior of Dusty Knuckle Bakery
Courtesy of Dusty Knuckle Bakery

More than a few Londoners will tell you that bakery, café and social enterprise the Dusty Knuckle in Dalston makes the capital’s best sourdough. While it’s a matter of taste, it is very, very good. There’s a strong community vibe here – it’s just as popular among brunching hipsters as it is with families with kids. Also, the bakery employs young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The outside seating is a particularly lovely setting for a leisurely summer brunch out. Recommended by local insiders Olivia Dicker and Huda Awan

London Borough of Jam

Cafe, British, Coffee, $$$
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Londonboroughofjam_London_Copyright_Ho-Hai-Tran_3web
© Hoi Hai Tran / Courtesy of London Borough of Jam

A café dedicated to jam – what’s not to like? Lillie O’Brien, former pastry chef at St John’s Bread and Wine, set up this hybrid jam-shop-café in Clapton back in 2011. Whether you’re here for the homely specials or to pick up a jar or two (take your pick from greengage and fennel pollen, blackberry and cacao nib or apricot and verjuice), you’ll find the atmosphere warm and inviting. She also offers jam-making workshops for those wanting to get more hands-on – perfect for taking your own creations up a notch. Recommended by local insider Josh Lee

This is an update of the article by Oliver Griffin.

These recommendations were updated on June 5, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.