Rosie Birkett’s Insider Guide to Eating in East London


Birkett‘s seasonal recipes frequently grace the pages of
Olive magazine, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. Having
co-written Alain Ducasse’s foodie guide to
, J’Aime London, collaborated on dinners with renowned
chefs such as James Lowe and José Pizarro and turned her blog into
an award-winning cookbook, A Lot On Her Plate, we often turn to
Rosie for cooking inspiration.

She recently moved to
, quickly s familiarising herself with the eclectic
gastronomies that make the
East London
food scene one of the most innovative and diverse
in the capital and bring out her second book, East London Food.
Sidestepping the hipster stereotype, she lifts the lid on
under-the-radar dinner parties and where we should be eating right

What sets East London’s food scene apart?

The independent entrepreneurial spirit, sense of adventure and
unconventional, artistic tendencies.

Who are some of people behind food in East London that we
should know about?

Ed Wilson, the chef behind Brawn on Columbia Road who sources the most incredible
ingredients for his small plates; James Lowe, of Lyle’s London,
whose British tasting menus are delicious and thought-provoking,
and his brilliant pastry chef, Anna, who is definitely one to
watch. Freddie Jansen who also works at Lyle’s has started a really
fun venture called Snackbar with tasty, internationally inflected
plates which is popping up at Legs at the moment – he’s set
to launch its own space soon.

You should also all meet my friend John the Poacher, he’s a
forager who roams Hackney and Walthamstow’s marshes sourcing wild
ingredients for food businesses and restaurants. I grew up foraging
for wild mushrooms and cobnuts in Kent so we really hit it off and
he has taught me a lot about what’s growing in my neighbourhood. He
does fantastic foraging walks.

Which is your favourite breakfast spot?

I adore Dishoom
– the bacon naan is unbeatable. But also love a
fry-up at E
in Bethnal Green – a proper old-school East End caff
that’s been run by the same family since 1900.

Where would you head for a weekday meeting?

The Good
in Stoke Newington does the most incredible
chocolate babka and an aubergine pitta which is out of this

Or for a boozy lunch with friends?

Rochelle Canteen. It’s so secluded, set in an old
Victorian school yard with really gorgeous, simple, seasonal menus
that hit the spot every single time.

What’s the best-kept secret on the East London food scene?

P Franco in
Clapton. It’s a wine shop in an old Chinese takeaway which has a
revolving line up of really incredible chefs from all over the
world, many of whom have worked in some top, top restaurants. They
come and cook at the end of theis big table which everyone sits
around and drinks delicious natural wine with small plates of
inexpensive gastronomic food. My friend/collaborator Helen Cathcart
and I joke about the P Franco “worm hole” – the wine is so amazing
and the service so friendly and personal that you end up losing
entire nights in there. So much fun.

If East London was a dish then what would it be?

It’s more like an all-you-can-eat buffet than a single dish
because it’s a total feast, and there is something to suit every

Where would you go for an afternoon sugar hit?

We are totally spoiled for bakers in East London. Lilly Vanilli
on Columbia Road or Violet Bakery on Wilton Way never disappoint.

For a romantic dinner?

The staff are such a crack team. They really look after you and the
food is totally knock-out. Tasty, but also fiercely British and
unusual enough to be genuinely interesting.

For a catch-up with friends?

The Towpath Café, which is only open during the summer
months, is a tiny canal-side spot where the food is everything I
want to eat – simple, seasonal and soulful. We clamour for lunches
here as soon as it opens.

What’s your favourite pub?

The Chesham
in Homerton by a mile. It’s a proper pub, doesn’t serve
food and has board games and wood burners. We love spending cosy
afternoons there in winter and they even have impromptu carol
services at Christmas which are the best fun.

Describe your ideal day in East London.

It would need to be a Sunday so it could start with coffee and
croissants at Pavillion Bakery and a stroll down Columbia Road
market to pick up some flowers, then we’d head to the Marksman
for one of their beef and barley buns and a swift one. We’d wander
down to Broadway Market for an oyster or four at Fin and
(they do the most amazing selection outside), then
head to E5
to pick up the Hackney Wild sourdough we love and
have one of their amazing sandwiches. Then we’d jump on the bus and
head up to Clapton for wine and small plates at P Franco before
walking across the marshes to let the dog stretch his legs. We’ll
probably end up at home, inviting some mates to crack into the wine
we’ve bought from P Franco, and I’ll cook something. Then we’ll no
doubt end up having a disco in the kitchen.

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