We’ve been walking from Bethnal Green tube station for fifteen minutes, past some of London’s best pie and mash shops and cocktail bars. I drag a little group off the main road, along a deserted side street lined with warehouses, through an unmarked door and up some back stairs, to a back alley sweat shop…

Keep your hat on, what was once a clothing sweat shop has now been transformed into the stylish Bistrotheque. The rails of clothes and factory lines of workers have made way for elegant waiters and delicious brunch classics accompanied by jazz renditions of favourites fluttering out of the baby grand in the corner. The factory windows and interiors still remain to create a breezy loft ambiance that perfectly compliments the stylish but casual clientele. We order chorizo with buttery fried potatoes, fluffy pancakes with creme fraîche and a tart sweet blueberry compote, and avocado on toast with fiery Sriracha.

Bistrotheque Bethnal Green

On our trip back we spot a sign luring us in with the promise of Italian produce through an inconspicuous door. We find an art gallery with a centre piece displaying olive oils, huge blocks of parmesan, bottles of prosecco and various cured meats. We are lucky enough to catch the Italian procurer of 4 Cose, Andrea Sassi, who brings the produce over from his hometown of Reggio nell’Emilia and sells impeccable quality of authentic Italian products at prices that are far from extortionate.

Last weekend I finally got to revisit an instant favourite business that I had the pleasure of coming across at Street Feast a few months back. Their fun and friendly attitude coupled with the simple, no frills Taiwanese food offering make BAO (translated as BUN) a sure winner. Little pillowy pockets of steamed milk bun filled with sweet, slow-cooked pork and topped with peanut shavings; buttermilk fried popcorn chicken in paper bags; and a colourful veggie slaw.

Bao Taiwanese Pork Buns

The home to this little shack is a school playground which transforms weekly into the lively Netil Market. Vintage clothing, record and book stalls sit alongside thriving food businesses that surround a small area of wooden benches where purchases can be enjoyed and new acquaintances met. Charlie and I enjoyed our little buns on a bench in the sunshine surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the stalls and food lovers. A couple sat near to us observed our appreciation and we got chatting to the self-confessed burger addict. Having tried pretty much every burger in town, she said that Lucky Chip behind us in the market is the best. We couldn’t quite hack the 40 minute queue, but we’ll take her word for it and make a bee-line on the next visit! Thank you La Fromagerie lady:-)

Netil Market, Hackney

 

Well worth a visit for all of the above reasons and also to the monthly late night art gallery openings on Vyner Street, Bethnal Green is a thriving place full of interesting folk and independent businesses. We’ll be back!