The 2012 Olympics, West Ham Football Club’s move from Upton Park and the development of the huge Westfield Shopping Centre have all catalysed Stratford’s resurgence as a cultural epicentre. But while these high-profile investments have led to the inevitable arrival of more chain restaurants and luxury developments, much of the area still retains its individuality which thrives in the less prominent pockets of the neighbourhood. Here, plenty of independent restaurants and cafés make the neighbourhood an unmissable destination for food.Read More
Where to Eat in Stratford
A quality Lithuanian deli, an outstanding new Sichuan restaurant, and homestyle Brazilian cuisine
1. White Goose Bistro Magda Gessler
Formerly Londek Café, the slick little place still serves solid Polish classics like bigos — a cabbage and sausage hunter’s stew — and ever-changing specials. Plus, bread baskets with smalec — lard and crispy bacon bits — are delicious alone, or to dip into soups infused with spiced sausage and vegetables. Desserts of sugared pierogi, blueberry pancakes and brick-sized slices of cake provide a sweet ending to the hearty meals.
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2. O12 Bar & Grill
The generically named O12 Bar and Grill feels just like so many venues that were ubiquitous in the 1990s — complete with wall-to-wall water feature and neon lights. But a quick dissection of the menu reveals an inexplicable but delicious muddle of Nepalese and Lithuanian bar food. Classics like Lithuanian kepta duona, moreish fingers of fried bread, and uzkanda prie alaus, a laden platter of nibbles like smoked pig ear, cheese and peanuts, rub shoulders with juicy Nepalese momos, lamb tripe and chhoyola.
Much can be solved over margaritas, jalapeños and lashings of melted cheese and MexiCasa is a great stop for bona fide Mexican flavours as well as the too-long vilified Tex-Mex. Food is consistent and bright, featuring well-balanced flavours, particularly the guacamole and deliciously moreish shrimp tacos, with a citrusy, smoky finish. Go for this, but stay for the bowl-sized dirty margaritas, pugnaciously fiery with thick slices of jalapeño.
4. Hand Cafe
Hand Café is as inconspicuous as they come, tucked away in the East Village, beyond the towering glass and steel temple of trade that is the Westfield Stratford City. Greek influences are seen in little flourishes, from the Kyknos tomato cans housing the cutlery and the Pythagorean tableware to the food. A ham and cheese toastie is rendered extraordinary by a smoky sweet tomato chutney, while chickpeas, black olives, feta and avocado dress eggs in myriad ways.
5. The Pie Crust
London E15 2TF, UK
Set on a remote strip of Stratford High Street, The Pie Crust sits storeys shorter than the skyscrapers which tower over it. An East End cafe by day — complete with pie menu — this little restaurant has been serving central Thai dishes by night since 1984. Highlights are the stuffed chicken wings — rich with mince and vermicelli — and the prawn salad which is generously seasoned with red onion and perfectly balanced dressing.
6. Tradition by Alex
This large Romanian marquee is a central point on Stratford Broadway, attracting hungry crowds with tantalising smells of grilled meat. Classic dishes like ciorba de burta, a milky tripe soup, and stuffed cabbage leaves and kebabs with lashings of mustard are excellent. It has no discernible online presence or location finder, but it is there every day from around 10a.m. to 6p.m.
7. Sawmill Cafe
This whimsical little café’s rotation of homemade specials is perfect lunch fodder, with the wild mushroom, avocado and eggs, and the vegetarian lasagne being particularly good. Freshly squeezed juices, like strawberry and lime are also a highlight.
8. Mr Ribs Restaurant
London E15 1XQ, UK
The women at Mr Ribs, which is attached to a butcher in Market Village, cook some of the best homestyle Brazilian food in London. Juices and Brazilian soft drinks are also available. Huge portions of robust food come with rice, beans and salad, but dishes run out fast, as the day goes on, so lunch is the best time to visit. The carne de panela is a particular favourite, the hearty meat stew rich with warming flavours.
9. Thai Pie
Thai Pie is another of those East End quirks that serves both Thai food and pie and mash. Curries are the standout here, thrumming with heat and depth of flavour. The goong choo chee is also worth trying: fat juicy tiger prawns stir fried in a deep amber curry sauce, redolent with lemongrass and kaffir lime, this dish is both comforting and refreshing.
10. King Edward VII
This 18th century pub, affectionately known as King Eddies, is one of the oldest in Stratford. Original pedimented doors and early 19th century features provide an atmospheric respite from the bustle of the high street. An extensive food menu, with solid Sunday roasts, provides nourishment against the backdrop of live music, quiz nights and Prosecco Thursdays that make this such a popular haunt with the after-work crowd.
Santi’s second location is just as dedicated to quality Italian cooking as the first, in Watford. The restaurant offers a selection of reliable pasta dishes as well as authentic Neapolitan pizza and calzones. But visit for the panuozzi, sandwich-like setups that hail from Gragnano in Naples, made from baked pizza dough which oozes with a variety of different fillings.
12. Fish House
This branch of Fish House serves sustainable seafood for lunch and dinner. As well as the customary fish and chips, moules mariniéres and calamari found in such places, pan-Asian ingredients and seasonal produce complement salmon and chicken.
Predominantly a grocery shop for Lithuanian goods, this branch of Lituanica also has a huge deli counter featuring a wide selection of cold cuts, fish and cheeses. Many hot food and cold food items are also available to take away for the ultimate picnic.
14. Unit Six Cafe
A newcomer to the Stratford Centre, this family-run café has a regularly updated list of coffee blends, fresh cakes and sandwiches. Neon signs and exposed brick give the space a playful and relaxed atmosphere. Homemade food is all healthy and delicious, with daily hot lunch and dinners to eat in and take away.
15. Sichuan Grand Chinese Restaurant 成都府
The latest addition to London’s thriving Sichuan food scene, Sichuan Grand is a palatial venue cresting Stratford’s cultural hub, Gerry Raffles Square. Alongside its water features, floor-to-ceiling paintings and carved furniture, the restaurant offers substance as well as style with excellent renditions of the regional classics, marking a real game-changer for Chinese food in the area.