Originally named after the 15th-century brick and tile production that took place in the area, this world-famous thoroughfare gradually metamorphosed into a vibrant tapestry of trade, culture, and perhaps even more significantly, a definitive, singular kind of cuisine that represents the decades of immigration that have brought vitality to London’s East End.
Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century were some of the first to bring a wave of fresh new culinary influences to Brick Lane, introducing salt beef bagels that became an essential element of the neighbourhood’s food scene.
That culinary baton was then passed on to the enclave’s new arrivals from Bangladesh in the 20th century. Popularly referred to as London’s ‘Curry Capital’, Brick Lane now practically shimmers under a sky seemingly stained with turmeric.
This colourful culinary heritage has survived, thrived, and continues to form the backdrop of hectic food stalls, sit-ins, and family-run curry houses lining the bustling lane, marking Brick Lane today at the crossroads of a vivid, heady and uniquely London experience that needs to be protected at all costs.
Whether you’re longing for a little spice in your life or you’re keen for the comfort of a traditionally baked beigel, we’ve got you covered; from beigels to curry and beyond, here’s where to eat on Brick Lane.
We had to start here. No guide to the best food on Brick Lane would be complete without a hearty, sweaty nod to its cherished Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants. Once placed on the BBC’s list of the ‘World’s Best Curry Houses’, Aladin is arguably the go-to for those wanting a taste of spicy food in this part of town.
Though it’s tempting to view Aladin as just your standard curry house (no bad thing, of course) from the outside, its humble red facade revealing little of the madness within, the restaurant has been satisfying spice lovers and blowing heads off the uninitiated for over four decades, and you can taste that pedigree in the ghee-slicked jalfrezi and yoghurt spiked tandoori king prawn delight.
Though it boasts a whole host of awards – even being praised by King (then Prince) Charles – Aladin is perhaps most famous, notorious, even, for its phall. The dish is regularly named London’s hottest curry and has been charged with causing apparitions, delirium and even hospital visits in those who dare consume it.
A cheap vacation or an act of dangerous bravado? You decide…
As with many curry houses on the strip, Aladin is BYOB, with the off licence directly next door offering a 20% discount to customers. Everybody wins!
Address: 132 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU
Another Brick Lane institution that actually has a few years on trading on Aladin, Sheba is one of East London’s finest purveyors of Bangladeshi food. It’s a family-affair here, and has been since its inception in 1974, with the restaurant due to celebrate its half-century next year.
Regardless of what, who or even if you’re celebrating anything yourself when dining here, the lamb shanks are pretty much obligatory. Slow roasted Bengali-style with carrots and saffron, they are incredibly giving, requiring just a nudge of the spoon to pull meat from bone. Other signature dishes include the kebab ke karisma, a selection of succulent kebabs featuring chicken shish, lamb chop, and mince kofta.
These dishes, based on family recipes, have helped Sheba rack up an impressive collection of accolades, most recently the Best of London winner at the English Curry Awards.
The restaurant also offers affordable set menus and a BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) policy, making it a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. If you dine between midday and 5pm, you can enjoy a 50% discount on your food bill. This also applies to the entirety of Tuesdays. See you next Tuesday?
Address: 136 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU
The Famous Curry Bazaar
Gaviscon at the ready, we continue our tour of Brick Lane’s best curry houses over at the grandly named Famous Curry Bazaar. This Indian restaurant, owned by the esteemed Ahmed Brothers JNR, is a must-visit for any hungry punter drawn by Brick Lane’s ‘Curry Mile’ moniker, its bold red frontage an eye-catching beacon amidst the bustling street.
Among the standout dishes here is the inventive mango chicken curry, replete with plump golden raisins and boasting notes of coronation chicken (hey, get King Chaz back here, stat!), and the lamb dansak, a properly fiery affair, bolstered and, in fact, soothed by its accompanying lentils. For something midler, the king prawn pasanda is luscious without being cloying, the thickener here ground almonds rather than lashings of double cream.
Book online for BYO with no corkage from Monday to Wednesday.
Address: 77 Brick Ln, London E1 6QL
One final curry for the road, and this one is going down in the enormous, two floor, 110-cover City Spice. Following a reliably warm welcome from owner and Brick Lane celeb Abdul Ahad, it’s time to take up position in the bowels of the restaurant and get stuck in.
The Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani dishes here are subtly refined and gently modernised, giving City Spice, for many, the edge on its neighbours and rivals. So much so, in fact, that Dish Cult recently declared the restaurant to be ‘Brick Lane’s number one Indian restaurant’.
The marketing team here are certainly doing something right; the City Spice Hottest Curry Challenge, which does exactly what it says on the tin, regularly pulls in the bold, the brave and the reckless.
Oh, and they also have stellar fully vegan curry menu! The curry house have teamed up with Tindle, purveyors of ‘ridiculously good chicken made from plants’, to create a fully plant based ‘meat’ curry meal. It’s really rather good.
Address: 138 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU
That’s enough curry for one evening…
From the days when it was mainly a Jewish neighbourhood, Brick Lane is still known for its beigels. And perhaps the most famous of all? The 24-hour, 7-days-a-week institution is Beigel Bake, which not only draws locals but also the jet setters and box tickers in their droves, all aiming to get a taste of the salmon and cream cheese, or the legendary hot salt beef beigels.
The latter, in fact, is an absolute staple for late-night Londoners, and has saved this particular late-night Londoner from a savage hangover or a desperate fridge raid on more occasions than we care to admit.
Address: 159 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB
Before we get onto the other acclaimed Brick Lane beigel shop (prosaically named as such) which sits two doors down from Beigel Bake, let’s stop off for some sweet stuff at Crosstown, which is sandwiched between the two beigel halves rather poetically.
Here it’s all about doughnuts; fluffy, full-to-bursting doughnuts with a variety of seasonal fillings and interesting flavours combinations. Right now, the spiced pumpkin is a big seller, as is the pumpkin dulce de leche (we see a theme developing here), but our favourite has got to be the rum and pecan, which heaves under a mound of caramelised, crystalised nuts and boasts a properly boozy punch.
Address: 157 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB
You can’t visit this most famous of thoroughfares without having at least two beigels, so we’re heading next door to Beigel Shop for a taste of Brick Lane history. Slinging the good stuff since 1855, Beigel Shop is – like its rival – open 24/7, and its hot salt beef with piquant English mustard is comprehensively stacked with slices to the point that it’s hard to get your mouth round it. In the best possible way, of course…
For something a little more laid back, the roast chicken and salad beigel is as comforting a bite as you’ll find anywhere in the city.
Address: 159 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB
Brick Lane is world renowned for its curries, sure, but did you know that it also has a fantastic market located in the Old Truman Brewery, spanning global cuisines and streets in the area? Visit on a Sunday to experience the event in full swing, with wares peddled and bargains to be unearthed. It’s chaotic, bustling and utterly charming.
Address: 91 Brick Ln, London E1 6QL
We’re heading a few yards off Brick Lane now, and to Smokestak, for yet more stacks of meat, but this time in more industrial-chic surrounds.
You’ll catch the restaurant’s enticing wafts of wood smoke and grilled meats the moment you venture off Brick Lane, so just follow your nose and settle in. This is a restaurant that benefits from having a group of you round the table; their sharing beef brisket is the star of the show and could feed six easily. Complete with pickles and a few buns, this is finger food elevated to giddy new heights.
In keeping with the area they also serve up a plate of pastrami and pickles with a mustard and dill sauce – a classic combination that you can’t go wrong with.
Address: 35 Sclater St, London E1 6LB
The Vurger Co
This has been a pretty carnivorous tour of Brick Lane’s best restaurants, we have to admit, so next up we’re heading to somewhere plantbased for a little respite. Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice on flavour at The Vurger Co, as the vegan burgers here are excellent, particularly the New York Minute, which hits the spot whatever your dietary persuasions. Don’t miss their sumptuous, all-vegan shakes while you’re here!
After satisfying the savoury – and boy have we done that – you might fancy a sweet treat to finish you off. Enter Dark Sugars, a unique, artisan chocolate shop serving up an array of beautifully crafted, handmade chocolates to the hungry, sweet-toothed folk of Brick Lane.
Run by the unimitable power-couple Paul and Nyanga, the Ghanaian inspired chocolatier combines raw, global ingredients to challenge your chocolate paradigms – give us a box of their rum infused Jamaican white rum truffles and we’d be yours.
That said, Dark Sugars’ hot chocolate, laden with chunks of melting chocolate, is the star of the show here, and something we keep coming back to, time and time again.
Keeping things in the east but heading south, join us next as we explore where to eat near Peckham Rye Station. Go on; you know you want to…