The award-winning Carpenters Arms is quite clearly a victim of its own success. Being the best-looking, friendliest boozer in the entirety of E2, it is routinely packed to the gunnels with admirers. On a Sunday afternoon, if you intend to be in a position to order a meal any faster than molasses flowing uphill in January, then get here early. We arrived at two-thirty - how laughably naïve of us - and stood giving hackies at the nearest under-occupying couple for the best part of two hours before we accepted the stalemate everyone else was too polite to point out to us. All I can tell you is the food looked and smelled fantastic. The golden nectar of Aspalls on tap and my errant roast made me more surreally tipsy than a peach-orchard boar that’s, well, spent all day on the cider.
In a panicked, hypoglycaemia-tinged haze, and with much regret, we eventually threw in the towel at the Carpenters to try our luck at The Royal Oak on Columbia Road. That was a fool’s errand and no mistake. By dinnertime, we realised we would never sit down nor eat again unless we went to a proper restaurant, so we dropped by a trusty neighbourhood joint, The Stingray Globe Café. This is unmistakably a pizza restaurant, though, with no presence in the Sunday-roast market to speak of. No gravy? No matter! The Stingray, known for its straightforward grub, charmingly gauche service and keen prices, is an instant pick-me-up on a dark, drizzly November evening. Bruschetta, pizza, wine and amaretto all round, plus puds split two ways, came in at just under £20 a head. The pound-a-pop transaction fee (we’d drunk away all of our cash, for pity’s sake!) did seem excessive, however.
The Carpenter's Arms
73, Cheshire Street, E2 6EG
020 7739 6342
Open on Sunday 12pm-11.30pm, food served from 1pm-5pm.
The Royal Oak
73, Columbia Road, E2 7RG
020 7729 2220
Sunday lunch available in the bar and dining room between 12pm & 4pm, food available in the bar from 6pm.
StringRay Globe Cafe
109, Columbia Road, E2 7RL
Open everyday 11am-11pm
Words and photography by Carolyn Butler