From the tip of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Leyton and Leytonstone fan out north and east until they bump up against their northern and eastern neighbours Walthamstow and Wanstead. The whole area is unlovingly bisected by the thundering A12, although you’ll find most places of interest on Leyton and Leytonstone High Roads, which flank it to the east and west.
Romanian restaurants, pan-African cafes, artisan delis and traditional eel and pie houses: eating options here reflect the culturally diverse make-up of the area. From this eclectic assortment, here’s our pick of the best places to eat and drink in Leyton and Leytonstone.
Coffee and light lunches
Permanent home of the popular Scottish street-food stall, small and tidy Deeney’s on Leyton High Road serves up some of the area’s best coffee (Allpress) alongside their signature toasties. Go for a Macbeth (haggis, cheddar and caramelised onions) or vegetarian-version Lady Macbeth with an ice-cold Irn-Bru.
Wild Goose Bakery on Leytonstone High Road is another excellent choice for a caffeine hit. The sourdough loaves, cakes and biscuits are all baked downstairs, and there’s a short menu of sandwiches, stews and salads served in the cute cafe at the back. Owned by a local husband-and-wife team, the bakery is passionate about supporting community projects and regularly donates to local food banks.
Just up the road, Danish-run cafe, bar and bookshop All You Read is Love offers a retro escape from the High Road. Fresh flowers, granny chic, shelves of paperbacks and a vinyl soundtrack provide the backdrop to great coffee, cakes, sandwiches and soups as well as cocktails, wine, local beers and an interesting range of herbal tea. It shares the space with East London Radio and hosts live music, quizzes and the Leytonstone Book Club.
Weekend brunch and lunch
The area’s best weekend option is Marmelo Kitchen on Leyton’s Francis Road. The small, open kitchen at the back of the simple-yet-stylish dining room offers up exceptional Sunday roasts — such as honey and mustard glazed lamb, slow braised brisket, and lemon and thyme roasted chicken — as well as a variety of brunch dishes on a couple of snug communal tables. Book ahead.
It’s worth stopping by Leyton’s Saturday food market, curled around the bandstand in Coronation Gardens. You can typically pick up loaves, bagels and brioche from Flour and Spoon, scotch eggs from Finest Fayre, fresh fish from locals Davies & Sons and Antipodean treats from Kiwi and Roo, or grab a drink from the husvagn coffee van. This is also a handy place to have a chat to the folks from Signature Brew. Just a hop and skip up the road, the brewery is renowned for its excellent range of craft beer, created in collaboration with ale-loving musicians.
Across the A12 in Leytonstone, great-value, family-run Panda’s plain and unfussy interior belies the quality of its pillowy dim sum. Steamed Shanghai pork buns and special fried dumplings (with prawn, pork and egg) are stand-outs.
A five-minute walk south Oven East has a tempting selection of hot and cold mezze, salads and kebabs as well as steaming Italian and Turkish pizza straight from the wood-fired oven. Owner Jay makes all-comers very welcome.
Leytonstone High Road is generally a better bet for dinner than its western counterpart. You’ll likely need a reservation at newcomer Mora, a Sardinian restaurant deservedly growing in popularity. The speciality here is the delicious, freshly made pasta but the melanzane alla parmigiana and rabbit with mashed potato have also garnered fans. Staff are particularly warm and friendly.
It’s also worth booking ahead at neighbouring Singburi. Service and surrounds aren’t the star of the show, but the short and standard Thai menu is excellent value and dependably good, and the specials offer more unusual dishes such as crispy pork belly, chicken livers, and scallops. It’s cash-only and BYO.
Near the top of the High Road, Little Saigon is a slightly-too-spacious, canteen-style Vietnamese, serving good-quality pho, crispy pancakes, noodles and fish dishes. The trendy decor, Anspach & Hobday beers, Fritz cola and La Gelateria ice cream raise this place above the norm.
Marmelo Kitchen also makes a great choice for dinner. Chalkboard menus offer a fresh and seasonal mix of finely executed small plates, such as bavette steak with duck egg, masala chicken kebab and pan-fried sea bass. An interesting wine list and short-but-sweet dessert list make this a real winner.
Pubs, bars and drinking
You’ll find an enticing combination of high-end deli products and an excellent wine selection at shop-cum-bar Yard Arm, another reason to make a detour to Leyton’s Francis Road. This venture focuses on small-batch wines, mostly natural and biodynamic, with a particularly good range from English vineyards. There are also local beers and soft drinks, cheeses, salami and fresh bread. Come for pre-dinner drinks or for one of the Wednesday wine tastings.
At the very top of Leyton High Road, you’ll find the William IV, a gloriously traditional Victorian boozer which is home to Brodie’s Brewery. There’s an extensive selection of Brodie’s ales at very cheap prices, as well as darts, a log fire and swirly carpets.
Set in the old town hall, sprawling Antic-run Leyton Technical retains many of the building’s original features (check out the mosaic floors) and does above-average pub grub in its separate dining room. Nearby Northcote Arms has a similarly distressed aesthetic and provides a warm welcome and a very laid-back atmosphere, along with comedy nights and Sunday drag shows.
Across the tracks, the Leyton Star of the Star family (Star of Bethnal Green, Star of Kings), has a well-kitted-out beer garden with wooden booths, heaters and crazy trees. You’ll also currently find We Serve Humans here, doling out lip-smacking burgers; don’t miss their ‘frickles’ - deep fried pickles with aioli.
Up in Leytonstone, it’s worth veering off the High Road to discover village-like Browning Road and the North Star (no relation). A cosy, down-to-earth pub with a small garden, it has regularly changing ales, decent Thai food, and pizzas at the weekend.
Slightly further south, the instrument-bedecked Luna Lounge is an unpretentious, intimate live-music venue. Nightly acts run the gamut from acoustic singer-songwriters to funk, jazz and blues.
If you’re after a late one, newcomer Pepper’s Ghost in Leyton opens until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights but the best place to head for is Leytonstone’s Red Lion, another rambling Antic pub with trademark scrubbed-down-and-tarted-up decor, an expansive beer garden, live music, DJs and a genuinely convivial atmosphere (until 1.30am Friday and Saturday). It’s worth checking out the line-up in their upstairs ballroom.