Forest Gate, like the rest of the East End, has a heritage rooted in arts and culture. This is partially due to being the 1960s home of the former Upper Cut Club, a venue owned by Douglas Bayle and George and Billy Walker. It disappeared almost as soon as it popped up, but not before hosting a dizzying litany of iconic musical figures such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Small Faces. More recently, musicians Plan B and the Newham Generals have ties with the area.
Now, a largely residential district, made more popular in recent years due to the proximity of the picturesque Wanstead Flats, Olympic Park and good schools, there is plenty to feast on in Forest Gate. A still-blossoming community of independent restaurants and cafes has added a buoyancy to the area and made it a promising location for good eating. Very good eating indeed.
Where to get breakfast and brunch in Forest Gate
Ramble Café, set in Avenue Road’s Arch 432, is one of the most beloved breakfast spots in Forest Gate. This new incarnation of the former Tromsø Cafe boasts glorious wafts of sweet cinnamon buns dancing on the wind and hungry customers are sure to smell the Scandinavian bakery and coffee shop from far and wide. Locals love the Norwegian-themed plates, like cinnamon toast and soy and ginger cured salmon.
Café @ 48 is another neighbourhood stalwart. Go here for a full English or one of the various sandwiches. Burgers, pastas and a selection of cakes are also available inside. Super early birds can get a substantial meal to start the day at Brunch Café, which specialises in the usual greasy-spoon staples. For breakfast wraps, baps and a selection of US-brunch themed bites, Querky Café is the go-to. Try the chicken waffles and french toast. South Asian-inspired eats can be found at Masala Chai Nashta; think Desi cheese toasties, masala omelettes and keema.
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South Asian flavours can also be found at Bee's Kitchen (halwa puri, Nutella paratha, keema and omelettes, etc) but the spotlight here is on the whopping range of all day breakfasts - perfect for shift workers and late risers. The menu takes in a variety of requirements, from the 'Diet Conscious Breakfast' (eggs, turkey ham, grilled tomatoes, avocado, spinach, mushrooms, beans, vegetables, chicken or beef sausages and toast) to the 'Donner Breakfast' which throws a full kebab into the mix.
Yellow Trike Mediterreanean Bistro is popular for traditional brunch items like eggs benedict, but you can also find Greek-inspired eggs with feta and tomato and a buffet loaded with pastries and fruits. Tucked under the Forest Gate Arches is an outpost of Wild Goose Bakery, where wonderful goods, fresh from the oven, are available to enjoy at the onsite café or to take away. The sourdough is excellent and gluten free. Vegan breads are also available. On Saturdays, Woodgrange Market offers several stalls featuring cheeses, meats, organic fruit and vegetables, breads and preserves for a locally-sourced, artisanal breakfast.
Where to get lunch and snacks in Forest Gate
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Light bites around here are usually found in the same places that serve excellent coffee and brunch. There are a few exceptions that offer something slightly different. At Gujarat Junction, not only can you find a huge selection of packaged Gujarati nibbles, but the little counter in-store is packed full of samosas, bhajias, and other Indian street food items. Other Indian goodies can be found at JB Sweet and Savoury which has been specialising in Gujarati snacks since the 1950s. Kachori (patties of spiced peas and moong dal wrapped in crunchy pastry), samosas and a selection of mithai, or sweetmeats, all come in an array of tantalising flavours and textures. Further down the road at City Sweet Centre, the selection continues.
Both SMIT Pure Vegetarian and Egg and Veg Food Plaza also offer more substantial South Asian dishes. Those with larger appetites can try the tiffin at SMIT, which comes with daal, rice, roti and a vegetarian dish of choice. The Egg and Veg Food Plaza's signature dishes are — you guessed it — a huge list of egg-based Indian street foods. The egg tikhari, for example, a popular egg dish from Surat, involves layering different gravies with fried eggs, while the egg mughlai is an aromatic North Indian egg curry. Last but not least, Chinese-owned takeaway Panda's Kitchen serves pan-Asian staples such as fried rice meals, tom yum soup and crispy duck.
Where to get coffee in Forest Gate
Some of the best coffee in Forest Gate can be found at local gem, Cups and Jars. The little space — founded by ex-hospitality professionals Cecile Mathonneau and Everson Ferreira — also serves as a zero-waste grocery shop, where beans, pulses and pastas jostle happily with organic fruits and vegetables. Allowing residents to cut down on their plastic food packaging, the shop is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
Coffee Junction, is great for a takeaway on the move, due to its speedy and friendly service. Can Club is a café and learn-through-play space that is catered especially for children and families. Founded by three teachers, the club hosts craft mornings, workshops and parties.
The best restaurants in Forest Gate
Fiore Truck is easily one of the jewels of Forest Gate. The cosy bar and restaurant, found in Arch 429, serves a stunning ever-evolving menu that explores a variety of Italian flavours and textures. At family-run independent Giovanna's Deli and Wine, there's a selection of wines, Italian delicacies, and pizzas available to eat in and take away.
Grab Brazilian specials at Brasa, across the road. Alongside deli items, you'll find a menu of traditional dishes like steak with rice, beans and plantain, as well Brazilian soft drinks and desserts. Just above, Connie's Restaurant serves delicious Ghanaian food in a simple setting. The whole snapper and chofi (fried turkey tails sprinkled with yaji seasoning) are both highlights, and waakye — a dish of cooked rice and beans — is popular served with stewed beef or chicken.
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Local favourite The Wanstead Kitchen serves a selection of south Asian and Anglo-Indian classics. The vegan mains such as the saag bhesi (spinach cooked with pumpkin seeds and sautéed onions) and the maal (lentils cooked with mushrooms and simmered in spices) are very popular. Odessa Tandoori's North Indian dishes are also varied and flavourful. Century Bar — which was recently refurbished — serves classic curries, kebabs and beer snacks from the across the Indian subcontinent.
A two-minute walk down Romford Road brings you to Elvet Steakhouse, which unlike many other steak restaurants, provides meat which is also halal. Visit for Argentine and Australian cuts including rib eye, fillet and sirloin. For the non-red meat eaters, fish and vegetarian dishes are available.
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Pastry fans will delight in the choice available at Pie Republic; its menu pays homage to the East End's maritime and trading heritage, with names like Royal Victoria and Victory Gardens. The Hakka, a juicy lamb and rosemary pie, is worth a try.
A stone's throw away, at Bronze Royale, you can eat Nigerian food late into the night. Open until 1am, this is an ideal place to grab a midnight snack of jollof rice, grilled meats and stews. Across the road, at Dnister, you will find a roster of Ukrainian classics, including varenyky (dumpling stuffed with meat, mushrooms or cheese) and borscht, alongside larger dishes like chanakhi (pork stew with wild mushrooms, butter beans and tender potatoes) and the Crimean chebure, a deep-fried turnover filled with ground beef.
Pubs, bars and gastropubs in Forest Gate
The pubs and bars in Forest Gate all offer something different from one another, which helps with indecision. Gastropub Forest Tavern is a cosy venue with a small menu of seasonal British fare. The dishes are heavily produce-oriented with changing specials, complemented by guest ales, while weekly events keep the wood-furnished space buzzing.
Another community pub, the Holly Tree serves the area between Forest Gate and Leytonstone High Road. As well as food and changing real ale, this pub keeps sports fans happy with large screens, Sky, ESPN and darts. The spacious beer garden is lovely in the summer, and — get this — it has a fully functioning miniature train!
At the Wanstead Tap, craft beer is a the focus. There are guest ales, international beer and plenty of cans and bottles to keep connoisseurs happy, and those Untapped checklists ticked off. The Wanstead Tap also functions as a performance space and arts venue with ticketed events listed on its website.
The Pretty Decent Beer Co pours a dozen or so of its own craft beers at its Forest Gate taproom, as well as wines, gin and even stuff for non-drinkers. In short, it caters to anyone who's thirsty.
The Ciderhouse E7 is a family-run bar which works with small and independent producers and hosts regular events. Check it out for regular stand-up comedy nights, vinyl evenings and lunchtime 'baby raves' on Sundays.
Note: Forest Gate has never had any formal boundaries due to never being an administrative area, but it is often seen as conterminous with the E7 post code. For the sake of this article we have outlined the parameters of Atherton Road in the west, Glenparke Road to the south, Woodgrange Park Train Station in the east and Thorpe Road to the north.