When West Ham United Football Club left Upton Park and moved to Stratford, many assumed the neighbourhood would become a ghost town of empty luxury flats, shuttered pubs and general tumbleweed. In fact, the area between East Ham and Upton Park is still extraordinarily vibrant, with a wide selection of authentic South Asian and Eastern European restaurants where you can eat a full meal for a fiver or less. You can also find a decent pint, or if you prefer, a bubble tea. Join us as we dig into the area's foodie delights.
Where to eat breakfast in Upton Park and East Ham
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A good number of the restaurants here open their doors bright and early, providing a wide choice of breakfasts to the diverse community. Vasantha Vilas, on High Street North, specialises in South Indian traditional fare such as idli and sambar, dosa and uttappam, serving veritable feasts from 7am.
Bubble Tea Bar, further along High Street North (it's at number 19 although its name keeps changing), also offers the usual breakfast items like eggs, toast and pastries, although the focus here is the eponymous Taiwanese drink. An array of different flavoured teas mixed with 'bubbles' (cooked pearls of tapioca) are available in flavours including jasmine, matcha and papaya.
Alongside South Asian twists on the full English, masala omelettes and sweet options like puri (a type of fried Asian flatbread) with pulped mango and chai, the breakfast highlight at Masala Chai Nashta is the chole bhature — a Punjabi dish consisting of delicately spiced chickpeas and piping hot fried puri. Along Green Street, you can find Daily Fresh Naan, which not only offers freshly baked naan but also various toppings like keema and pizza to make a more substantial start to the day.
Where to eat lunch in Upton Park and East Ham
Lunch options in Upton Park and East Ham are incredible value for money. An unassuming shop front on Plashet Road yields one of the best places in London for Gujarati street food — R D Dabeli. A selection of six pani puri (a mini, crispy version of the Indian fried bread), filled to the brim with potatoes, chickpeas and onion, topped with homemade tamarind chutney and a spicy mint-flavoured water (the 'pani') is only £2.50, while dabeli — a type of spicy vegetarian burger made with potatoes, spices and pomegranate — is just £2.
In fact, the surrounding area has become somewhat of a hub for those craving chaat (a family of savoury snacks served on the roadside) places. At Mr Tashan, there are queues out the door for the paneer momo and their signature frankeys — a type of sandwich-wrap filled with vegetables or paneer and sauce. Within a few minutes walk, Eatz & Drinkz, Fusion Masti, Bombay Chaat Corner and Mona's Chaat House and all serve riffs on the classics: samosa chaat, bhel, pani puri and so on, with regional variations.
Bangladeshi food can be found at the Upton Park outpost of east London chain Spice Hut, which is also known for its fusion fast food, such as naga wings and burgers. Nearby, Banglapara specialises in Bangladeshi fish curries and bhorta, a type of curried and mashed vegetable which perfectly complements rice. Check the menu here for regional delicacies. At Bangladeshi restaurant, Nisha's Cafe, the specialty is a spiced rice and meat dish, called tehari. There are also beef and chicken liver curries for fans of offal. The crispy potato bhajias at Vijay's Chawalla (a pure vegetarian restaurant on Green Street) are lip-smackingly addictive, served alongside a brimming thali. And a branch of mini-chain, Rooster's Piri Piri, offers wraps, Middle Eastern salads and piri piri chicken that blows a certain high street chicken heavyweight out of the water, for a fraction of the price. Pop-ups and some more chains can also be found in the East Shopping Centre, off of Green Street. Nearer the station, is Queens Fish 'n' Chips, plus a couple of stalls in Queens Market for food on the go. Try Queens Tropical Take Away for jerk chicken, salt-cod patties, escoveitch fried fish and other Caribbean nibbles.
Towards East Ham sits Carpathia, a charming café, all exposed brickwork and cushions, serving traditional Romanian dishes. Try something from the well stocked deli, the grilled meat and polenta specials or a rich, hearty soup with a side of pickled green tomatoes. Even further still, Royal Chef, is a minimalistic canteen which serves Sri Lankan and South Indian staples. The puttu kothu here — a steamed rice and wheat dough crumble, stir-fried with vegetables and studded with seafood before being topped with crispy fried anchovies — is a thing of beauty. More south Indian snacks can be found at Chill with Chai, whose hilarious menu is divided into sections like 'Chill with Dosa' and 'Chill with Puffs' to categorise its serves.
The best coffee shops in Upton Park and East Ham
The number of places to grab a good coffee and while away the hours people-watching in the neighbourhood has increased in recent times. But the real meteoric rise has occurred with another popular beverage; enter the east London bubble tea era. In Upton Park and East Ham, they're almost as common as chicken shops — and they're open just as late — with some closing at 2am. In East Ham, you’ll find Boba Coma and BoBar. Upton Park's offerings are CUPP, Boba Shop, Boba Blast and MooBoo. Chaiiwala on Plashet Road, as its name suggests, specialises in a boba-less version of the beverage — a more traditional masala tea.
For coffee, while Costa still represents the major chains, with a branch on High Street North, other independents have cropped up, most notably D&D Patisserie which serves amazing cakes. It has also never been easier to fit in a slice of culture with your caffeine. The Applecart Café, in the Harold Road Community Centre, is an arts hub that routinely holds exhibitions and events focusing on local artists. Central Park Café has been pulling out the wow factor with a new focus on artisanal bread and locally ground coffee, while Coffee Hut, on Plashet Grove, will see you right with tasty sandwiches and snacks.
A couple of dessert places have been churning out crowd-pleasers from the new mini-mall on Green Street; as well as hot and cold coffees, Urban Chocolatier also serves a range of desserts, milkshakes and ice cream, in the same vein as Afters Original, which is close by. And, for something to look forward to, artistic space, Red Door Studios hosts a pop-up café on the last Saturday of the month.
The best restaurants in Upton Park and East Ham
Many of the aforementioned lunchtime venues offer extensive menus for larger meals but there are also many other restaurants that work especially well for dinners and bigger parties. Pakhtoonkhwa in Upton Park serves solid Afghan food in a traditional setting. Diners can sit cross-legged on cushions and eat from low tables. Delicacies here include the chapli kebab, a large minced lamb patty garnished with grilled sliced tomato and the kabuli pilao, a fragrant rice dish studded with lamb, carrots and raisins.
Thattukada in East Ham is arguably the best Kerala restaurant in London. Here, it is customary to mop up your curries with breads like buttery parotta and spongey appam or snack on kaka fry (fried mussels) and crispy chicken with a cold Kingfisher beer. There is special pleasure in devouring the para pollichathu, a large fish, generously rubbed in spiced tomato paste and steamed whole in banana leaves and — not to be missed — is the 30-course vegetarian meal served in August for the Keralan festival of Onam.
In a similar vein, Udaya serves Kerala classics; the massive plant-based curry variety makes this a perfect place for vegetarians. Relative newcomer Chai Kadai is another Malayali-owned café which replicates the fast food canteens of Mumbai. Alongside daily changing Kerala specials (check their Instagram), diners can find mutton rolls, samosas and Indian shawarma.
Nearby, Hyderabadi Spice's towering biryanis are a cut above the myriad other venues serving the traditional rice dish and Saravanaa Bhavan, a branch of the popular Tamil pure-veg chain, is especially good for South Indian mains. For a taste of South Indian meat dishes, Anjappar is the go-to. Try the mutton and chicken roasts, as well as the tandoori meat.
Romanian restaurant, Zaraza, on Katherine Road excels with things like pork ribs and trout, meaty stews and cold cut platters. Nearby, Pakistani restaurant, Lahori Nihaari, is a no-frills establishment, famous for its lamb nihari. This version of Pakistan's national dish is a rich, unctuous stew made by slow cooking the meat in a medley of spices until it falls apart. A small portion, which is more than enough for two, with some of the restaurant's famous kulcha naan, simultaneously crispy and fluffy is a wonderful winter warmer. Squires is the go-to for West African food; jollof rice and pounded yam are accompanied by deliciously complex stews and soups.
The best bars and pubs in Upton Park and East Ham
Increasing costs, transient clientele and the migration of West Ham Football Club to Stratford have all seen East End boozers take a bit of a hit. Nevertheless, of the bastions of a bygone era, some still stand. The Boleyn Tavern, a grand, grade II-listed watering hole, which has operated since the Victorian times has undergone a refurb courtesy of Remarkable Pubs, a small London-based chain, who bought the freehold from Greene King in 2019. Boasting Italian marble floors, stucco and stunning stained-glass skylight, it is one of the most beautiful pubs in east London. It is watering hole for a diverse crowd, particularly on weekends for the cracking roasts and on Tuesdays for the weekly quiz night.
Fans of heavy metal will want to pay a visit to The Ruskin Arms, though it is temporarily closed. The original pub was once a favourite haunt of Iron Maiden and was home to more than three decades of rock and roll history. While the new pub is less metal-focused, with two pool tables, food and a hotel, there is still plenty to keep thirsty punters happy.
And any write up would be incomplete without a mention of the Black Lion. Technically in Plaistow (but near enough to Upton Park and an icon to West Ham fans), this is the oldest operating — and the only CAMRA — pub in the area, reputed to date back to 1742. Its rotating guest ales (it's a freehouse), friendly bar staff, incredible pies and distinctive architecture make it a destination in its own right.
The Red Lion in East Ham has a lively programme of events, sourdough pizzas and craft beer — proving the more pubs in east London, the merrier. The Denmark Arms, is another example of grade-II listed glory. A good shout for watching sporting events, while food here is again quintessential pub grub like fish and chips.
Note: We've used Glenparke Road to the north and East Ham Nature Reserve to the south as our parameters here, taking in the catchments of Upton Park, East Ham and (only just) clipping Forest Gate and Plaistow.