Mr. F's always going on at me about how I should tailor this blog to make it more east London-centric, concentrating on all the amazing eateries that there are in our area. The thing is, whilst he's right about the wondrousness of lots of them (special mentions going out to Pizza East, Cay Tre, and the new Busaba Eathai on Old Street), I think that most people know that you can get a decent Vietnamese meal on Kingsland Road, and are also aware that New Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House serve up delicious tandoori lamb cutlets, great dry meat (a term of art, not a slur) and fresh, fluffy naan. I'm not sure how much light I can shed on this already well illuminated patch of London.
In fact, when pressed, I can only think of two places which would genuinely seem to be a bit "undiscovered" to those who live in all but the closest proximity. The first is Cafe 338 on Bethnal Green Road, which was, I think, formerly called "First Choice". It's under new management and has been spruced up, but still serves caff staples like all day breakfasts, toasted sandwiches and jacket potatoes. I had an absolutely delicious cheese omelette there one day when I was suffering from a swingeing combination of hangover and jet lag. I honestly thinked it saved me. The service is sweet and efficient, and you can breakfast like a king for under £5, including a capuccino topped with a luxuriant amount of billowy foam.
The second place which is a firm favourite with Mr. F and me is Maida, located on Bethnal Green Road close to the top of Brick Lane. This restaurant unassumingly serves up authentic north Indian cuisine and unlike many (all) of the Brick Lane curry houses doesn't rely on touts or free pints to get you through the door. In fact, it doesn't serve alcohol, and nor can you bring your own. But who needs booze when the food is fresh and carefully, if powerfully, spiced? There is an emphasis on fish and meat cooked on the grill or in the tandoor, and the smell and sound of food sizzling on charcoal will have you salivating as soon as you've taken your seat. Being constrained by Mr. F's dietary limitations means that I am more familiar with the vegetable subjis on offer. My top pick is, and will always be, the lasooni saag, a dish of fresh spinach cooked simply with aromatics and garnished with fresh ginger slivers and coriander. Eating this with a roomali roti, a huge, thin and stretchy bread, is pretty much my idea of heaven. The daal makhani is also wonderfully fragrant and comforting, although it's not without a fiery kick. The pilau rice is a minefield of cardamom pods, peppercorns and cloves and is all the better for it. And for those for whom the maxim "a moment on the lips is a lifetime on the hips" doesn't apply, there are the infamous chocolate bar milkshakes which I imagine would be an efficient way of cooling the mouth and rounding off the meal.
So, that's it: my two favourite places on the Bethnal Green Road. Other east London recommendations, be they restos, cafes or emporia, all gratefully received.