6 Things We Learnt This Week: closures, birthdays and bargains

Get stuck into the area’s January discounts, 2-for-1 beers, cheap lunches and more

Bye-bye Wild & Fresh, Five Star Fish and Arch Rivals

Let’s get the sad news out the way first. Anyone who’s a regular down the thoroughfares of Leyton, Leytonstone and Forest Gate will have seen that it’s adieu to these three this month. There’s been quite a heated discussion on the Francis Road Facebook group about whether the staff at Francis Road’s organic store Wild & Fresh were unfriendly or not; as for Five Star fish shop, it seems to be another sad victim of the high street, with a bailiffs’ notice currently pinned to the door. And a mile or so south-east, long-running store, bodega and restaurant Arch Rivals shuts as their owners relocate to fashionable St Leonard’s (read our recent feature on the seaside town here): last day promises to be an all-day boozy send-off, next Saturday, Jan 22nd, from 2-8pm.

The Birds: £5 weekday sarnies

And now onto more positive affairs. Strictly speaking, we didn’t learn about the bargain lunches at The Birds E11 this week: the A-board on the High Road has winked at us for a while now advertising its midday wares. But, in the spirit of new year economy, we popped by to examine its short menu, with just four options, including vegan bacon, n’duja with mozzarella and salsa verde, and a blue cheese, rocket and beetroot. We chose the crispy bacon, avocado, rocket, tomato and sweet chilli sauce (pictured above, main pic), which comes golden toasted on sourdough (just close your eyes and forget the calories). For £1.50 extra you get a cup of creamy celeriac soup – importantly, another vegetable portion. Win.

Hanoy Chay
Great vegan food at Hackney Bridge: also 2-4-1 drinks daily. Photo: SE

Heathcote & Star: also open for lunch

Speaking of le dejeuner, the mighty corner boozer on Grove Green Road has just unveiled its own decent-value midday menu. It comes in at a quid more than the Birds, but £6 is still good value these days for a pub lunch, right? And that price keeps it in line with the sarnies at Unity Cafe, directly opposite. Sandwich options include pesto chicken with mozzarella, cheese and caramelised onion and ham, cheese and mustard, and more. As WFH-ers, we’re definitely into pubs being open on weekdays, offering tasty scran at good prices, and, importantly lots of airy Covid-friendly space to work.

Hackney Bridge: 2-for-1 drinks daily

Need a Wet January bargain? Yep, us too. In fact, it’s the first year in probably a decade that we haven’t felt inclined to go down the Dry route. Therefore we were a little thrilled, when munching on a tasty plant-based bun cha down in the Olympic Park at Hackney Bridge’s Hanoi Chay last weekend, to spot that the streetfood market and bar has a daily weekday happy hour from 4-7pm. Expect cocktails, wine and draft lager at 2-for-1 prices. Woop.

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Free co-working space, cheap burgers and 2-for-1s: Two More Years. Photo: SE

Another bargain? 2-for-1s at Two More Years

We are extremely partial to a brisk midweek strut over the Olympic Park and along the canal down to Two More Years. It’s the revamped Stour Space and boasts a huge and airy co-working space (pictured above) that’s free to use during the day (but c’mon now, at least buy a coffee or two). When beer o’clock arrives, there’s an impressive roll call of East London breweries, while on menu duties is top patty-purveyors Burger & Beyond. Best of all, those on a budget need to get stuck in on Thursdays when it’s 2-4-1 beers and £5 burgers. Who said January was dull?

Strange Brew is 3

Finally, it’s a big cuddly happy birthday to our favourite coffee stop on Francis Road – there’s something mellow about that leafy corner of the street, isn’t there, with its sandpit seating and now-mature planting? As well as taking a moment to enjoy the beans, we’re also partial to its tasty sweet treats (although we do try and resist, to be fair). Go support them this weekend and make a birthday purchase. Read our interview with owner Nicholas when it opened back in 2018 here.

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