Sure, the food and drink scene gets better and better in the area. After all, this is the year that’s seen the arrival of the all-conquering Burnt Smokehouse (which we were first to review here), the mighty Homies On Donkeys, irresistible brewery taprooms Blondies and Libertalia, awesome coffee hang Back To Ours, and the soon-to-open Mum Likes Thai Food.
But here we take a moment to remember half a dozen spots that paved the way in the last decade.
1. All You Read Is Love
This was a wonderfully bohemian bookshop-cum-bar-cum-cafe-cum-events-space at the top of Leytonstone High Road, a site now occupied by Stone Pizza, which has been seemingly closed since lockdown. A formula since adapted to longlasting effect by the lovely Phlox on Francis Road, the original boozy literary haven (with a clever punning name) opened in 2015 and was run by Danish siblings Anders and Karen, a much-needed hub in that part of E11. It closed in 2019 – and is much missed.
2. Yardarm Restaurant
Once the edible jewel in Francis Road’s crown, this excellent small plates joint adjoining the deli, bar and cafe survived for a few years before lockdown finally finished it off. It was also the place where acclaimed pastry chef and author Henrietta Inman had her well-received kitchen residency for a year. We were so obsessed with the well-priced menu a couple of years ago it became our weekly Friday treat. Now, of course, it’s the chic Yardarm lifestyle store.
3. Solvay Society
Pretty much kickstarting the taproom boom in E10 and E11 was this sliver of a railway arch which opened five years ago. There was no compromise on the beers, some of which were an acquired taste. Although never overly busy, it was something of a hidden gem, its more buzzy successors in the area including the nearby Arch Deli, Gravity Well, Libertalia, Mammoth Taproom and more. It closed earlier this year.
4. Curved Brick Cafe
Half a decade ago this was one of Leyton’s best artisan cafes, housed in the striking clapboard building formerly home to Billy’s Carpets. The exterior was painted sky blue, while inside the walls were hung with framed prints of Curved Brick Co coffee labels. There were fun pop-up cocktail nights, too. And it made a perfect walk from our flat. Now? It’s a second-hand furniture store.
5. Petite Robe Rose
Way back in 2014 this pioneering cafe opened in an unassuming spot on Leyton High Road (later Deeney’s second outpost – and nowadays, oh, we can’t remember). Behind a frontage decorated with bunting was a French cafe and vintage shop that served homemade bread, excellent coffee, loose teas, yummy sandwiches, and gluten-free cakes. More like this on Leyton High Road, please.
6. Le Petit Corner
Rewind a few years and there was actually a lot more high quality coffee at the top of Leytonstone High Road. Like AYRIL (see our #1), this was another welcome spot, just by the entrance to Bushwood (and the excellent North Star pub), that for a long time was our go-to for a decent pre- or post-stroll espresso. It closed in early 2020 – before the pandemic, in fact. It’s now an underwhelming – and often deserted – dessert place.