I am a food, drinks and culture writer, currently based in Walthamstow having recently moved from the wonderful Manor Park area! I am the co-founder of Cheese Magazine and the publication Sourced, and my podcast Taste of Place (produced by Whetstone Radio Collective) is all about pepper and nostalgia.

East London has built up a reputation for excellent food and wine, from two Michelin star restaurant Clove Club in Shoreditch to the cult following status of Decatur out of Leyton, and the excellent Burgess & Hall Wines under the railway arch near the Wanstead Flats (they are closing in December so make sure you get to them now – they are awesome!).

But one of the things I think gets a little under mentioned is the cocktail bars across East London.

The bar world has developed into an eclectic mix of high end joints and little corners of dive bar mayhem and East London definitely covers the whole gambit.

October saw the awards ceremony for the 50Best Bars, for the first time outside of London, in Barcelona. I was lucky enough to have been invited to the ceremony and my key takeaway was that East London was a tiny hub of excellence! Out of the top 50 best bars in the world East London boasts three (out of the five London bars).

Cocktail bars have had a huge shift in the last five years where the focus has been on developing creative technique, sourcing excellent ingredients and balancing complex flavours. The bar is more akin to a kitchen space, with enormous amounts of prep and skill going into creating a drink. This reflects in the service and of course the price point.

But what I love about a good cocktail bar is that there is an accessibility to it that a high end restaurant doesn’t have.

This kind of drinking is an experience, and you should indulge into that approach. You can have one or two great drinks, take your time with them, chat with the bartender (I am always a fan of sitting at the bar!) exchange tasting notes with your friend… then go home for a cheap and cheerful pasta dinner. To be honest, this would be my perfect date night.

With that in mind, here are my five favourite bars in East London: 

A Bar With Shapes For A Name
(No. 37 of the 50Best)
A beautiful Bauhaus inspired interiors, I would describe the cocktails as elegant and simple which belies the effort that goes into them; but with simple you get clear flavours and clear combinations. Why I love it here is because they have a bar setting for one, and I went once on a Friday night with my book and was given a little light to read with. More places should cherish the solo diner and drinker. Also fun, late on Sunday night – industry night, wild fun!

Satan’s Whiskers
(No. 23 of the 50Best)
This gives dive bar vibes, but make no mistake it is all complex cocktails and slick service. This is a spot I like to go to post dinner for one last martini for the road… a dangerous endeavour, but never a bad decision.

Tayēr + Elementary
(No.2 of the 50Best)
This is a bar within a bar. The first bar – Elementary – is a casual affair, with classic cocktails, wine and beer, and Tayēr is the back bar built in the round so the only option is to sit at the bar! Each drink focuses on one element that shines through as a taste, and I would highly recommend the Sarawak Pepper which captures the aromatics of the spice.
(side note: I am from Sarawak, and I have made a 10 part podcast series with US media company Whetstone called Taste of Place, so I am maybe biased but I am also highly attuned to the flavours of pepper)

Seed Library
This is all 70s lounge glam. I LOVE IT. I want to be there in silk pyjamas drinking dirty martinis. It is a fairly large space so isn’t the tiny bar I am usual partial to, but it is beautiful and offers the space for meeting with groups. Although, I am of course a fan of sitting at the bar and having a chat to the lovely bartenders.


Rock and punk dive bar, with live music. Drink your whisky neat, plan to jump around and get messy.

Special mentions:

Tina We Salute You
, E20
I’ve known these guys since when they opened their coffee shop in Dalston over 10 years ago and their Newham bar/café is superb. Everything they do is wonderful!

Mother’s Ruin: The Gin Palace,
Makers of great spirits, this spot is very fun! Known for their gin, but they also make a number of other spirits and of course cracking cocktails. Open only on the weekend.

The Avenue Road Arches near Wanstead Park station, E7
And of course, there is the arches with Tracks (Ed: nice one for the shout out!) and The Ciderhouse for some good boozy fun!
@trackse7 / @theciderhouse_e7

For more food & drink love letters from our local insider follow Anna at @annasulan