Forest Gate is not the most famous of London areas but, like the rest of the East End, it has a heritage rooted in arts and culture. This is partially due to being the 1960s home of the former Upper Cut Club, a venue owned by Douglas Bayle and George and Billy Walker. It disappeared almost as soon as it popped up — but not before hosting a dizzying litany of iconic musical figures such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Small Faces. More recently, musicians Plan B and the Newham Generals have ties with Forest Gate.
Now, a largely residential district, made more popular in recent years due to the proximity of the picturesque Wanstead Flats, Olympic Park and good schools, there is nevertheless plenty to enjoy in Forest Gate. A still-blossoming community of independent restaurants and cafes has added a buoyancy to the area and made it a promising location for good eating. Very good eating indeed.
Where to get breakfast and brunch in Forest Gate
Fred’s Café is the east London branch of this popular Brockley institution. Like its sister site, it serves award-winning Allpress coffee and pastries, cakes and flatbreads — all made from scratch. The pastrami flatbread is a particular highlight, rich with emmental and tangy sauerkraut. A little further down the road, East End baking chain Percy Ingle can be found, complete with its trademark doughnuts and loaves, perfect to grab a swift pastry or some items to bake at home.
Tucked under the Winchelsea Arches, is an outpost of Wild Goose Bakery, where wonderful goods, fresh from the oven, are available to enjoy at the onsite café or to take away. The sourdough is excellent and gluten free. Vegan breads are also available.
Beneath another set of arches, on Avenue Road, Tromsø is almost hidden from sight. But with glorious wafts of sweet cinnamon buns dancing on the wind, hungry customers are sure to smell this Scandinavian bakery and coffee shop from far and wide. The Norwegian pancakes are a must-try. Nearby, Woodgrange Market offers several stalls featuring cheeses, meats, organic fruit and vegetables, breads and preserves for a locally-sourced, artisanal breakfast.
Where to get lunch and snacks in Forest Gate
Light bites around here are usually found in the same places that serve excellent coffee and brunch. There are a few exceptions that offer something a little different. Corner Kitchen’s speciality is sourdough pizza. The charming little space is available for functions too, making it a favourite among locals.
Odessa Tandoori‘s north Indian dishes are varied and flavourful, and other Indian goodies can be found at JB Sweet and Savoury which has been specialising in Gujarati snacks since the 1950s. Nibbles like kachori (patties of spiced peas and moong dal wrapped in crunchy pastry), samosa and a selection of mithai, or sweetmeats, all come in an array of tantalising flavours and textures. Further down the road, at City Sweet Centre, the selection continues.
Sake Sushi is good for a quick and healthy meal. Takeaway sushi and salads are available as well as other Japanese staples such as donburi and katsu curry.
Where to get coffee in Forest Gate
Forest Gate has an abundance of places to get a good cup of coffee. The Open Gate is a community haunt, situated inside the library, making it rather lovely to sit with a decent book. One of the myriad vegetarian cookbooks there are a good place to start.
Café @ 48 is another stalwart; go there for a full English or for one of the various sandwiches. Burgers, pastas and a selection of cakes are also available inside.
Some of the best coffee in Forest Gate can be found at local gem, Cups and Jars. The little space — founded by ex-hospitality professionals Cecile Mathonneau and Everson Ferreira — also serves as a zero-waste grocery shop, where beans, pulses and pastas jostle happily with organic fruits and vegetables.
Allowing residents to cut down on their plastic food packaging, the shop is an essential addition to any neighbourhood. And at Familia Café, choose a delicious sandwich to enjoy with the equally memorable coffee; the serrano ham and goat’s cheese is particularly mouth watering.
The best restaurants in Forest Gate
Arch Rivals is easily one of the jewels of Forest Gate. The cosy bar and restaurant, in Winchelsea Arches, serves exciting cocktails and a stunning ever-evolving menu that explores a variety of flavours and textures.
Pie fans will delight in the choice available at Pie Republic. Its menu pays homage to East End’s maritime and trading heritage with names like Royal Victoria and Victory Gardens. The Hakka, a juicy lamb and rosemary pie, has to be tried. Nearby, Palm Tree banqueting hall offers pan-Asian food in a spacious setting, also well suited to functions of up to 150 people.
Century Bar — which was recently refurbished — serves classic curries, kebabs and beer snacks from the across the Indian subcontinent. A two-minute walk down Romford Road brings you to Elvet Steakhouse, which unlike many other steak restaurants, provides meat which is also halal. Visit for Argentine and Australian cuts including rib eye, fillet and sirloin. For the non-red meat eaters, fish and vegetarian dishes are available.
Pubs, bars and gastropubs in Forest Gate
The pubs and bars in Forest Gate all offer something different from one another, which helps with indecision. Gastropub Forest Tavern is a cosy venue with a small menu of seasonal British fare. The dishes are heavily produce-oriented with changing specials, complemented by guest ales, while weekly events keep the wood-furnished space buzzing.
Another community pub, The Holly Tree serves the area between Forest Gate and Leytonstone High Road. As well as food and changing real ale, this pub keeps sports fans happy with large screens, Sky, ESPN and darts. The spacious beer garden is lovely in the summer.
Tracks — a relatively new venture from Pretty Decent Beer Co. Ransom Note & Fin Curran — is a bar, food and record emporium concealed in the railway arches by Cranmer Road. Like The Wanstead Tap, which is not too far away, craft beer is a key focus. Both bars have guest ales, international beer and plenty of cans and bottles to keep connoisseurs happy, and those Untapped checklists ticked off. The Wanstead Tap also functions as a performance space and arts venue with ticketed events listed on its website.
Next door, inside another archway, Burgess Hall Wines offers a specialist wine shop and bar which focuses on organic, biodynamic and natural wines. It works with small and independent producers to source some of the most interesting wines in the industry at the moment. The friendly staff are more than happy to talk through anything related to grapes and grains.
Note: Forest Gate has never had any formal boundaries due to never being an administrative area, but it is often seen as conterminous with the E7 post code. For the sake of this article we have outlined the parameters of Atherton Road in the west, Glenparke Road to the south, Woodgrange Park Train Station in the east and Thorpe Road to the north.