There are chain restaurants, independent boutiques, market stalls and food stalls galore. The food stalls are quite busy at lunchtime but it doesn't take more than a few minutes to queue, and the choice is fantastic - everything from vegan to Caribbean to burgers and fish and chips. I've tried a few over the past six weeks and thought I'd share my recommendations with you here.
The first place I tried was a chicken shack called Coop, with the wonderfully named 'fat cock roll'. For just £5.50 you could have a chicken portion and two sides, or a chicken burger with various trimmings - I had a pulled chicken burger with roast potatoes actually in the burger, which was so good! It was very filling and something I would definitely have again.
Even so, next time I went into Spitalfields for lunch I tried something different, this time a 'dirty bagel' (£4.50) from the Pulled Pork House.
This consisted of a large amount of pulled pork, some lettuce and I think barbecue sauce in a roll, topped with cheese; the cheese was then melted by the stallholder with a cook's blowtorch.
It was really good and extremely filling - a nice tangy zing from the BBQ sauce as well. It was very messy to eat though so grab plenty of napkins, you will need them!
Next time a couple of weeks later I fancied something different (i.e. not in a bun) and noticed a takeaway stand just outside the Real Greek restaurant. For £5.50 you could have two mains and two (I think) sides from a selection of five or six in each case, which were boxed up in front of you. I chose a halloumi kebab and a chicken kebab along with potato salad and a bulgur wheat salad. It was a pretty substantial meal and drew envious glances from my colleagues; definitely something a bit different to the usual sandwich!
Bleecker Street Burgers was a name I was familiar with but had never tried - they claim to bring New York style burgers to London. There's a small, unassuming stand in Spitalfields which always has a decent queue at lunchtimes, and a few times I've been tempted but decided a burger was a bit much for lunch. Eventually I gave in, deciding to only order the burger and not the fries, which was a wise move as the burger was very filling.
I've eaten at Shake Shack and Five Guys (the latter several times) and can confirm this is a proper American-style burger from the fairly thin but tasty patty (chunky burgers are too meaty sometimes) and the oozing cheese.
If you are in the area check out the food stalls and let me know which ones you like!