Originally created to take the overflow of customers from E. Pellici, Bethnal Green’s Cafe 338 is now a favourite establishment amongst locals.
The greasy spoon is a blend of comfort and tradition, a ray of light for the bank account amongst the barrage of gentrified coffee shops.
Defined by a lack of pretension, cheap prices and, as the name suggests, the smell of sizzling grease, the ‘caf’ or greasy spoon has managed to survive decades of change, remaining steadfast in the wake of the tsunami of instagrammable hotspots.
The humble Cafe 338 is such a place – just a stone’s throw away from St Matthew’s Church, it is situated on the corner of Bethnal Green Road and Hague street, which leads down to Weavers Fields.
The exterior is welcoming and quintessentially greasy spoon: red chequered tablecloths atop the pine furniture with a tawny brown awning overhead.
Cafe 338 is often overlooked in the shadow of its well-known neighbour, E.Pellici, which can be found a couple of doors down. A family-run business, E. Pellici has been serving fry-ups to East Londoners since 1900 when it was first established.
A century later the cafe had made such a name for itself, with queues streaming out the door, that Cafe 338 popped up to accommodate the influx of customers. Ironically, Cafe 338 has now become so popular that it often has its own line of hungry customers, spilling outside onto the pavement.
The weekend late morning crowd tends to be full of young couples in desperate search for something salty and full of carbs, to help remedy their hangovers from the night before.
The weekday crowd is more local Bethnal Greenites, many of whom come to Cafe 338 regularly, seeking out the familiarity of the little refuge amongst an otherwise chaotic city.
Cafe 338, as is the way with most greasy spoons, serves reliable, familiar and straightforward food. The breakfast menu consists of a myriad of English classics, such as cheese omelettes and tuna melts, most of which cost five pounds or under.
The go-to dish for many who frequent Cafe 338 is the ‘Full English’ consisting of egg, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms and hash browns. For the veggies, there’s the ‘Bethnal Green’- which has everything the Full English does, but with a veggie sausage instead of a meat one, as well as the addition of tomatoes, mushrooms and a fried slice to replace the bacon.
If you’re looking to satisfy your hankering for something sweet, there are a selection of dessert pancakes to choose from, as well as savoury options such as halloumi or eggs and sausage. If you’re feeling super hungry, you can choose from a range of burgers, paninis or fish and chips.
The best part of cafe 338? The portions are generous and everything is considerably cheaper than your average London cafe. And who doesn’t love a menu centred around breakfast food – arguably the best meal of the day.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to read our review of Premises Cafe and Bistro.