'I visited the famous London café with long queues every weekend - I loved not having to choose between full English items'

Francesca Ionescu outside the front of E. Pellicci in Tower Hamlets
Francesca Ionescu managed to avoid the long queues out the door by visiting on a weekday morning rather than peak time on a Saturday -Credit:Francesca Ionescu

Six months after moving to the East London, I had to try the infamous Italian-British spot that is E. Pellicci in Tower Hamlets. Walking up Bethnal Green Road towards Brick Lane on a weekend – as anyone recently moved to East London would – it’s hard to miss the large queue of people outside E. Pellicci, a natural extension of the Italian run spot.

Lodged between an Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant and an appliances shop, the small restaurant extends into the street with a green rain cover and a neon sign buzzing above. Cleverly choosing to go on a weekday, we get sat around 10 minutes after we started queuing and surprisingly get asked if we don’t mind sharing a table.

After months of observing everyone else waiting for their chance, we will take it, so we follow our waitress under the low door, my friend giggling behind me: “It’s like getting into Berghain.” We’re sat by the glass and metal counter, garnished with cakes, soft baguettes, and large slices of white bread.

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The glass and metal counter inside E. Pellicci
The décor is comforting, the wooden walls doted with merch, and black and white pictures -Credit:Francesca Ionescu

I can only see the hands of the person working behind the counter, like a silent film of various sandwiches being packed to go. You can see the main kitchen through an opening in the back wall; the plates get passed through this, but the window functions more as a way to connect with the chef. He leans over the counter, laughing with a family sat by the kitchen and at one point comes out the side door and ‘shouts’ to some regulars with familiar affection.

The service is prompt, and within 20 minutes of grabbing the menus we get our food. I went for a full English and an oat milk latte – which in a greasy spoon caff is hard to come by – while my friend had the vegetarian option.

The breakfast was, in simple terms, large. Your standard full English, it had one major thing that made it stand out for me: finally, a place that does not make you choose between different elements, because most times I do want both mushrooms and beans. The bubble ‘n’ squeak on the vegetarian was a soft and mild alternative to the well-cooked Cumberland sausage and made the meat-free option much lighter. The coffee was done in a European manner, smaller and stronger, a good break between mouthfuls of buttery toast.

E. Pellici' café in Tower Hamlets
E. Pellici's has been run by the same family since 1931 -Credit:Oshane Beach

The décor is comforting, the wooden walls doted with merch, and black and white pictures that one of the waiters – tall and gracious, floating around the room in smooth strides – tells us depict the grandparents that worked here before the 1900s and who still have family carrying the legacy today. Every few minutes the smell of coffee fills the small restaurant, and there is no need for music as the many conversations, some had from opposite corners of the room, would block it anyway.

I came to Pellicci’s intrigued by its hustling atmosphere, expecting it to be the food that makes it click. Instead, the perfectly good breakfast which will have you set for the day was eclipsed by the atmosphere and character of the place. The crowd ranges from couples gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes over the biggest panini I have ever seen, to tradies strolling in wearing steel toe boots and company raincoats, to the office boy with his collar poking out of his jumper.

Our waitress, Rosa, gets chatting to my friend in Italian, stopping to tell me stories of her children and the importance of home. Through the few words I understand of her language, I hear the secret to the restaurant’s success: la famiglia – the family, which you feel part of as soon as you step through the doors.

E. Pellicci is open 8am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 3pm on Saturdays.

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