Every neighbourhood has one café all locals know and love.

And in Bow, that’s Café East.

People queue outside every day in the hopes they’ll be lucky enough to get a table at the small establishment.

And when I visited, things were no different.

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From the outside, this looked like any café on any East London street – I was genuinely confused as to why there was an actual crowd.

I joined the back of the line and overheard one person in the large group in front of me try to convince her mates the 20-minute wait was worth it.

My curiosity piqued, I asked her why she bothered waiting.

Local art adorned the walls (Image: MyLondon)

“It’s 100% worth it” for the “banging food” was the response I got.

But as I walked in, I suspected the food was just the tip of this cafe’s fabulous iceberg.

The tables were cramped together as closely as possible and the elbow space brought me back to Christmas dinner with the entirety of my extended family around a table that seats eight.

But rather than annoy me, the confined space made me feel like I was in someone’s living room.

Every local hero was on display (Image: MyLondon)

Coupled with the rosy lights and rap music, I was instantly transported to somewhere much cooler than the generic road outside that hadn’t seen anything hip since the 80s.

As a child, I once begged my mother to attend a culinary course where we learnt “waiters never run”.

This was not the case here – the waitress who served me seemed to be training for the Olympics.

But it only added to Café East’s ‘local gem’ feel.

The café clearly takes pride in its location: ‘E3 AF’ is hung proudly on the wall surrounded by caution tape and local stars adorn the walls.

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They also exhibit art from local artists and the portraits, with their graffiti-esque vibes, only heightened my sense of being deep in East London.

The staff’s hoodies all had custom Café East road signs printed on the back too – the kind you’d buy at a Camden market stall to show that yes, you HAVE been there.

The shirt of Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy might have seemed slightly out of place in such an intrinsically East London establishment, but the owner of the signed shirt grew up here and is still very much a Bow girl.

The cafe was somehow cramped in a good way (Image: MyLondon)

As I sat taking it all in, two lads left the café rather urgently, but not before discussing their school at length with the waitress.

It turns out her favourite teacher back in the day was now teaching the lads.

They left smiling, armed with a take away box and a detailed message for Miss.

By now, I knew exactly what I discovered: the perfect mix of greasy spoon and super trendy brunch spot.

Full greasy breakfasts were being churned out at the same rate as avocado toast and freshly squeezed juice and there was an air of familiarity and friendliness as satisfying as the smell of frying bacon.

And just as I was starting to immerse myself in how much memorabilia was hidden around the walls – from signed Grime books to little paintings of the café created by enthusiastic locals – my coffee arrived.

A little shout out to ECR Coffee: they have never disappointed me.

But it takes a certain kind of barista to get a latte as smooth as Café East did and were it not for the dreaded ‘shakes’, I could have had several more.

Now, I tend to avoid brunch because of several factors: I prefer being alone, I don’t like day drinking and I want more options than just avocado toast.

My coffee was so creamy (Image: MyLondon)

But this was the kind of place where you could whisper for extra sauce and the waitress would wink, adding a cheeky “just for you” to really make you feel like one of the family.

It’s a shame I only realised that after I ordered.

There was also what can only be described as banter of the highest order between the wait staff and the cooks.

And though the constant jabs and jokes made the orders take a little longer, seeing a woman repeatedly reach over the counter to slap an absolute mountain of a barista – who looked more than a little frightened – made it all hilariously worth it.

Then the food arrived. And as beautiful as it looked, this was no gimmick.

If you like food photos for the ‘gram, this is the place for you: TikToks were being filmed enthusiastically by everyone.

But the real hero was still the flavour.

I had the American pancakes and was expecting thick, fluffy pancakes with a couple of rashers and some syrup.

I was not prepared to be blown away by the sheer beauty of the bacon wrapped in a spiral alongside dainty little quail eggs.

And I definitely didn’t realise my pancakes would come tiered like a birthday cake, all elegantly topped with fresh fruit and a little swirl of lemon cream.

This was not your ordinary pancake breakfast (Image: MyLondon)

And for it to look that great and taste delicious was seriously impressive.

That bacon alone was so crispy I envy anyone who can call Café East their local.

There’s just one downside – Café East didn’t get the memo and only take cash.

But I can forgive this based solely on the immaculate vibe.

Café East is proud of their area and their area is proud of them – and that’s what makes it special.

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