Test Driving 65a - a classic French brasserie in Spitalfields

roomA look inside inside 65a

What can you tell us about 65a?

Situated on the corner of Spitalfields Market, 65a is pitched as a brasserie-style restaurant, with something of an Irish background behind it.

What's that background?

It comes from Patrick Frawley, who landed on our Murphia List for the first time this year, but has had 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, having founded the Cornstore restaurant group and previously owned the East London Pub Co (which included the Ten Bells). Here he's backed up by Executive Chef Maura Baxter, who also has an Irish background and has previously been at Clapham’s The Saxon and The Gun in Spitalfields.

But despite that background - this is a French-influenced restaurant?

It is, with mainly classical brasserie dishes on the menu - but the odd element of Irishness does creep in from time to time. We'll get to that in a bit.

roomYou'll find the restaurant on the southeastern side of Spitalfields market

Where is it?

It's on the south-eastern corner of Spitalfields Market, so either Liverpool Street or Shoreditch High Street are the closest stations. For a short period, this space was Irish chicken restaurant Coqbull but those with longer memories might remember this location as Blixen, and much of the interior look and feel remains from the Blixen days. It's already a space with a brasserie feel so it suits 65a's requirements very well.

Where should we meet for a drink first?

A recent opening we'd highly recommend is the nearby Alfi - it's definitely worth checking out for a glass of wine before or after a meal here. The Ten Bells across the road is a decent pub but can get very busy at times.

You can grab a space at the bar here too, and the cocktails we had were both excellent, so that's also a great option. The cocktail menu changes seasonally so it's always worth a look to see what's new on the list. 

roomOlive oil martini (gin, vermouth, olive oil wash, £14) and a Bordeaux Margarita (tequila, triple sec, Campari, red wine float, £14) which was particularly inventive.

Where should we sit?

The best table is the round booth just inside the front door, while the booths down the left hand side of the room are a great option too. However, in decent weather, you'll definitely want to grab one of the alfresco tables - these will be the most popular at the weekend.

roomThis is the table to grab, if you can.

So what about the food?

The menu is very much rooted in classic French fare and that's very much in its benefit - it's pretty perfect for visitors to Spitalfields Market. So you'll find oysters, French onion soup, moules frites, rotisserie chicken and more on offer. If you're ever looking for something in this area for anyone who can be a little - fussy - this restaurant is perfect, serving classic French food very well.

Here's a taste of that:

roomKing prawns with lemon beurre blanc and garlic sourdough (£15) - a perfect sauce for this very moreish starter.

roomThe Surf and Turf for two - ribeye steak, grilled prawns, bearnaise sauce and a half native lobster (£95 or £65 without the lobster). We haven't had surf & turf for an age and this was a very good one. 

roomWarm cookies with vanilla bean ice cream and fudge sauce (£9)

roomBaked cheesecake with rhubarb compote

And there are specials too?

It's always worth a look at the specials board. When we visited it was close to St Patrick's Day so we couldn't help but try out a few of their more Irish-influenced dishes. These were notably excellent and we think it'd be great if they kept the fried oysters below on the menu full-time - we don't see enough of these in London restaurants.

roomSoda bread with treacle butter (£6) - so good you'll want to eat it by the spoonful.

roomFried Guinness battered oysters, with Irish whisky ketchup (£26)

Anything else to note?

Brunch is a big deal at the weekends in Spitalfields and this is a prime location for it, with snashed avocado dishes, steak with eggs and frites (£16) and a croque madame (£16) all on the menu. But we'd say the strongest option for brunch is the scrambled egg with truffle, parmesan and croissant (£14).  

It's also worth noting the great value prix fixe menu which comes in at £25 for two courses.

What about drink?

Other than the cocktails, there's also a short wine list which starts at a very reasonable £34, and there's even a Prosecco on the list for £38. It's a predominantly European list, but there's also some Nyetimber on there. 

Overall thoughts?

65a is something that seems just right for Spitalfields and the surrounding area - an excellent French brasserie which delivers classic brasserie food with aplomb. There's a lot of room in the market for a restaurant like this and it's well worth a look if you're in the area. And if they could put those fried oysters on the menu full-time, it would be even better. 


More about 65a

Where is it? Spitalfields - 65a Brushfield St, London E1 6AA

How to bookBook online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @65arestaurant.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of 65a. Prices correct at time of publication.


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