The corner entrance. Photo by Alice Chapman © Social Streets CIC.
Eating & drinkingLocalOut & about

Janna Cafe: Cheap eats and friendly smiles at Whitechapel’s backstreet Somalian cafe

Inconspicuously located on quiet Fieldgate Street, just opposite the perma-popular Tayyabs, Janna Cafe offers homemade East African dishes that delight the stomach as much as the purse strings.

Janna Cafe is a family-run Somalian restaurant tucked into the red brick buildings of Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel. A minute’s walk from the hugely successful Punjabi restaurant Tayyabs, and nestled behind the East London Mosque on Whitechapel Road, you’ll often find a queue of patient customers lining up along the narrow pavement.

Musa, the man in charge of the place, first opened Janna Cafe in the early 2000s along with his family,  as a butcher and small cafe. In April 2023, they renovated the interior, a green theme running throughout. 

The emerald green shade of the velvet chairs matches the shop’s jolly green and white neon sign hung both inside and out of the building. 

Musa’s smile dazzles every customer as he approaches them like old or long-lost friends. 

‘The fans, they love me you see’ he explained with humour whilst posing for a photo with a customer. Musa’s smile has reached thousands on social media, and the newly renovated cafe has become an Internet sensation since he started posting in May 2023. 

Practised Janna Cafe staff carry huge platters of freshly cooked meat and rice balanced on steady hands and filling the room with a hearty, meaty smell. 

The menu is reassuringly small. It consists of rice and meat platters of meat or fish, for sharing or individual plates, and the essential lassi to wash it down. The prices work out at about £10 per head, making Jana Cafe a financially accessible option.

All food served is halal, making Janna Cafe popular within Whitechapel’s Muslim community and non-muslims who relish Somali flavours.

Noticeable is the lack of music playing in the background. Here, everyone is intent on the food and their companion’s conversation.

Heart-to-hearts set the tone of the place, not the radio. 

The British Somali Community Centre

Owner Musa standing by the sign in Somali food restaurant Janna Cafe in Whitechapel, East London.
Always smiling. Photo by Alice Chapman © Social Streets CIC

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