This weekly column suggests London restaurants to try over the weekend. There are three rules: The restaurants must not be featured in either the Eater London 38 Essential map, or the monthly updated Heatmap, and the recommendations must be outside Zone 1. In need of even more London restaurant recommendations? Head to the Eater London Five Restaurants to Try This Weekend archive.
Friday 19 July 2019
It’s all about local at Hood. It’s not just the name and the loyalty scheme for regulars — a great idea other restaurateurs might think about — the owners are impressively committed to sourcing as locally as they can without compromising quality. There’s a huge, wooden map of south east Britain on the wall, with string links between suppliers and restaurant that a crafty teacher might create. While service took time to warm up, the food itself quietly sparkled.
The cold beetroot soup with cumin was both intense in colour and flavour, as were the whopper sardines with roasted red pepper and plumped up sultanas that were pepped up with salsa. Sea trout with requisite crispy skin comes with a summer marriage of broad beans, fresh peas, and the added sophistication of girolles. Tagliatelle, a little over-cooked with curd and courgettes, is lacklustre by comparison but the Pimm’s jelly is a pretty crowdpleaser at dessert. No wonder it’s busy even midweek, while a quiet hum of music-free conversation and plenty of keenly priced wines, including Sussex-produced Nutbourne, and a page dedicated to local beers, further exemplifies Hood’s dedication to the local. —Sudi Pigott
67 Streatham Hill, Streatham, London SW2 4TX
Located next to Finchley Road tube station and named after a traditional gold-embroidered cloth, this is possibly London’s most beautiful Persian restaurant. It’s decorated in the Islamic art style, with brightly coloured tiles and stained glass, sumptuous chandeliers on ornate ceilings, kilim banquettes, and a huge antique urn. Among the usual lamb and chicken dishes, meze and stews, two items, rarely seen in London restaurants, immediately stand out: tahdig, the crispy rice crust that everyone in a Persian family fights over, and ab-haveej bastani, which is fresh carrot juice and fragrant saffron, pistachio and rosewater ice cream float. —Sejal Sukhadwala
2 Canfield Gardens, NW8 3BS
The general quality of Vietnamese food in London is almost inversely proportionate to its popularity. While the Kingsland Road scene stagnates, and Deptford’s pho mile is blighted by gentrification and immigration raids, there’s only a handful of standout places. Hoa Phuong on the upper end of Walworth Road is one that adheres to all the cliches about mythic diaspora restaurants. Unassuming exterior? Check. One old auntie cooking? Check. Small blackboard menu and odd opening hours? Double check. But the bun bo hue here — a deep fiery broth with a marine funk from fermented shrimp paste, herbal, citrus, spicy, umami all in harmony, with well-cooked beef and airy cha hue sausage — puts everyone else’s to shame. The pork on rice or in summer rolls is also done well here, with an aggressive caramelisation and a crust of thinly chopped lemongrass, but after one bowl of bun bo hue, the temptation must be fought to order another. —Jonathan Nunn
4 Hampton Street, London SE1 6SN
Like its apartments, the newly arrived restaurants at gentrification-harbinger Dickens Yard are largely forgettable and overpriced, with two key exceptions: newly established natural wine bar Riding Wine Co., and Reineta, which bolsters a largely standard cafe offer with some carefully chosen quality additions. Bread and pastries are from Mikael Jonsson’s superlative Hedone Bakery, with layers on croissants and pains aux chocolats hiding a cooling butteriness; Spanish-inspired brunch dishes include properly made pan con tomate and confidently simple assemblies like ripe melon, superb jamón with fat threatening to melt, and coldly peppery olive oil. Best of all is gazpacho, hoarse with garlic, bright with tomato, and so rich with more of that oil that it flows like emulsion paint. —James Hansen
Dickens Yard, W5 2TD
M. Manze, Peckham
A classic pie shop and one of the great Michaele Manze, the Ravello native whose south London pie and mash empire is still standing in a city that struggles to sustain one of its oldest culinary traditions. The Peckham space isn’t as visually striking as its Bermondsey cousin, but the pies follow the same age-old, top secret recipe. Moreover, the mash is uncommonly smooth and the vivid liquor has a far more agreeable texture. Arguably south east London’s best pie and mash shop. —Jonathan Hatchman
105 Peckham High Street, SE15 5RS
Friday 12 July 2019
Named after the Turkish word for appetite, this popular Finchley Central restaurant was once the long-established Izgara. It’s been refurbished and relaunched as a large, bright, feel-good venue with two beautifully lit rooms; plus a third in which chefs can be seen grilling on charcoal. Tender, juicy lamb and chicken kebabs are a speciality here; and good vegetarian options include crisp sigara boregi filled with halloumi and spinach, and fresh whole artichokes with peas and dill. —Sejal Sukhadwala
11 Hendon Lane, N3 1RT
This smart little restaurant serves traditional Lithuanian cuisine, with exposed brick and wooden furniture giving a rustic charm, emphasised by little framed photos encapsulating different aspects of Lithuanian life. A range of the country’s beers go perfectly with fried rye bread, smoked pigs ears, and little sausages. A tart plate of herring and pickled onions is offset beautifully by sour cream and boiled potatoes, brought to life by a dusting of paprika; cepelinai, savoury dumplings stuffed with meat, are hearty and comforting, served either boiled or baked. While a hefty pork fillet, covered with bacon, cheese and tomato is an almost excessive way to round of the meal, one thing is for certain; it doesn’t get much better than this for gigantic portions, value, and taste. —Shekha Vyas
28 High Street, E17 7LD
As any restaurateur will say, especially in such challenging times, location matters. Maremma scores a double whammy. It is cannily several doors down from the popular Little Piglet. Additionally, it serves Tuscan food, but not the familiar fare of the inland Chianti region. Maremma, the Tuscan coast, is rather wilder, less familiar and, hence, all the more enticing.
Its point of departure is apparent from the first mouthful of seductive wine, and nutty, green herbaceous aromas that greet guests from the absurdly small open kitchen behind the bar of this small corner site. The deeply earthy, tangy extra virgin olive oil, left on the table for dunking exceptional bread together is another nice touch. So, too, is a pleasingly short, wholly enticing menu. It’s apparent that a deep, almost River Cafe-esque respect for impeccably sourced ingredients, is part of the ethos. There’s a seductive tactility to the roughly torn buffalo mozzarella scattered over and outstanding panzanella, with elegantly perfumed Isle of Wight tomatoes and fragrant basil. Maremma tortelli, spinach with ewe’s ricotta, is silky and impeccable, while tagliata is served simply as it should be with plentiful peppery rocket and a bowl of a special sauce made from bay, oregano, garlic and other secret ingredients. As a side, everyone ought order the sauteed spinach with tomatoes and basil, a garden lover’s combination. A squidgy and generous chocolate and hazelnut cake with tangy marscapone confirms the credentials of chef Alice Staple. Reasonably priced wines are sourced directly from wineries known to owner and consummate bon viveur Dickie Bielenber. The only drawback: South London already adores Maremma and tables in its small dining room must now be booked well in advance. —Sudi Pigott
36 Brixton Water Lane, SW2 1PE
Kabul E Palaw
FInding a gem of a restaurant is hard; finding a gem of a restaurant for delivery is harder still. Reaching for the teal kangaroo or the black white and green icon on a weekday, hoping to unearth a diamond but invariably ending up stuck in the same rut of ordering food never meant to travel and with no real purpose other than fuel . But sometimes it’s worth taking a shot: Kabul E Palaw on Walthamstow’s High Street was an honest dice roll that rewarded with abundant riches beyond expectations.
Mantu, lusciously soft dumpling skins filled with seasoned lamb, are slightly too large for one bite, so it’s best to gracefully cut them and eat them sensibly with the yoghurt and split yellow peas served alongside. A meal in its own right, this is just a starter for the greedy. Numerous grilled meats and fish populate the menu, and seeing the coriander seed vehicle that is chapli kebab on any menu is always a temptation, but the namesake dish deserves attention for good reason. A perfectly tender lamb shank, a mountain of the longest grains of rice, lightly sweetened carrots and raisins, with an altogether excessive smattering of slivered pistachios. Exactly the kind of nourishment that is fortunately ideal for the long bike/car/scooter journey that delivery entails, arriving at your door while you await it in slippers, ready to face the rest of the week. —Feroz FG
88 High Street, E17 5LD
There are some things in life that are unavoidable. The sun will set, the price of stamps will increase and at least once a year a Londoner will find themselves in a large charmless shopping centre desperately looking for something decent to eat. Westfield Shepherds Bush, the largest and most charmless of London’s shopping centres, has recently stepped up its culinary game with the addition of Tacos Corazon, an off shoot of Corazon, the Mexican restaurant in Soho.
Tacos are just as good as the ones on Poland Street: baja fish offers light and crisp battered haddock atop a pickled cabbage and chipotle slaw; al pastor’s marinated smoky pork shoulder with sweet chunks of pineapple pairs well with bright sweet elote, all chile and salty kicks of cheese. To finish there is only one thing on the menu, a large brick of chocolate tres leches cake, topped with toasted marshmallows and rainbow sprinkles: sweet, dense, creamy, and prompting memories of childhood parties past. Add in a frozen margarita, and even Westfield starts to look a little like Tulum. —Leila Latif
Westfield London, Ariel Way, W12 7GF
Friday 5 July 2019
The queue is long but everyone is in it together. They know that at the end they will be rewarded. Any note of impatience in the queue is ignored, the suya vendor moves at his own snail pace over the makeshift grill, turning, brushing with oil and maggi, moving the coals, making sure each skewer is on the right level of heat.
Like the ice cream queue, tasters are offered, not so much for the indecisive but for calibration.
“Are you ready to taste the best suya in London?” the grill master confidently asks the lucky man whose turn it is, handing over a small tester piece.
“Give me a little bit more spice.”
More yaji powder is added from the long tray which is now half empty, resembling a snaking Saharan dune.
“How is it?”
“Eight out of ten. I’ll give it to my wife, if she’s happy you can get the extra two.”
A woman slows down her car as she passes, theatrically craning her neck out to survey the scene. By now the queue has quietened down as people watch other customer’s ordered being prepared, thinking about their own. A young boy standing in for his family is waiting to pick up three portions but they’re out of tomato.
“Go to the shop and tell them the suya man sent you.”
A minute later a bowl of tomatoes is handed over and cut up.
Now it’s his turn — he notes there are two powders, one being poured on (chef’s own) and another used sparingly. This, it turns out, is from the chef’s favourite spot in Nigeria and adds sharper, complex high notes of ginger and pepper. Finally the order is ready, full of roughly chopped beef, alternately crunchy and fatty, the spice provoking a fight or flight reaction, but so good it’s impossible to stop eating. He considers joining the queue again, but Peckham in this Lagos sun is no place to stand still. —Jonathan Nunn
The intersection of Rye Lane and Choumert Road, SE15 4TW
South East London has always been a destination for flavoursome Vietnamese food, from Deptford’s karaoke and pho kitchens to the small standbys in Surrey Quays. Cafe East is no exception. Sandwiched between a car park and a main road, the unassuming restaurant looks more like a country pub with its flower strewn garden and aged brickwork. A step inside, however, reveals a deceptively large and airy space, packed almost exclusively with Vietnamese city workers and families tucking in to gargantuan plates of food. Bun bo hue, fragrant noodle soup, brimming with razor thin strips of beef, boasts a nuanced broth which is simultaneously meaty and redolent with citrus. A tender pork chop with rice, noodles, and homemade meatloaf is rich and satisfying. This is food which nourishes the soul — filling and light, perfect in the sunshine. It is worth a visit before the 29th July when the shutters come down for a month over summer. —Shekha Vyas
100 Redriff Road, SE16 7LH
The original Ariana, a family-run Afghan kebab restaurant with fashionable clientele, opened in New York more than 30 years ago. This BYOB London branch, set up in Kilburn by a member of the same family, is comparatively modest, attracting a mixed crowd of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to a good range of lamb and chicken kebabs, the two restaurants have a broadly similar menu centred on palows and chalows — fragrant rice dishes with meat, vegetables, and spices. Many come here for the chapli kebab: lightly spiced minced lamb patties served with a large, dense-textured naan; and there’s more succulent lamb in classic kabuli palow with grated carrots, raisins, almonds, and pistachios. The kebabs are similar, though less spicy, than the ones found in Pakistan and north India; and the rice dishes evoke the fragrances of Persian cooking. The cross-continental journey continues with influences from China and Central Asia in snacks such as steaming hot minced lamb-stuffed mantu dumplings topped with yoghurt and lentils; and bolanee gandana — a crumbly pastry filled with a bright, fresh mix of leeks and chives. They’re perfect for dipping into house-made chakni — it doesn’t look like much, but the chilli, coriander and garlic sauce packs a punch. Vegetable dishes are subtly spiced and mostly lightly mashed, centred on aubergines, potatoes, okra, spinach, pumpkin, and kidney beans. Whether or not you try their cardamom-flavoured ‘happy tea’, you will still leave happy. —Sejal Sukhadwala
241 Kilburn High Road, Kilburn, NW6 7JN
Little Sourdough Kitchen
Little Sourdough Kitchen is a stark but stylish bakery in deepest Fulham. The selection and furnishings are absurdly minimal in an airy space that opens straight into the kitchen. Everything is baked fresh on site each morning and mounted on untreated wood shelves and across the large counter top. Gorgeously flaky plump croissants and pain au chocolat are buttery and ethereal. Sourdough brownies are so rich and gooey they resemble a set mousse, while carrot cake is bouncy, nutty, and topped generous swirls of bright white icing. Best of all is the bread: Huge round loaves of spelt, white, and wholegrain sourdough with floury, crunchy crust and soft, chewy crumb. Baguettes that are charred, matte and ever so slightly misshapen. This has to be some of the most delicious bread in London and one of the only baguettes best eaten whole, with no accompaniments, in a single sitting. —Leila Latif
237 Munster Road, Fulham, SW6 6BT
The queue starts by the asparagus peeking out of the boxes in the road, because summer still gamely clings on to spring. It’s Saturday, farmer’s market day, so there are tote bags and discussions of local schools being mismanaged over early tomatoes and raw milk, moving between stalls. The queue has no time for this. It just waits, hot, in the sun.
Regulars of the queue — chefs from nearby Persian restaurants, local families, the occasional dog — flit in and out, checking an order, picking up batches, knowing that this is a long game with rules to master. The naïve stand and wait, and wait, and wait. The first thing that comes into view are the rules: cash; no photos; no videos; no dogs. The last one is bendy. It’s still hot.
Towards the front the experts come into view. One stretches white sheets over a metal block, patting pockets in with care. One sprinkles on water for steam, for rise. One stretches dough into the oven. One sprinkles on sesame and nigella seed at the first hiss of contact. One asks how many you want.
Blistered, beautiful carpets emerge from the furnace and are hung on the wall like art, pebbled and cratered from their time on hot metal like the surface of a planet. Traditionally the craters are left by hot river stones, but this is the ingenuity of the oven. Laid on the front counter, the knife dispatches them into eight. Two of those, with hummus, would be dinner. It’s still hot. The queue shuffles forward. This is the ritual of sangak.
The queue’s shorter on weekdays. —James Hansen
5 Leeland Road, W13 9HH
Friday 21 June 2019
A member of London’s essential Caribbean restaurants, Roti Kitchen’s crimson and yellow frontage is flanked by a quality sushi restaurant and a singular bakery — more on that soon. Its patchwork of island flags promises a commitment to all facets of island cooking, and a broad menu of staples does the work with pride and care. Pholourie sputter in oil like they hold a grudge against the fryer, emerging as golden orbs with a belch of cumin when split in two. Jerk chicken leaves its inky tribute to the grill on fingers, the meat a pale vehicle for the battle between heady allspice and chilli — order the sauce to amp up the former with sweetness and fruit, and the gravy for the latter. The place is named for roti, so naturally, they’re outstanding, whether it’s the dhal puri supporting curry mutton, buroti struggling to contain tilapia fished out of bubbling oil, or, perhaps the best roti of all: the one forgotten under a pile of jerked chicken legs, secreting their fire in folds of beige. —James Hansen
6 Leeland Road, W13 9HH
Made in Portugal
The alternative name for this cafe-deli on the Wood Street side of Walthamstow, five minutes from the bobo “village,” could have been Feels Just Like Being in Portugal. Red, plastic Sagres chairs and tables are the same ones we all remember seeing with shame being launched across squares in Albufeira in 2004. There’s Super Bock on tap, Pedras in the fridge, pasteis de nata on the counter, and boxes of bacalhau on the shelves. It’s a local, one run just as it would be in Lisbon, by proprietors Luis and Anita Vicente. Each Saturday, the two prepare one or two hot dishes, which can be ordered in advance and which run out around 3pm. This weekend, the menu features one of Anita’s specialties: Moelas (chicken gizzards), stewed, and served with (proper) fries. There’ll also be prawns, fried cuttlefish, and an octopus salad. Check in advance to see when Luis is lighting the barbecue for his own speciality, grilled sardines, and pork ribs. Finish with a Delta espresso or a measure of Licor Beirão. The football will be on the TV, families will be milling about, and, this weekend at least, the sun will be shining. It’s just like being in Portugal. —Adam Coghlan
171 Shernhall St, Walthamstow, E17 9HX
Cool and Cozzy
Sometimes it’s worth brushing up on your flags. South London has an embarrassment of west African restaurants, cafes and spots that generally don’t advertise themselves. On a low rise stretch of Southampton Way the only giveaways are two white illuminated bollards painted with a stripe of green on top and blue on the bottom — to a flag nerd, the unmistakeable colours of Sierra Leone. Otherwise Cool and Cozzy could be easily walked past, it’s low lights and neon blue glow mistaken for another bar. Patience is rewarded, it might take half an hour but how many places in London can you go out for a takeaway and come back with an entire fish? Here tilapia are fried whole expertly in their silver and pearl armour, skin alternately shatteringly crisp or pulled off in strips like aquatic jerky to uncover meaty flesh. It’s possible to get Salone staples like cassava leaf, potato leaf and krain-krain, as well as Nigerian stews, but as the owner admits, it’s the seafood that the people are here for: those fish, piles of crab and whole lobsters split down the middle and grilled. Intriguingly dishes can be ordered with acheke, more often known as attieke, the Ivorian staple ingeniously made from peeled and grated cassava mixed with a fermented version of itself that acts as a starter. Often compared to cous cous, it manifests as fluffier pale yellow flakes, slightly chewy with a tang that can be cut through with raw onion or a pepper sauce so potent just the smell alone induces shivers. —Jonathan Nunn
101 Southampton Way, Camberwell, SE5 7SX
The Gold used to be a curious pub, a labyrinth of rooms across split levels with a large steamy conservatory at the back. The beer was warm, and the wine was bad but somehow the oysters were always excellent. It has since been taken over by a team hailing from The River Cafe and Soho House, dropped the “the,” and adorned itself in a huge four-storey mural by Portugese artist Alexandre Manuel Dias Farto. The result remains a curate’s egg albeit one that hits far more than it misses.
The food still features lovely oysters, these ones being the West Mersea rocks, though they are inexplicably priced by the “quarter dozen,” better known as three. Portions are much larger than one would expect from a west London ‘small plates’ restaurant, some made cumbersome by a tendency to put things on top of giant unnecessary hunks of toast. The charred sweet heart cabbage with bagna cauda and chilli is smoky, spicy and excellent, but it is also almost an entire cabbage. The nettle ravioli with sheep ricotta and sorrel is perfect, though: the pasta exquisitely thin around the delicate ricotta, with the lovely lemony sorrel precisely balanced in opposition. It’s certainly worth the walk down Portobello for an oyster in the sunshine. —Leila Latif
95-97 Portobello Road, W11 2QB
It’s plump and comfy like a duvet — but actually better than a duvet because it… OOZES CHEESE. So why isn’t khachapuri up there with ramen and taco as one of London’s most popular dishes? That’s probably the only question the extraordinarily clued-up waitress at this smart Georgian restaurant in St John’s Wood might not be able to answer. The venue’s name comes from the word for toastmaster – part philosopher, part performance artist – who presides over the fabled Georgian supras. Other than the common imeruli variety of khachapuri, there are a few more freshly baked flatbreads worth trying. They’re perfect with squishy, bright green balls of ispanakhi: spinach with garlic and walnuts. Liberal use of garlic and the earthy grittiness of walnut paste are also found in many other dishes, including badrijani – thin, tender rolls of aubergines lively with fenugreek and dried coriander. A hot stew of lobio contains not only red kidney beans but also, somewhat unusually, wild Georgian plums; it’s perked up with mouth-puckering pickles, notably flower buds of the European bladdernut. There are large, flubbery khinkali dumplings stuffed with minced pork and beef; and quite a lot of offal on the menu. Spicy adjika sauce and tkemali, a sweet-sour plum sauce, are essential extras. There are many gluten-free dishes here; and an impressive all-Georgian wine list. Don’t leave without trying the walnut and honey cake: a cross between Georgian ideali and Russian medovik, it’s a fresh, exceptionally moist, diamond-shaped beauty, with seven or eight layers of wafer-thin walnut sponge, each slathered with a creamy caramelised mix of condensed milk and honey. —Sejal Sukhadwala
122 Boundary Road, NW8 0RH
Friday 21 June 2019
Jewish food is one of the most fascinating of all world cuisines because until relatively recently it has always been a cuisine of diaspora, a cuisine of cities, of rootlessness and adaptation, taking ancient traditions, melding with and becoming part of the metropolis — whether that city is Budapest, Moscow, Palermo, or New York. And now in the city of Jerusalem all those influences have coalesced back into one place, shaping what is or what will be a new hybrid cuisine.
In the city of London, these shifts play out in miniature throughout Golders Green where unfashionable Ashkenazi food shaped by Mittel-Europe is slowly being replaced by the colours and freshness of Mizrahi and Sephardic traditions. At Yerushalmi (the Hebrew word for a resident of Jerusalem) this chimera has finally come to London in a direct and un-Ottolenghified form. A generous torus of hummus, the usual sharpness completely rounded out, melds with fatty juices from chicken shawarma; a Jerusalem mix, rich with chicken livers and stuffed into fat pitta demands a scarlet shot of chilli sauce; chicken schnitzel — that last remnant of Ashkenazi food — fragrant with sesame and wrapped up in laffa is simply one of London’s best escalope sandwiches. Give the scene here five years and maybe London will start to see its mirror image of the foods of Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, shaped by its own traditions and people, and another chapter will be written in the endless story of the food of cities. —Jonathan Nunn
119 Golders Green Rd, Golders Green, NW11 8HR
There are no ‘Please don’t touch the artwork’ signs at Tender Touches, an exhibition at Peckham’s AMP Gallery. In fact, it’s highly encouraged to pick up, sit on and, best of all, eat the (edible) components of the space. The exhibition is a fully functioning café, designed to question what an artwork is, and everything — the tables, the plates, the cutlery and food — has been created by artists. Chase dishes like braised beans drizzled in olive oil around bumpy plates with pickle-shaped forks or mop up creamy, tangy labneh that’s fallen into ceramic crevices. The show’s co-curator and chef Inês Neto dos Santos is behind the menu – it changes weekly but there’ll always be plenty of fermented vegetables, stored in huge jars on the counter, and free coffee on offer. Be quick, though, the exhibition and café ends next weekend. —Daisy Meager
1 Acorn Parade, Peckham, SE15 2TZ
There is nothing quite like the sweet, clean taste of freshly caught fish. And now this particular luxury is available in east London. Nigerian restaurant Kuramoh Lounge offers a “choose your own” catfish special. While the process of selecting one of the huge, writhing creatures from a small tank at the back of the restaurant may be a little less elegant than a Michelin-starred lobster selection, the taste of the final product is an easy contender. The experience may not be for everyone but this huge stew, pulsing with simmered, spiced tomato and a whisper of chilli is one of the best dishes along this stretch of Barking Road. That is not to say the other dishes here are not delicious; ewedu, a vibrant green soup of jute leaf, with a rich umami tang galvanises pounded yam. And asun, tender cubes of lamb marinated in pepper is lip-smackingly hot and moreish, washed down with bottles of cool stout, all promising signs for the rest of the menu. —Shekha Vyas
308 Barking Rd, East Ham, E6 3BA
Three Little Birds
The key injection at this Jamaican tapas restaurant on Battersea Rise — set in a pretty, boho room, with a mix of high and low seating — is the house jerk spice. It first appears in a fiery Jamaican Mary, spiked with fresh horseradish. The perfect accompaniment to this resoundingly umami beverage is the callaloo (leafy greens) croquettes: a clever, fresh yet earthy riff on the Spanish classic. Salt fish balls, too, are both fluffy and chunky with sprightly chilli sauce to dip. The short menu is reads unpretentiously, and is wholly appealing; dishes are impeccably cooked, while service is warm and well-informed. Owner April Jackson is a former The Apprentice finalist and 2008’s Miss Jamaica Universe.
Per stated preference, salmon is cooked precisely to medium-rare, with a sticky, potent, honey jerk sauce and pickled fennel. Tender goat arrives in a classic curry, accompanied by rice and peas. The “Full Jamaican,” with ackee, catfish, barmy (Jamaican flatbread) and crisp plantain is, unsurprisingly, a hit at the weekend, especially when served with a classic rum punch, followed by rum cake or banana pancakes with salted caramel sauce. Rum fiends should plunder the great selection of rums by the glass. Lord Sugar’s loss is Battersea’s (and Brixton’s, the site of Three Little Birds’ thriving first site) gain. —Sudi Pigott
42 Battersea Rise, SW11 1EE
L’Antica Pizzeria Bar Restaurant
An offshoot of a highly acclaimed pizzeria of the same name in Hampstead, this spacious High Barnet branch opened last year, also to great acclaim. Several dozen pizza and pasta restaurants have sprung up between Finchley and Barnet in recent years — but this one seems to attract more Italian families than most. This is no surprise, however, as the Neapolitan food here is generous and gregarious. There’s a handsome wood-fired oven at the front, beside which pizzaioli can be seen rolling out the dough throughout the day. It’s made from high-elastic, high-protein caputo flour and is left to rest and prove for about 36 hours. As soon as the pizza hits the 400°C oven, the edges charr, blister, and puff up in the way that textbook Neapolitan pizza must. Seriously, it’s worth coming here just to eat these extra-large, super-soft, pillowy edges — though the charred, ultra-thin base, and the toppings, creamy with fior di latte mozzarella and sharpened with crushed tomatoes, are also worth the journey. In addition to regular pizza, there are other Neapolitan specialities such as calzone and pizze fritte — fried pizza — plus seafood and potato-based pastas, pastries, and lush ice creams made by a local gelato supplier. Other desserts include citrusy, fruity babà soaked in rum — a Neapolitan take on the classic French rum baba and German kugelhopf. —Sejal Sukhadwala
1 Church Passage, Barnet EN5 4QS
Friday 14 June 2019
The corner of High Road and Ealing Road in Wembley has seen many Indian restaurants come and go over the years — most recently, Kailash Parbat. Named after a Himalayan mountain range, this Sindhi café was the first London outpost of an international chain owned by the Mulchandani family. Originally located a few doors down, it served excellent food in its early days, including Sindhi classics never before seen in London. After moving to this location, however, it was never the same, and eventually closed.
The Kailash Parbat group — now an even bigger global chain with eight different brands in its portfolio — has opened this smart, spacious, somewhat corporate-looking café on its former site, but the pan-Indian vegetarian menu is completely different. The three main sections are South Indian tiffin snacks, North Indian tandoori grills, and Mumbai chaats, cooked by chefs from Chennai, Delhi, and Rajasthan. Everything is flavourful, skilfully prepared, and attractively presented. Ghee-rich paper masala dosas are made from batter that’s been fermented for the right length of time, and fiery podi chutney can be added to make the spicy potato filling even more punchy. Unusually high level of care is taken in marinating tandoori mushrooms in two different types of intricate herb and spice mixes before grilling them to smoky perfection. Ragda patties here are hefty heart-shaped tikkis with a stew of rehydrated dried white peas, redolent of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Staff are unfailingly polite, friendly and on-the-ball. The quality of Indian food in Wembley has been diminishing in recent years — so it’s heartening to finally find a new destination restaurant the area deserves. —Sejal Sukhadwala
529 High Road, Wembley HA0 2DH.
At Izatu’s Kitchen, one of three takeaway joints located inside a new space next to Peckham Rye station, the menu is recognisable to any resident of Little Lagos or anyone familiar with Nigerian cuisine: The window display of pies, butter rich, soft biscuity pastry discreetly embossed with M or F for meat or fish, the small, sugar encrusted buns with pillow soft innards, the jollof.
Izatu’s Kitchen, though, is one of the latest additions to south London’s small but burgeoning Sierra Leonean food scene, following on from Ibb’s in Walworth and the peripatetic Krio Kitchen. The menu is helpfully divided into four sections — the grills and snacks speak for themselves, but the jollof is capable of inserting itself as a wildcard option, blowing open the perpetual Nigerian vs Ghanaian debate. Here the rice is lush and rich, each grain coated in a smoky slick of oil and good enough to eat by itself, or as a companion to on-bone lamb or chicken. But the soul of Salone cuisine lies in its leafy greens: cassava leaf, potato leaf, and crain-crain, a leaf whose name may be unknown to diners but whose mucilaginous texture is immediately recognisable as molohiya to those familiar with Levantine food, and ewedu to Nigerians. These leaves are cooked down into forest green stews, deep, spicy and nutty, enriched with peanut butter and protected by a layer of fire-red palm oil so thick it looks like crude. They could be some of London’s best vegetarian dishes if it weren’t for the pieces of turkey, lamb, and fish hidden in the depths, so smothered by stew that it’s a lucky dip of flavour until it’s actually in your mouth. —Jonathan Nunn
74a Rye Lane, SE15 5DQ
Fragrant fish curries, puttu kothu, and devilled meats are just some of the items to order on this little restaurant’s expansive menu, yet another of East Ham’s outstanding institutions for south Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. It’s excellent value, with most dishes under a fiver, meaning this is certainly a place to revisit time again. The king prawn curry is complex and layered, and ought to be mopped up with fluffy parotta; towering seafood puttu kothu, studded with pieces of squid and tiny prawns, is equally brilliant. Elsewhere, pieces of tender fried chicken — dyed a vivid shade of red — hum with heat, spice, and salt. The mutton fry is another strong dish with a surprising, moreish tang. —Shekha Vyas
274 Barking Road, E16 1NZ
Roastery And Toastery
Roastery and Toastery occupies a tiny, angular room nestled up against Chalk Farm station. As its name implies, there are two main things on the menu. ‘Roastery’ covers excellent coffee made on a La Marzocco machine, with the cafe serving a house blend whose changing components are put up on the wall. For ‘Toastery,’ the menu comprises five excellent cheese toasties, each served on Peyton and Byrne sourdough. Apt, as the cafe is owned by Great British Menu judge Oliver Peyton’s sisters.
These toasties strike the perfect balance, both comfortingly simple and far too much of a faff to make at home. The ‘Frenchie’ has a layer of sweet caramelised onions, fresh thyme, sage, nutty young Gruyere and subtly smoked Lincolnshire poacher; neither of those cheeses being from France is a forgivable oversight. The ‘Chilli Chaser’ combines jalapeño chutney and punches of fresh habañeros with an Emmental and Cheddar blend that leaves pleasingly long strings of spicy melted cheese stretched after every bite. There is also an extremely appealing assortment of cakes, all modern and exceptionally pretty British favourites: glistening lemon drizzle topped with candied lemon; psychedelically swirled marble cake; and generous hunks of lightly spiced carrot cake. As charming as its name would suggest. —Leila Latif
Adelaide Road, Chalk Farm, NW3 2BP
Eggs and Bread
DIY boiled eggs and toast. With a conscience.
191 Wood St, Walthamstow, E17 3NU (8a.m. to midday, Saturday and Sunday)
Friday 7 June 2019
West Hampstead has several restaurants so good that if they were in Notting Hill or Shoreditch, they would keep turning up on ‘best restaurants’ lists, attracting constant queues of insta-gastronauts. As it is, they’re a well-kept secret among the area’s well-heeled young professionals: cool places to hang out after work, somehow managing to be both quiet and buzzy. This cosy contemporary Persian is no exception: stylish in an unfussy way, it’s a far cry from the rough-and-ready Persian joints of variable quality that have been springing up in north and west London.
A gentle hum of contentment underpins the dining experience here, with regulars flocking for the consistently high quality meze, kebabs and stews. Rich, creamy yoghurt gives a velvety mouthfeel to superior spinach borani and kashke bademjan — mashed smoky aubergines with fried onions, dried mint and crushed walnuts. Mouth-puckeringly tangy torshi helps cut through the richness, with charred, crispy taftoon to scoop them up, and panir sabzi so fresh it’s like a fairy garden of salad vegetables and herbs. The bountiful herbs bring electric vibrancy to lamb, chicken and aubergine stews, given further depth of flavour by sun-dried limes and soured grape juice, and perfumed heaps of saffron rice on the side. Generous streaks of saffron also appear in pistachio ice cream, lavishly dolloped into large copper dessert dishes. Staff are friendly and attentive, gliding effortlessly between the basement kitchen, the ground floor restaurant, and the al fresco tables outside. —Sejal Sukhadwala
351 West End Lane, NW6 1LT
Louie’s Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken should provoke a reaction: A reaction from the whole body. Hot chicken should ring alarm bells, the stomach saying: “this chicken should not be in here, please remove it.” Hot chicken should hurt. Hot chicken should be borderline inedible. This is the difference between hot chicken, and chicken which is spicy.
Picture this then: three diners — two chefs and a food writer, all three familiar with spicy food — at the newly opened Louie’s, underneath Red Dog Saloon on Hoxton Square. A round of giant wings arrive, sanguine and fierce looking, ordered ‘hot’ to test the heat level. “This is not hot,” they all say, with some weariness. A round of ‘extra hot’ tenders and a half bird divided into leg, thigh and breast, and wing come next. “We could go to the next level,” one says bullishly after a single bite, but then: the extract kicks in.
Ten seconds later the burn hasn’t gone away, it’s only building slowly, alarmingly in the mouth. The drinks are gone in a minute; another round is ordered. The trio goes in again, places now starting to sweat where sweat glands shouldn’t be, where they never knew they were. Hearts are beating in their chests; one has ringing in his ears and has gone partially deaf. More drinks do nothing. Milkshakes are ordered. The chicken disappears at an attritional rate, between gulps and groans. “This was a huge mistake” someone says, although at this point, no-one is sure who. The bread soaking up the juices, more Hovis than Texas Toast, is left untouched. Uncomfortably bloated with fizzy drinks and milk and ice cream and some fried chicken they roll out, gasping for the cold air. They are already planning their next visit. —Jonathan Nunn
37 Hoxton Square, N1 6NN
Fish and chips is only really complete with the nostalgic seasoning of sea air whipped up by a coastal wind, but those joining the Bao-bothering queue that snakes out of this Pitshanger Lane chippy of a Friday and Saturday night know that they’re waiting for some of the city’s best. Run by brothers, who own a local fishmonger of the same name but four doors down, simple things make for outstanding food. Cod, huss, haddock, plaice, and skate are all fried to order — always to order, always in good oil — chips will be soused in vinegar and dredged in salt; the curry sauce is croaky and perfect; jumbo sausages, battered if desired, and rubber-glove-snapping saveloys are present and correct. This place is so obviously a local legend, a neighbourhood reliance, that the welcome for first-timers feels even more generous and warm; much like a package of gnarled, crisp-battered fish and chips steaming itself up in its paper, pleading to be unwrapped on the long, long walk home. —James Hansen
151 Pitshanger Lane, London W5 1RH
So Nice Catering Services
The best thing to do when walking into this Ghanaian restaurant in Plaistow is to ask what is available on the day. Despite not yet having a menu, the tiny space — on the former site of Always, Always — is yet another worthy addition to the neighbourhood’s thriving West African dining scene. So Nice’s wonderfully hospitable team are more than happy to take hungry diners through their daily specials: Expect chunky pieces of tsofi — fried turkey tails — dripping with tender, flavourful fat and moreish seasoning. Jollof rice is well executed too, with an appealing smoky aftertaste, and tilapia comes by size. The fish’s crisped skin reveals delicate, tender flesh, velvety soft and slightly sweet — perfect with onion salad and the liberal application of spicy pepper sauce. —Shekha Vyas
39 Balaam Street, E13 8EB
Petit Pois is, as its name suggests, is a tiny sliver of a place on Hoxton Square. The ever-changing menu is as diminutive as the room, with around a dozen small plates, 3 large and 2 desserts: it’s best to visit with a couple of ravenous friends and simply order the entire menu. A little steak tartare with a perfect balance of salty capers and tart cornichons comes topped with a deep yellow yolk and perfectly charred sourdough; gazpacho arrives almost too pretty to eat with micro-herbs, tiny croutons and drizzles of neon-green basil oil against the vivid tomato red. No visit, however, would be complete without its signature chocolate mousse for dessert. It arrives table-side in a huge homey ceramic mixing bowl and is dolloped directly onto the waiting plate with a large spoon. It is at once light and rich, topped with a matte layer of cocoa that helps the mousse’s taste linger. It is intense and dark enough to feel like an elegant end to a meal, but also fun enough to warrant a second portion for those who wisely leave room. —Leila Latif
9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
Friday 31 May 2019
The Hainault loop encircles a part of the London map that may as well say “here be limited eating options”. This is a part of London that could be mistaken for Essex, and actually is Essex if not for the technicality of a zone 5 designation and being the right side of the M25. Seeing a Central Line train skirting the boundaries of Epping Forest feels like watching a caged animal let loose into the wild for the first time, but a fifteen minute walk from Loughton station ends up right in the middle of the woods.
Here the eating options really are limited but there are two decent ones at the same crossroads: the Original Tea Hut, a 90-year-old institution and one of the handful of tea huts left in the city, serving bacon rolls, liver sausage sandwiches and Mr Whippys to grizzled bikers who use it as a meeting spot. The other is Robin Hood, a veteran of another type of British institution: the old boozer with a Thai kitchen. It should be prefaced that Robin Hood is not worth travelling across London for, but if visiting Epping Forest, it is a much better option than it has a right to be. There are the stalwart traffic light curries and the usual stir fries from the British-Thai repertoire but also duck laab, a decent som tam and a crab stir fry with curry powder and egg; even the prawn crackers come with both sweet chilli and a nam prik pao so diners can decide just how adventurous they want to be. —Jonathan Nunn
Epping New Rd, Loughton IG10 4AA
Red Lion, E6
As glimmers of summer have finally started to show, the pursuit of booze, food and sun together has intensified. This is why Red Lion, E6 is a neighbourhood blessing. The huge, partially covered garden, complete with table games, is a brilliant backdrop to idle away the time. Inside, a solid selection of craft beers is on tap, rivalling many East Ham options. The pizzas are the strong point; options like margherita and the diavola, with its spicy sausage and chilli, are a compelling addition for London’s purists. More unusual possibilities are not to be snubbed, however. ‘The Geezer,’ a pie with salt beef, gherkins and mustard is surprisingly good, flavours mingling like a gigantic reuben sandwich. Sourdough crusts are appropriately scorched and airy with a satisfying snap. With quizzes, Sunday roasts and live music events, Red Lion is slated to be a lasting part of the community — as well as a destination. —Shekha Vyas
80 High St S, East Ham, London E6 6ET
Nik’s Kitchen is a class act in the culinary melee of Maltby Street Market — the smart black awning is perhaps a giveaway of serious intent, as is the provenance of name-checked ingredients: lamb from HG Walter; tomatoes from Isle of Wight Tomatoes. Former interior designers, Nik and Caroline Williams’ dishes play to all the senses, especially the vast pot of khoresh karaf. There’s a pleasing tangy, acidic kick to the slow-cooked lamb neck and celery stew, thanks to the addition of lime juice which is balanced against the freshness of mint and parsley. Served generously on saffron Persian rice studded with barberries and finished with a yoghurt, garlic and harissa sauce, the house made chilli sauce, and pickled chillis imported from Lebanon, this is a glorious way to spice up a weekend visit to Bermondsey. At less than a tenner per dish, this has to be one of London’s tastiest, thrifty feasts. —Sudi Pigott
Maltby Street, SE1 3PA
Wa Cafe is a Japanese patisserie just off the overgrown Haven Green in Ealing’s epicentre. On a stretch largely occupied by generic chain restaurants, Wa exists in a sort of exquisite little parallel universe. The automated doors glide open at the touch of a button to unveil a sleek but feminine space perfectly climate controlled with pristine pastries, breads & desserts displayed atop slate and marble. The matcha tiramisus are almost too pretty to eat, glistening bright green orbs topped with edible flowers and gold leaf with layers of matcha sponge and vanilla mousse inside. The Sakura rolled sponges are equally superb, with light vanilla genoise spiralled around a cherry blossom mousse with dark punches of sweet cherry encased within. There is is an extensive selection of teas and excellent coffee, but best of all are the matcha lattes which come topped with a geometric zig zag pattern that will spark joy in even their most cynical patrons. —Leila Latif
32 Haven Green, Ealing, W5 2NX
Poussin Plaice – Taste Of Kenya
Quite apart from ‘pizza samosa’ and ‘Hawaiian chapatti’ on its menu, this small no-frills cafe in Queensbury, run by a chatty Shah family from Gujarat and Kenya, is a curiosity. The food served in most Gujarati restaurants in London is Kenyan-influenced, cooked by the families of those who fled Idi Amin in the 1970s. However, this is a rare venue that serves Kenyan and Kenyan-Gujarati specialities as cooked by the Gujarati communities of Nairobi and Mombasa in the mid-twentieth century. It recently became entirely vegetarian, so the words ‘poussin’ and ‘plaice’ in its name might cause confusion — but in fact ‘poussin’ is a famous Kenyan butter-based chilli sauce, originally used for marinating chicken; and ‘plaice’ is a misspelling of ‘place.’
That poussin is a speciality here, served with chips. Inspired by a renowned chip shop of Nairobi — chips and potatoes being significant in Kenyan-Gujarati cuisine — the cafe is partly a chippie: there’s a large choice of fried potatoes, sweet potatoes and cassava topped with assorted spices, chillies, salsas and even salt and vinegar. Beans, greens, maize flour in various guises, and hearty stews make up the rest of the menu. Stews such as kachri bateta (literally ‘crisps and potatoes’), and Mombasa mix are cautiously spiced, featuring tiny sliced or diced potatoes and dried white peas or black chickpeas.
Those stews are topped with tamarind chutney, coconut chutney, blackeye bean fritters, and crunchy bits like crisps, thick chickpea flour red chilli sev, and Bombay mix-like Kenyan chevdo. These sink down and become soggy in the thin coconut gravy, but that’s part of their charm. There’s mandazi to help mop them up: triangles of soft, fluffy, slightly sweet deep-fried bread stuffed with coconut: As Mombasa is a coastal town with lush coconut palms, the dishes here are lavishly flavoured with their fruit; raw green mangoes, first introduced by Goans who cooked for the British in Kenya, are liberally used as a souring agent. Punjabi labourers grew wheat flour in a previously maize-eating country and introduced chapattis, considered a sign of affluence in Kenya — so here too there’s a great selection of stuffed chapattis, with the egg filling being the most popular. —Sejal Sukhadwala
41 Queensbury Station Parade, Edgware HA8 5NN
Friday 24 May 2019
Many atrocities have been committed in the name of Greek food over the years in this city. Pallid moussaka, questionable kleftiko, chips on everything. Speak to many of the new wave Greek vendors and they will blame the British palate, but also insist that it’s actually Cypriot and not mainland Greek — and that they have now brought the real deal to London. There are elements of truth and untruth in this, but the fact is that the best of London’s old school Cypriot food — whether Greek or Turkish — more than holds its own against any of the newcomers. Some will point you to Palmers Green wisely, but as the Cypriot diaspora grows more affluent, it has moved well beyond the North Circular, firmly into suburbia.
Kouzina by Southgate station fuses both the old- and new-school. One side of the menu lists sheftalia with blackened crusts of caul fat and grilled pork souvlaki, a mixed grill wrapped in expansive Cypriot pita. On the other, Greek gyros, with crisp shaved pork, tzatziki, and flatbread you can squeeze. And of course, chips on top. Given time, gyros could take over London as the next kebab — as any regular of Quality Chop House/Wines knows, GReat next door does a mean one — but until then the best exists as a Zone 4 gyros ring, curving across north London from Enfield to Oakwood in an arc of spits, smoke, and hot coal. —Jonathan Nunn
9 Ashfield Parade, Osidge, N14 5EH
Jefferson’s is a Wes Anderson-like ice cream parlour — pastel tones, headband-wearing, yellow-aproned staff — that opened on Balham’s increasingly busy High Road at the beginning of the year. Walking into the place feels very much like stepping into a marshmallow house: there is soft promise and it is realised. Every day, in a quaint little production line housed in a glass-boxed room at the back of the shop, ice cream is freshly churned, ready for scooping. The dairy is supplied by the highly regarded Allan Reeder, and the imaginative flavours, whether ‘Earl of Grey’ or ‘Strawberry Snickerdoodle’, are created using “glorious” ingredients sourced locally. There are warm waffles, cones lavished with indulgent sauces and dazzled by nuts, and brioche sammies, where hefty rolls of ice cream are playful with hundreds and thousands. And we must not forget the milkshakes, which are wonderful. —Josh Barrie
191B Balham High Rd, Balham, SW12 9BE
Moko Made Café
Hidden in plain sight, an unassuming art nouveau stained glass front door houses an eclectic room full of care and creature comforts in a living room that happens to be a cafe big enough to seat twenty. Serving great coffee and the kinds of bakes an Okasan (mother) would lovingly bestow upon their child in a Tokyo suburb after Juku (exam prep after school). Soft and light roll cakes flavoured with matcha or kinako (roasted soy bean flour) and filled to bursting with lightly sweetened cream sit side by side with whichever European bakes Tomoko (the owner and eponymous Moko) has decided to dabble in, her current obsession often coinciding with what is seasonal.
Japanese cafes and baking have moved into the collective consciousness over the past few years, with most taking the modern ultra luxe approach of mille crepe and speciality coffee but Moko Made sticks to the comforting feel of home with onigiri (filled rice balls) the size of a fist, umami-rich miso soup, a great tea selection, and a beautifully dense but not at all heavy cheesecake served with slivers of homemade yuzu confit and honey. Evenings and weekends often see musical performances, the shop constantly showcases artwork, and ceramics for sale but the true worth of Moko Made is the feeling of immeasurable balance within when you are whiling away an afternoon. A place which is prone to cause outbreaks of calming bliss in even the weariest of Londoners, that makes it worth the short walk from Shoreditch and worthy of a journey from further afield. —Feroz GG
211 Kingsland Road, E2 8AN
Nestled in the middle of a vibrant stretch on stylish Chamberlayne Road, to call 43 Restaurant unassuming would be an understatement. All decked out in neutrals with limited signage, this place promises far less than it delivers. The menu is short and straight-talking Italian: tomato bruschetta, aubergine parmigiana, spaghetti bolognese and penne arrabbiata. Each dish arrives lovingly prepared and thoughtfully plated. In true Italian spirit, provenance is key and the staff enjoys detailing the origins of everything from the fresh sourdough, and the sweet, plump vine tomatoes to the gooey rich burrata. Generous portions of perfectly al dente pasta come in beautiful ceramic bowls topped with fresh herbs and salty flakes of aged parmesan. On a sunny weekend, on a sunny garden terrace out back, guests can enjoy these simple culinary pleasures al fresco. —Leila Latif
43 Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise NW10 3NB
Many Londoners grew up eating this legendary gelato in an era before the word became part of the common parlance, and ice cream was associated with vans playing tinkling music, Mr Whippy, and, later, slightly raunchy TV adverts. The business was originally established nearly 90 years ago by Italian grocer Gaetano Mansi to use up leftover fruit, initially as a café in Haverstock Hill, with its name coming from the ship-like shape of the building. Several generations of his family continued to run the two-room restaurant — one side of which was centred on ice creams, and the other on pizzas and pastas — until 2012. When the original site closed, there was collective grief on social media, followed by jubilation when the ice cream-making Myatt family and the Ponti’s restaurant group took over, moved to the current location in Chalk Farm, and reopened in 2014.
Set over two floors, the four-room venue, at once spacious and cosy, is one of London’s few destination ice cream parlours. It no longer sells savoury dishes, focusing instead on natural, additives-free gelato made in Suffolk to original recipes. Pistachio is very popular, salted caramel and tiramisu are reliably good, and daily specials may include the likes of honey and ginger, and toffee crunch. But who can resist the baroque charms of knickerbocker glory, peach melba, and banana split? Ostentatious with technicolour scoops, glossy peaches, fresh banana slices, jelly cubes, even more fruit, and bulbous crowns of whipped cream, the retro treats are what everyone comes here for. Afterwards, walk over to the Canal Museum in Kings Cross to learn all about London’s ice cream history. —Sejal Sukhadwala
61 Chalk Farm Road, Chalk Farm, NW1 8AN.
Friday 17 May 2019
The corner site opposite Golders Green tube station has seen a number of Italian and Turkish restaurants come and go over the years. Most have been unmemorable, with the exception of Charlies. A local legend, this was a Charlie Chaplin-themed pizzeria, which, unlike the silent clown, became increasingly boisterous. Its music-loving owner encouraged singsongs and karaoke in between chefs flicking Italian pies into the oven, and waitresses navigating glasses of limoncello around the narrow tables. There were more and more live music nights with singers and musicians, and gradually the staff, too, started joining in with all the fun. So much so that the venue became mostly about entertainment, and diners were lucky to get any food at all. Unsurprisingly, it closed. This bright ocakbaşı, which replaced it, is in keeping with the increasing number of Turkish restaurants opening in Golders Green and Finchley; a charcoal oven running along one side has taken the place of the old pizza oven. Although the meze here are fine, it’s the barbecued vegetables and meats that really shine. A kiss from the charcoal, a lick from the flames, and an infusion of smoke transforms aubergines and courgettes, blank and silky as teenagers, into something altogether more mature and interesting. Lamb and chicken kebabs of every variety — döner, adana, beyti, şiş — are laminated with the tinge of earthy, musky bitterness of fire cooking. Staff are sunny, bringing over complimentary platters overflowing with colourful salads and fresh cut fruits popping with pomegranate seeds. It’s enough to lay the ghost of Charlies to rest. —Sejal Sukhadwala
38 North End Road, NW11 7PT
Duri Mart joins Atari-Ya and Kiraku on a thirty-pace stretch of road that deserves to be the nexus of Ealing’s restaurant scene — the trio aptly shadowboxes with a Starbucks, Costa, and London’s first Nando’s over the road as buses wobble past. Duri is a family-run Korean convenience store with some precious floorspace given over to feeding people; a canteen in miniature with chairs strewn around in keeping with the unfussy spirit of the place. They move around to the ebbs and flows of lunch and dinner, or a stolen afternoon snack. The menu is concise: bibimbap where fluffy rice stirred down mines precious crackles from the pan; muscular bulgogi; and ‘spicy’ — an entire, glorious speciality dish of pork or chicken slaked in sesame, soy, garlic, and gochujang, not a catch-all modifier. Presented in a patchwork of A4 papers, top-down photos, clip art graphics, and price tags styled like the explosion symbol flaring out in comic books as titans clash, that menu reflects the quietly cheeky hospitality of the entire place as well as the food it promises. Give Nando’s a miss, please, and get there early — it shuts down around 8p.m. —James Hansen
10 Station Parade, W5 3LD
Marcona almonds, mojama, fideua, this is no ordinary neighbourhood Spanish restaurant, it’s the real deal. L’Oculto was born out of deep passion, that of Ana Gomez’s experience of importing mostly low intervention wines, cheese, and charcuterie direct from producers too small to engage with larger enterprises for her longstanding Brockley Market stall. The original wine and tapas shop still stands, and this larger Brockley high street operation pays homage through its rough hewn bar, open brickwork and wine racks displaying some absolute gems at all price points.
That mojama, sun-dried tuna, brings its silky texture and subtly smoky tang to an assembly finished with a sprinkle of marcona almonds and a sprightly mango relish. Generous helpings of feisty, intensely tomato-rich cuttlefish fideua and sweet paprika piquant lamb stew were noted as must-order-again-next-time dishes; at dessert, both torrijas, Galicia’s answer to French toast, and an oozingly ripe acorn-fed goat’s cheese from Extremadura were divine. The place veritably hums with contented diners. Brockley is on a direct line to both London Bridge and Victoria, making it easily accessible for everyone seeking a true Spanish culinary fix. —Sudi Pigott
325 Brockley Road, SE4 2QZ
A welcome addition to London’s Vietnamese food scene, this tiny restaurant’s homely cooking is a brilliant local standby. Bun bo hue, spicy soup with noodles and petal-thin slices of beef is among the finest in the city: The interplay of citrusy flavours elevates the meaty broth, adding balance and lightness; a slick of pungent shrimp paste brings an element of moreish umami. Griddled pork belly is wafer thin, smoky and sweet with vermicelli and salad, and the myriad starters are also worth a try. Roasted pork, teeth-shatteringly crispy, with a salty tang, is one of the highlights on the menu.
390 Barking Road, E13 8AJ
Endo at the Rotunda
The space at Endo at the Rotunda is magnificent: long, elegant untreated wood counters, a ceiling adorned with gentle waves of translucent linen, and a view over all of west London. The room only takes 16 lucky diners per sitting, and before dinner begins they are ushered to the bar counter where drinks are so meticulously prepared that even the water comes with ice hand-carved into a perfect sphere. Endo Kazutoshi himself holds court from the moment the entire group is seated. He is an intriguing figure, at once relaxed but obsessive, regaling the diners with tales of secret tuna auctions, his childhood in his grandfather’s sushi restaurant, and time spent aboard fishing boats teaching obstinate Cornishmen how to meet his exacting standards. The tasting menu is all that is on offer at dinner with 15 pre-booked courses, and the option to add 3 more on the night. Each course, be it a plate of seared sweet fatty tuna aburi with English white asparagus; yamadanishi salmon nigiri lightly smoked under a cloche; or the crisp monkfish tempura laying atop an aromatic broth, comes with a story, a flair and an explanation of technique that draws each diner into Endo’s passion. On leaving diners are given engraved cherrywood chopsticks, a menu wrapped up with a ribbon, and Endo’s business card — delivered in person. The latter must be hung onto for a return visit, as this is the sort of once-in-a-lifetime meal that should be eaten at least twice. —Leila Latif
The Helios at Television Centre, 101 Wood Lane, W12 7FR
Friday 10 May 2019
Time is running out to try Tippy’s. This tiny family run Thai restaurant is permanently closing its doors at the end of June, yet another victim of lease expiration. It is a tragedy for a place which has been an East End institution for 20 years, lauded for its aromatic curries, fresh salads, and daily specials. With central Thailand and Isaan staples, Tippy’s delivers, whether the need be for an express lunch or leisurely dinner, enhanced by a generous corkage policy. Highlights include the larb gai, a small mountain of minced chicken, teased through with slivers of red onion and red chilli and punctuated with the nutty crunch of toasted rice. Delicate bamboo shoots and beans add texture to a fiery jungle curry, pulsing with funk and electrified with lemongrass and makrut lime. And a steamed fish special is show-stopping: creamy morsels almost melting away, to leave a silken veil of sweetness that lingers long after. While a pile of chillies and broccoli add even more depth and flavour. —Shekha Vyas
291 Barking Road, E6 1LB
Arsenal have no more home games this season — just an away fixture with nothing riding on it and then a short trip to Baku — but when league football starts up again in August the question of the match day food ritual will rear its head again. The temporary burger stalls are probably best avoided and Xi’an Impression in the Emirates’ shadow always shuts in fear of being overrun, so it’s difficult to do better than Sweet Handz, a Ghanaian fixture of Holloway Road not five minutes walk from the stadium.
Downstairs is usually more of a bar atmosphere, with Ghanaian Gooners either celebrating or drowning sorrows with pints, but it’s possible to eat upstairs or take away. Kelewele, blackened fried plantains, make ideal snacks or will provide sweet foils to jollof rice enlivened with peanuts and hot sauce and, perhaps, tsofi. To taste tsofi — turkey tail — once is to immediately wonder whether the West has been habitually mis-preparing the turkey, a bird so often denigrated for its dryness. With a glut of glorious unsaturated fat surrounding its tail, when fried this delicacy is sweeter and richer than the best fried chicken. It’s no wonder tsofi has technically been illegal in Ghana since 1999 due to its impact on the nation’s cholesterol levels — a law, it is worth noting, which is even more routinely breached than Arsenal’s back line. —Jonathan Nunn
217 Holloway Rd, London N7 8DL
Is this the best-value tasting menu in London right now? At £39 for eight clever, creative but still-substantial courses (with an optional wine pairing for a further £28), it certainly looks that way. Adolfo de Cecco, former head chef of Pidgin, has taken over the former Lardo Bebe site on Hackney’s Sandringham Road — what’s on offer varies from day to day, but it might include brown butter and mah kwan pepper pomme maxine, oyster mushrooms with brassica shoots, lapsang souchong and dried lemon, and fermented strawberry with pine ice cream. It’s all loveably low-key (there are just 12 covers in the main room), and everything comes on tactile ceramics by local maker Sam Marks. The basket of warm focaccia with jalapeño butter and cod’s roe, easily big enough to feed six but given to tables of two, says it all. —Emma Hughes
158 Sandringham Rd, Clapton, London E8 2HS
Joining the likes of Hank’s and Little Nan’s at Deptford Market Yard — a relatively new development occupying the station’s renovated railway arches — Taproom SE8 is the second bar-pizzeria from Hop Stuff Brewery. Following several successful crowdfunding campaigns, the south London brewery launched the bright corner space with 16 taps, a domed pizza oven and stripped-back interiors with a sparse industrial theme. Joining the wide range of beers on tap (available in pint or 2/3 pint measures), a chalkboard lists around 10 pizzas available, plus three specials. All are sensibly priced, ranging from around £7-10, and use Neapolitan-style bases. Toppings include the likes of piquant ‘nduja amplified by a smattering of red chilli slices and buffalo mozzarella on a tomato base which leaves a generous border of springy crust left undisturbed. The smoked duck special, on the other hand, features a white base embellished with Gorgonzola, wilted rapini leaves and crimson slivers of smoked duck. Best enjoyed with Hop Stuff’s easy-drinking Any Day American pale ale, or a pint of ‘Pam’: Pressure Drop’s limited-release sour brewed with rhubarb, redcurrant, and lemon verbena. —Jonathan Hatchman
2 St. Paul’s House, 3 Market Yard, London SE8 4BX.
Ciaran Thapar’s insightful article put the U.K.’s Indian pub culture on the map a few months ago. London has around two dozen of these pubs that double up as sports bars: lined with TV screens that range in private booth-sized to cinematic, they’re particularly popular during football and cricket tournaments. The buzziest, busiest times to visit are when Manchester United or Liverpool are playing, or when the Indian cricket team is at its peak. They attract mostly older Indian and non-Indian men, but a few are stylish enough for cool young Indians to hang out; while others, like this quiet venue in Preston near Wembley and Harrow, are popular with Indian families.
The mostly Kenyan-influenced Punjabi and Gujarati food varies in quality, with an old-fashioned taste, appearance and serving style — all sizzling hot iron plates and copper-bottomed karahis — that betray their 1990s origins. Here, paneer shashlik has a retro sunset-orange hue, but is tender and judiciously spiced. Crispy bhajiya are potato slices dipped in a chickpea flour batter rather than the traditional sort, rolled in dry, seasoned chickpea flour, which gives them a different texture and rendering them incredibly moreish. Samosa chaat has a somewhat dull brown appearance, but a good balance of hot, sweet, and sour flavours; and egg curry comes in a hearty sauce with fennel seeds and curry leaves. There’s a rare opportunity to taste karoga chicken and lamb at weekends — smoky with charcoal and tangy with tomatoes, Kenyan barbecue-style. Not everything is set in 25-year old aspic — lavishly-framed, sepia-tinged photographs that line the walls are, according to a waiter, “downloaded from the internet.” —Sejal Sukhadwala
182-184 Preston Rd, Wembley HA9 8PA
Friday 3 May 2019
Otis Wright is one of a small number of original traders who operate in the front yard of St. Augustine’s Tower, the church, just off Mare Street in Hackney Central. Recently, since the patch of land, which spills onto the pedestrianised stretch of Mare Street, has been transferred from the church to the council, a concerted effort has been made to give decent (actual) street food business a run. There’ll be more about them in due course, but start with the Jamaican food from Wright, who has been manning his cart from 11am to 7pm every Wednesday to Sunday for the best part of six years. A brilliant plate of jerk chicken — whose oil drum grill chucks out an aroma detectable from the station — is served with rice and peas, gravy, hot sauce, as well as mashed potatoes studded with sweetcorn, for those who fancy it. Wright doesn’t list prices probably because it’s one of those places that relies on an “if you know, you know” kind of customer. It’s £6.50 and now you know, too, it’s worth every penny. —Adam Coghlan
By St. Augustine’s Tower Hackney, on the platform above the pedestrianised part of Mare Street, E8 1HT
There’s a strange sort of alchemy in the perro caliente, the literal translation of “hot dog” that to a Colombian suggests not ketchup and mustard, but a creamy, fruity, crunchy mess of flavour and texture concocted entirely with humble ingredients. Migues, which lies just inside one of the rail station mini mall arches of Elephant and Castle, is a small stall selling perros calientes kitted out with nothing but a grill and a microwave. It goes something like this: a bun is electromagnetically softened while a store bought frank is griddled with barely softened onion. Melted white cheese is smeared on the bun, on go the onions and the sausage. Then it gets interesting: ketchup, mayonnaise, salsa rosa (redundantly, a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise), crushed crisps and radioactively orange pineapple sauce. The result is a hot dog with a flavour profile continuingly threatening to topple under its own weight: as the pineapple becomes too sweet, along comes a wave of salty cheese reset the taste buds. As the cloying combination of cheese and mayonnaise becomes cream overload, the crunch of crisps and the sharp kick of onion bring it back down to earth. Delicious in the most appalling way possible, just one might be enough to satisfy a lifetime of cravings. —Jonathan Nunn
New Kent Road, London SE1 6TE
JB Sweet and Savoury
This little shop and take away has been a pillar of the Gujarati community since the 1950s. A temple for every kind of south Asian snack — fried, fresh, frozen or made to order — and all jostle for attention on the crowded shelves. Fresh, crispy cassava chips and potato bhajias are piping hot, moreish and salty, a perfect homage to the Ugandan memories of the founder’s youth. Khandvi, spirals of pasta-like gram flour and yoghurt, are soft and creamy, fragrant with coriander and popping mustard seeds, while the verdant texture and flavour of patra — seasoned rolls of colocassia leaves — is rich and satisfying. Sweets too, are exceptional; fat buttery ladoos are rich with jaggery, and pastel-coloured pendas melt in the mouth. While chevdos and gathia’s easily elevate any Bombay mix. —Shekha Vyas
372 Romford Road, E7 8BS
Soutine is the latest from Corbin and King, the team behind Colbert, Zedel, The Delauney and London icon The Wolseley. Set on an idyllic little stretch in St John’s Wood, the rooms are filled with intricately carved cherry-wood and mirrored panelling alongside vintage posters and beautiful oil paintings befitting its artist namesake. The menu is that of a classic French bistro with Russian flourishes: bright yolk-centred steak tartare, or a terrine of deep dark soupe a l’oignon; sharp cured herring with sweet mustard. It is all unmistakably Corbin and King’s distinct brand of accessible, timeless glamour, from the ornate branded plates and crisp white tablecloths to the flawless buttery eggs benedict and the wafer-thin crisp veal escalopes. Best of all are the glorious array of pastries and desserts: petit black forest gateau with bitter dark chocolate perfectly balanced against punches of sweet sticky cherry; salted caramel-filled eclairs topped with delicately piped chocolate and adorned with gold leaf; and a banana split with caramelised bananas concealed under mountains of whipped cream. This place does breakfast, lunch and dinner: consider spending a day enjoying all three. —Leila Latif
60 St John’s Wood High Street, NW8 7SH
One of London’s oldest Palestinian restaurants, this cosy Notting Hill venue — whose name alludes to the region’s renowned sage tea, widely used as a digestive aid — is exceptionally homely. So homely, that a flurry of diners enter hastily, eat hurriedly and leave before anyone’s had a chance to wonder whether they paid: no doubt the owner’s friends or family. So homely, that the owners themselves sit down mid-service to share food from a large communal platter — most definitely friends or family. So homely, that when the knafeh arrives, neon-red with food colouring, it seems like an anomaly, the chemicals in it at odds with the purity and freshness of the meal that’s gone on before. However, this is what the Palestinian version of the famous Arabic dessert is meant to be like. White-brine jibneh nabulsi cheese is sandwiched between brightly coloured pastry and sprinkled with crushed pistachios in a recipe that originally dates back to the 15th century. It’s the only thing on the menu that may not be to everyone’s taste. The Palestinian take on ful mudammas, creamy with tahini and sharpened with lemon and green chilli, tastes superior to the Egyptian version. There’s also silky moutabel with pomegranate seeds, beautifully spiced batata harra, sambusek made with thin, crisp pastry, and lively ‘Gaza salad’ spiked with green chilli and fresh dill. A large, varied range of grilled chicken and lamb dishes, aromatic with saffron, sumac, garlic and fresh mixed herbs, is very much a speciality here. In the end, the homeliness extends to warm hospitality, leisurely lingering, and “just one more cup of cardamom coffee” — or, indeed, superbly somnolent maramia tea. —Sejal Sukhadwala
48 Goldborne Road, W10 5PR
Friday 26 April 2019
Authenticity is a tripwire — too often invoked to impart misplaced authority, or by gatekeepers to keep cuisines preserved in aspic. Izakaya is also a repeatedly misused word, but London is starting to sprout its own inauthentic versions that cleave to the city’s own traditions as well as capturing the spirit of the concept. But for those who seek the original experience, the “authentic” one if you must, go to Yokoya, still one of Camden’s best kept secrets. Yokoya is a basement drinking den that is as close to wandering into a Tokyo izakaya as it’s possible to get in London — in the early hours one is likely to bump into one or two of the city’s Japanese chefs relaxing post shift.
Ramshackle and boozy, with a vast menu of inexplicably good food, this is a place to graze over whiskey, shochu, or sake, food filling the spaces between sips. This is bar food taken to its final form: the crunch and fat of tempura or karaage, golf balls of takoyaki that explode with mayonnaise and octopus, the monkish simplicity of oden. And now, on an updated menu, yakitori — more austere and unadorned than their (defiantly inauthentic) counterparts at Peg, here there is simply a choice between salt or tare. Unlike other Japanese restaurants owned by dedicated shokunin, the strength of the izakaya is in its diversity — on the bar menu shio ramen and ox tongue stews will soak up late nights, while on the other end of the spectrum tiny nuggets of golden uni sashimi fill the mouth like a salty rock pool of caramel. And if it’s on, the mentaiko spaghetti with cods roe and black truffle is as authentically inauthentic as you can get. —Jonathan Nunn
9A Delancey St Camden, NW1 7NL
Al Hashim Khyber Grill
The Peshawari namak mandi, or chicken karahi, at this neighbourhood restaurant is a favourite among locals. And it’s easy to see why. This glorious rendition features a monster portion of marinaded chicken, stewed down in the traditional iron basin until it almost melts away. The result is a fresh, clean dish, rich with complex layers of spice. Naan, which is fluffy and crispy in all of the right places, is a fitting vehicle to mop up all of the juices that ooze pleasingly from the meat. Chapli kebabs are giant and succulent, bursting with coriander seeds and crowned with grilled tomato — enough for a stand-alone meal sprinkled with vinegary chutney. Cups of aromatic kahwa tea are a refreshing after-meal essential. —Shekha Vyas
832 Romford Road, E12 5JG
Burrata is more a cliché than a cheese these days — but at this excellent West Hampstead pizzeria, it almost upstages the pizza. True, the pizzas, with their thin surfaces, raised bubbled edges and surprisingly generous toppings, are some of the best in a part of London woefully lacking in them — but the cheese is something else. Imported from Puglia, it’s exquisitely fresh, soft, smooth and milky, with no lumpy yellow bits or oozing thin liquid like in inferior versions. In fact, top-notch ingredients are central to every dish at this smart, white table-clothed venue with solid cutlery and good wines; even the grassy, fruity olive oil that comes with the bread is absolutely superb. Desserts are not to be missed either: chocolate and coffee semifreddo with caramel sauce is a beautiful balance of sweet and slightly bitter, with the ideal semi-soft texture that most Italian restaurants in the capital fail to achieve. Friendly, attentive staff, and a cool, contemporary interior — complete with the obligatory, but tasteful La Dolce Vita movie poster — make this a perfect neighbourhood restaurant. —Sejal Sukhadwala
186 Broadhust Gardens, NW6 3AY
Bistro Vadouvan has the gentle, laid-back charm to match its devotion to the “French and spice” of Pondicherry, the former French colonial region from which chef-patron Durga Misra takes much inspiration. The restaurant menu reflects his own journey from Chennai to Putney, along which he took on French classical cuisine from working alongside Eric Chavot. This spacious, airy waterside restaurant that he has made his own boasts a prime riverside terrace and plenty of seating: It will be blissful come high summer. Along that journey, Misra become fascinated with Middle Eastern spices and ingredients too, and such eclectic culinary travels come together as a thoughtfully nuanced, sometimes daring menu that is executed expertly. House flatbread with pistachio-scattered labneh makes a welcome snack, as does a sea bream ceviche with the spicing just turned up an exhilarating notch. Exemplary barbequed Iberico pork is accompanied by properly charred cabbage, and desserts are stunning: a preparation of saffron, cardamom, and pear is as elegant as it tastes. An exciting, fresh talent in southwest London. —Sudi Pigott
30 Brewhouse Lane, SW15 2JX
The Gate St. John’s Wood
A cornerstone of the reluctance to try out a plant-based lifestyle is that diners cannot bear the thought of being relegated to unimaginative, too brief selections of vegan options at dinner, or having no choice beyond the granola whenever at brunch. The Gate has been proudly cooking up plant-based excellence since 1989 in Islington, Hammersmith, and Marylebone, with dishes that will pique the interest of even the most carnivorous. The latest branch in St John’s wood delivers excellent vegan and vegetarian food in a slick modern space, Scandi minimalism alongside plush green velvet. The signature wild mushroom risotto cake comes stacked high with wild mushrooms and rocket and heavily sauced with a creamy cep and truffle dressing. Earlier in the day, the berry and banana pancakes and large selection of pastries are all excellent sweet options, devoid of the claggy greasiness that often accompanies butter substitution. Prices for these dishes may be a little steep, but the accompanying self satisfaction is priceless. —Leila Latif
87 Allitsen Road, NW8 7AS
Thursday 18 April 2019
It is the start of Alphonso mango season, a time for small rituals. The riding of the Jubilee line just about as north as it can go, a journey which somehow always takes longer than the last time. The checking of the mangoes at Kingsbury Fruit and Veg, the petty arguments that break out in Gujarati over blatant timewasting. And then veg samosas and fudgy mawa penda at Gayatri a few doors down to add to a two dozen mango haul, and perhaps a trip to Bombay Spice. This Maharastian snack shop is both pure veg and no veg, an excuse to slam various textures of carbs together and see what happens — especially vada pav’s and dabeli, the latter sweet and crunchy with sev, peanuts and tamarind. Masala fries are always a spicy, sticky pleasure, while the piece de resistance is toast sandwich, a genteel mix of cucumber, tomato, grated cheese and chutneys on trash white bread grilled to melting point. Then, there’s the uncomfortable journey home, stomach like a cannonball, dreaming of the first bite of mango. —Jonathan Nunn
560 Kingsbury Road, London NW9 9HJ
Like its sister-site in Manila, family is at the core of this Filipino restaurant. An homage to the recipes of their grandmother and food-loving, renowned grandfather, Carlos P. Romulo, sisters Sandie and Rowena have managed to showcase the most-loved flavours of the Philippines from their respective outposts. Despite a familiar and intimate feel fostered by Rowena and partner Chris’s warmth, Romulo Café is a destination in its own right.
Traditional classics of Filipino cuisine are translated into small plates - or platitos - made for sharing. Meaty tuna ceviche is lifted with the gentle twang of vinegar and sharp, sweet onions. Chicken inasal, sunshine yellow with annatto, comes diced and sizzling — crowned with a crispy piece of crackling, it explodes in rich, garlicky flavour. The restaurant’s take on pork adobo is a tender, sumptuous belly that sinks comfortingly into its juices. Pancit palabok is another highlight, each mouthful pleasingly heavy with seafood and meat. A foray into the dessert menu is worth saving some extra room — the chewy and decadent sans rival and the creamy ube — purple yam — cheesecake are both excellent. Signature cocktails could also be reason alone to visit: the rum Old Fashioned has a pleasing bite and an aromatic ube martini is strikingly violet and dangerously smooth. —Shekha Vyas
343 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6NW
A proper dosa is as delicate and skilfully made as a French crêpe. The rice and urad lentil batter should be fermented long enough to give it a pleasant sour tang — not too long so that it becomes mouth-puckering, nor too short that it tastes plain and bland. The right length of fermentation will give it a lacy appearance with little holes punctuated across its surface.
Well, that’s one take on a dosa. Another is that as the South Indian pancake’s popularity has risen sharply across the globe, it’s become a bit of a spectator sport. Chefs — mostly male ones — now compete to make larger and larger dosas, with more and more outlandish fillings. It’s in the spirit of the latter that this vegetarian Wembley restaurant, a new branch of a small one located in a unit a few doors down, should be enjoyed. It has a separate kitchen with its own team of chefs; and offers 118 types of dosas. Yes, one hundred and eighteen.
That’s not as far-fetched as it sounds: it only takes a small number of batters and fillings to kick off a dosa menu, and from then on it’s all about mix and match: the permutations are endless. Here, the varieties range from demure masala dosa, to vibrantly peppery pesarattu made from whole green moong beans, with mixed vegetables and podi masala. One variety, stuffed with cheese, noodles, salad and a slap of fiery spices is the perfect snapshot of how modern India eats today. Purists will lament the missed opportunity of showcasing traditional regional dosas. For others, especially those dining with kids or a bunch of mates, this no-frills café, with other quirks such as a counter ordering system and a daily-changing paratha menu, is a fun foray into the outer reaches of a beloved Indian classic. —Sejal Sukhadwala
547 High Road, Wembley HA0 2DJ
Salon Wine Store
When is a bottle-shop-with-small-plates more than a bottle-shop-with-small-plates? When it shares a kitchen with Nicholas Balfe’s Brixton restaurant, Salon. The compact neighbour on Market Row serves snacks, sharing plates and desserts that are a lot more interesting than the usual drinking food: think purple sprouting broccoli tempura with bagna cauda, then king oyster mushroom strewn with wild garlic on a pillow of buttery miso mash, and dark chocolate mousse. Before 7p.m. there’s pasta, tagliatelle with ox cheek ragù, maybe, that comes with a glass of wine for £12, and any one of the 200-odd bottles can be bought and drunk in situ with zero corkage all week. —Emma Hughes
20 Market Row, Brixton, SW9 8LD
New school vegan food is often an exercise in almost: Almost tastes like chicken, almost tastes like cheese, almost good. Of course the great vegan cuisines have long ago surpassed the almosts, to make balanced food and meals with no thought for dairy or meat. Mao Chow, popping up in “Frank’s Coffee” on the less frequented middle section of Mare Street has taken classic Sichuan value eats and injected meatless twists that make sense. A skilfully balanced take on dan dan noodles captures all the flavours and textural contrasts diners could expect; so too do ‘Silk Road spice’ tossed fries heavy with cumin and Sichuan peppercorn, and thick-skinned dumplings filled with finely chopped fennel and doused in chilli oil. This writer will be back for the mapo tofu, and is looking forward to what comes next. —Feroz FG
159A Mare Street, London E8 3RD
Friday 12 April 2019
Dip In Brilliant
This somewhat unusually named Fulham restaurant is a play on the name of owner Dipna Anand, daughter of Gul Anand who runs the 45-year old Brilliant in Southall. Her grandfather Bishen Dass Anand launched the first Brilliant in Kenya in the 1950s and, later, a hotel and nightclub of the same name in Nairobi. In addition to continuing the family brand and remaining involved in the Southall restaurant, the chef and cookbook author opened her own home-style Punjabi last year. It’s a small, plain and simple curved room that’s been home to a couple of other Indian restaurants over the years. Tandoori lamb chops are beautifully spiced with nutmeg and cardamom. It can be difficult to keep the marinade on the meat — it comes off easily in a tandoor — but here the succulent chops are evenly coated, giving them an attractive charred-golden hue. Kenyan-Punjabi food is flavoured differently than Muslim-Punjabi or Sikh-Punjabi, so the spicing is less vigorous in dishes such as chickpea and potato curry, and okra with onions. There’s lesser use of ghee, yoghurt, and dairy generally; and Kenyan-Indian classics like masala fries are also found on the menu. The restaurant’s fast-casual “dip in and out” ethos continues with Brilliant Express, a takeaway hatch on the side of the building that serves kebabs, burgers, and wraps to go. The location close to the Chelsea Football Club means it gets busy on match days; and catering for the Stamford Bridge stadium is also in the pipeline. —Sejal Sukhadwala
448-450 Fulham Road, Fulham, SW6 1DL
The High Cross
It would be so easy to sneer at The High Cross. It’s a micro-pub in a former public toilet in Tottenham, with a boujie blackboard menu and bottles of Breton cider in the fridge. But that would be a mistake, because this is a genuinely warm-hearted, welcoming place where two people can eat extremely well for a fiver a head. The tiny kitchen turns out runny-yolked Scotch eggs three ways, hotpots, pies, and superlative Sunday roasts. The three-plates-for-a-tenner deal, meanwhile, includes a massive serving of bubbling Welsh rarebit that’s the equal of anything in Clerkenwell, and a warm, mustard-spiked potato salad. —Emma Hughes
350 High Rd, Tottenham, N17 9HT
The Swing has an easy, natural charm that at once puts its customers at ease. Its maximalist styling featuring an opulently tired bar, indoor tree branches across the ceiling and a large botanical mural would spark joy in even the most jaded of diners. The menu is divided into two with vegetarian alternatives mirroring each meaty counterpart. For example shiitake mushroom and chive gyozas as an alternative to sesame chicken; or miso charred sweetcorn as a herbivorous sibling of the miso charred cod. The restaurant itself is divided in two, with one half “the canteen” a straight forward a la carte experience; the other serves a “tasting menu” with a set arrival time (7:45pm) and extraordinarily reasonable 12-dish menu for £25. The infectious party atmosphere is amplified by the extremely jolly service. Food centres around the robata grill with its signature smoky char elevating many of the dishes from good to great. Miso candy sweetcorn, garlic edamame, portobellini yakitori, and sticky salmon all come lightly blackened and perfectly cooked, straight from the grill. There are several very pleasing details sprinkled throughout: food comes served on a selection of shiny metal platters and lovely pastel earthenware, drinks are served in hammered copper tumblers and the wine list is very reasonably priced. This place isn’t cutting edge but it is bloody good fun. —Leila Latif
77 Mill Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1NB
Neco Tantuni Kunefe Salonu
For those of us that don’t drink at all, finding a comfortable equivalent to a pub or bar is often a compromise for everyone involved. Neco Tantuni is a salonu, a Turkish equivalent to a bar where tea and ayran freshly frothed from the fountain replace the usual tipples. A plate of pickles is brought to the table on the house while tantuni along with kunefe replace the usual bar snacks. Tantuni is a dish of hand sliced meat cooked in cotton seed oil with salt, chilli and sumac, some red onion salad and then wrapped in a thin yufka like flatbread sodden with the meat juices. Rolled into a tight tube and then folded into an elegant u shape it is very much the street food of choice in the fishing villages of Turkey from where it hails (Mersin in this case, some say the birthplace of the dish).
It’s a matter of taste, but the best variety is somun tantuni, a hollowed out submarine shaped roll filled with the same meat, salad, and chopped tomatoes — pressed to meld everything together and also to create a glistening crisp top not unlike the very best cubano. Following with something as rich as kunefe would finish most people off but the perfectly judged specimens on offer here are difficult to resist. Each round pancake of shredded kadayif pastry encases a layer of mozzarella like cheese made to add a light dairy note and, crucially, to provide that photo-ready stretch. #cheesepull. This is then drenched in just enough syrup and butter to create an extraordinary crust.
Neco may be in the farthest outlands of Enfield, an hour bus journey through roads filled with banquet halls and more restaurants than the whole of Soho, Chelsea, and Shoreditch put together. Neco may only take cash and the menu may be small but where better to experience a genuine sense of conviviality and give oneself the chance to indulge in not just salt, fat, acid and heat but sweet as well. —Feroz FG
4 Brick Lane, Enfield, EN3 5BA
Walthamstow high street is best known for its weekday and weekend street food traders, which has before now been documented in these pages. (Note: recently, a Hungarian langos trader has begun offering the deep-fried potato bread savoury.) Beyond those street food carts that come and go, however, there are restaurants that quietly and consistently go about their business, immune to the hype surrounding all manner of novelty newcomers. Mannoush is one — a Lebanese grill whose rotisserie grill drum marks it apart from the restaurants of Edgware Road, Knightsbridge, and Chelsea. Into it are placed whole, spatchcocked chickens, salted, seasoned and grilled to a crisp. The whole bird, with chips or rice, salad, and pickles is £9.99 to eat in or take away. It will feed a greedy individual on their own, or with a couple of starters — like excellent hummus and flat bread or tabouleh — make an excellent meal for two. —Adam Coghlan
30 High St, Walthamstow, E17 7JH
Friday 5 April 2019
K’s African Spice / Korede’s Africoal
Mention Erith to a Londoner and you will get a few stock responses. “Where?” is the most common, “Isn’t that in Gondor?” is another. Some south Londoners may recall seeing Erith as the final destination on their night bus but have forgotten it in their drunken confusion. Sometimes it’s worth riding buses all the way to their termini — on the road to Erith buildings melt away and the mighty Thames looks like a sea separating Kent and Essex. Erith feels liminal, a Kentish town with red buses and one of the biggest Nigerian communities in the U.K. The restaurant scene here is small — in K’s African Spice there are customers expertly moulding gluey pounded yam into improvised scoops to soak up egusi soup or edika ikong, an Efik speciality spiked with, among many other things, periwinkles. Further down, at Korede’s Africoal lies one of London’s most unlikely suya spots, where the creamy fat on a rack of lamb ribs deliriously mixes with homemade yaji. Perhaps Erith is too far away and not concentrated enough to be a restaurant destination...yet, but it is a reminder that London is still London right up until the ends, and the ends of the ends. —Jonathan Nunn
K’s African Spice, 13 Pier Rd, Erith DA8 1TA
Korede’s Afric, 85 Brook St, Erith DA8 1JJ
Tehran-born writer Maryam Sinaiee, blogger at The Persian Fusion and author of beautiful Persian cookbook ‘Nightingales & Roses’, opened this cosy daytime café in Chiswick at the end of last year. The charmingly quaint two-room venue, decked out in tapestries, ornate mirrors, and other knick-knacks, looks like a Persian auntie’s front parlour. There’s a glass counter with a display of vegetarian salads, a hot dish that usually features meat or chicken, the occasional vegan soup, and own-made cakes and pastries. Daily changing salads may include wonderfully piquant olive and walnut with pomegranate molasses, sumptuous roasted mashed aubergine, or boranis of spinach or fried onions and dried mint smothered in rich, thick yoghurt. Baklava cake, if it’s available, is a must-try: a feather-soft, cream-filled sponge subtly perfumed with rosewater and topped with pistachios and dried pink rosebuds, it tastes as pretty as it looks. Copies of Maryam’s cookbook are available to buy, along with a small selection of ingredients — little packs of premium Iranian saffron for £1 is a particularly amazing bargain. —Sejal Sukhadwala
Maryam’s Café, 30 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick W4 1TE.
Parlour is a rare all day restaurant/bar/café/pub that succeed in all capacities. It is equally suited to a boozy Friday night with friends as it is to a wholesome Saturday brunch with a toddler. The bright interior is carefully mismatched and feels like a stylish but eccentric friend’s living room. The drinks are carefully curated with quirky cocktails and a “beeropedia” featuring dozens of craft beers from microbreweries and brewers that would satisfy even the most discerning of ale snobs. At brunch there is the gloriously gigantic Full Parlour Breakfast (strictly no substitutions allowed) with an unlimited toast bar for those up to the challenge. For dinner perfectly spherical chicken “kyiv” and cow pies are as fun as they are tasty. Best of all are the desserts, which are all whimsical childish delights. Salted caramel chocolate ‘rolos’, artic rolls, and — best of all — a toasted marshmallow ‘wagon wheel’ where the marshmallow is blowtorched to a lightly charred melted perfection at the table. —Leila Latif
5 Regent Street, NW10 5LG
Schiticchio, Sicilian appetisers so pleasingly alliterative and with a smack of onomatopoeia are just one of the allures of Brixton’s Trattoria Franzina. Think panelle, chickpea fritters dipped in aubergine rich caponata; sfincione, a house-made Sicilian focaccia take on pissaladière with caciocavallo cheese, anchovies and tomato; aubergine polpetto, involtino of pork loin with raisins, pinenuts, and cheese
The homemade tagliatelle is the main attraction and it more than equals the best of Padella’s offerings. These are the freshest, most bouncy and egg-rich ribbons one could wish for. There’s an ink rich version served with a generous amount of squid, red chilli, and parsley. Equally good is a pistachio and almond with crushed pachino tomato and ricotta salata Trapanese pesto and a more hearty beef ragu. Desserts are de rigeur and frankly irresistible: a light yet intensely chocolatey tiramisu, cannolo filled to order brimming with fresh ricotta nuts and candied fruit and tiny Sfingette cinnamon doughnuts. The small, mostly Sardinian wine list is ridiculously reasonable.
Trattoria Franzino has just moved from Pop Brixton into its own brick and mortar site and the chef Pietro Franz is so clearly delighted with their new home, that their warm welcome is contagious. Truly a heartwarming dose of authentic Palermo trattoria dolce vita. —Sudi Pigott
395 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, SW9 8LQ
The flavours and fragrances of Puglia come to life at this relative newcomer on Upper Street. Named after the clay-like red soil of the Mediterranean, Terra Rossa’s regional specialties are a welcome deviation from the majority of Italian restaurant staples. Dishes based on cucina povera, a style of Italian cooking based on simplicity and — often — scarcity, are wholesome and lavish in taste. The resulting variety of vegetarian options is also a pleasant change. Broad bean spread, topped with garlicky greens, tastes clean and fresh on toasted bread. A Pugliese classic, fresh orecchiette muddled together with bitter turnip tops is unforgettable. The chewy pasta and pungent greens given depth and balance by crunchy, savoury breadcrumbs. Minced octopus ragout, coating fat tubes of paccheri millerighe, is thick, spicy and powerful — a wonderful midweek indulgence. —Shekha Vyas
139 Upper St, N1 1QP
Friday 29 March 2019
Pueblito Paisa Cafe
Much has been written about the Pueblito Paisa cafe — one of London’s only Colombian community hubs that faces a very real and imminent threat of demolition. So-called “redevelopment” looms large. If there was ever a time to visit, it is now. What sets this cafe apart is its excellent and affordable food — pork ribs, fried plantains, rice, slow-cooked beans, and a salad comes in at less than £10. For those with yet more room, there are succulent and meaty empanadas, terribly addictive yuca fries, and arepas, which are gluten-free. For those who might seek Peruvian seafood, the cafe also has superbly grilled octopus and ceviche. One thing to takeaway from the Pueblito Paisa Cafe experience? Their amazingly spicy ají that goes well on just about everything. An enlivening mariachi band holds court on Saturday nights. Go before it’s too late. —Apoorva Sripathi
231-243 High Rd, London N15 5BT
At a nondescript shopfront on East Ham’s High Street North bearing the tagline “Authentic Asian Cuisine” it’s only the sound that gives the restaurant away. Catch it as the door opens and it’s possible to hear the unmistakeable clank of two machetes on metal working in tandem, resounding like a bell. This is the sound of kothu.
Kothu or kottu roti is a pan-Sri Lankan institution, an ingenious way of using up old roti to make a jumble of uncategorisable texture — is kothu: bread, noodles, or sauce soaked bread dumplings? In any case, the kothu roti here is on point, the chicken version is all about the textural non-contrast of different forms of squidge, but the nethali with crispy anchovies and a green chilli kick is the winner. It’s not just about kothu. There are also good versions of idiyappam, to be dipped in sweet or savoury gravies, especially as part of an unbeatable £3.50 breakfast deal, along with devilled mutton and various biryanis. Make sure to stay for tea but not too long, the tea is so well regarded here there are multiple notices on the wall warning against tea loitering: remember “tea time 10 minutes only”. —Jonathan Nunn
223 High St N, E6 1JG
Concealed under a railway arch on a residential street, it’s more likely that visitors will smell Tromsø before they actually see it. The waves of tantalising cinnamon perfume that dance on the wind promise nostalgia, joy, and comfort. All manner of cakes and and buns are found at this Scandinavian bakery but it is equally perfect for springtime lunch. The Norwegian waffles are a must try; spongey and slightly sweet, they are a delightful cushion for smoky sausage and crispy onion. Also delicious, an open mackerel sandwich on dense, dark bread is lifted by pickled radish and fresh cucumber. And warm cinnamon buns, twisted into soft and delicate knots, are an expected highlight — all washed down with homemade blueberry fizz. —Shekha Vyas
Arch 432, Avenue Road, Forest Gate, E7 0LB
There are a number of curiosities about Koolcha, recently opened in the shiny new Boxpark Wembley. It’s co-owned by Rohit Ghai, who followed it within days of launching an upmarket Indian restaurant in Chelsea. First, why would such an internationally renowned chef be involved in a fast-casual shipping container concept in an outer London suburb? Second, why name it after a flatbread that’s not even among the top five in India? Third, why are the eponymous bread’s famous traditional accompaniments of chickpea curry and white pea stew missing from the menu? These questions vanish as soon as the food arrives. There’s subtle layering of flavours in lively paneer tikka masala, made from fresh, soft own-made cheese. It’s served in a dinky bento box-like wooden tray with pickle, raita, salad, excellent-quality rice fragrant with ghee, and kulcha that’s dainty and refined rather than rustic.
North Indian chefs cook everything from scratch in a limited kitchen, which explains why Koolcha is not Naancha — there just isn’t enough room for a charcoal tandoor. The short menu is clever in making lamb, chicken and paneer central ingredients that turn up in various guises; and the prices are reasonable for such high-level cooking. Currently it’s the only upmarket, sit-down restaurant within the spacious two-storey building; other global street food units are more casual and smaller, dotted around communal dining areas. To answer the first question — securing prime space so early in an area undergoing multi-million pound redevelopment is a smart move. —Sejal Sukhadwala
Unit 21, Wembley Boxpark, 18 Olympic Way, Wembley HA9 0JT.
Mandalay Golden Myanmar
Though Burmese food draws from Indian, Chinese, Laotian, and Thai cuisine, it has its own distinctly delicious identity. Among the very best places to experience Burmese cuisine in London is the Mandalay Golden Myanmar in Kilburn. The stark dining room is bustling with locals, Burmese expats, and enthusiasts enjoying fantastic food at extraordinarily reasonable prices. Danbauk, a sort of Burmese biryani is perfectly perfumed with cardamom and anise. Mohinga, a noodle soup — considered to be the national dish of Myanmar — is fragrant whilst maintaining its famously rich seafood flavour. Khow suey, a coconut curry noodle dish, is as comforting and warm as it gets. This place’s stellar local reputation is well-earned. —Leila Latif
302 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 2DB
Friday 22 March 2019
Kay’s Kitchen at The London Palace Bingo
“Is there food here?” The doorman laughs, “Mate, there’s so much good food here they will have to roll you out once you’re finished.” This is no ordinary restaurant: this is bingo, and this is no ordinary bingo hall either. The washed out blue of Elephant and Castle’s Shopping Centre conceals a cavernous arcade the size of Wembley’s football pitch, and every evening it is home to a predominantly elderly and predominantly Black Caribbean audience who can all fill out a bingo card quicker than you can.
It is also home to Kay’s Kitchen, which has pivoted along with its clientele from ‘Traditional Food of the British Isles” (read: chicken nuggets and chips), to hearty Jamaican cuisine. Here it’s possible to load up on goat curry on the bone, pillowy ackee with generous chunks of saltfish, and oxtail stew so soft and gelatinous it is possible to cut through it with the plastic cutlery provided. Taste the richness of the gravy in the oxtail and you’ll want to pour it all over your chips; look around to see a thousand other people had the same idea. The food here is partially subsidised, and on some days even complimentary, but £3/£4 a head will provide a bingo card-staining feast. And here’s the kicker: in two weeks it closes for good. The bingo hall has provided the strongest opposition to the Shopping Centre development, but after the end of March it will shut, moving its operations online and in doing so removing the social aspect the game gives to a whole swathe of South London. This is not just a restaurant closure, but another destruction of London’s dwindling working class spaces, another destruction of Black Caribbean spaces. Before it closes, go just this once, not in solidarity but to better understand what this city is losing. —Jonathan Nunn
First Floor Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, SE1 6TE
Walking straight past this unassuming Chinese restaurant on Roman Road, with its tiny storefront and lack of discernible name, would be understandable. But kitchen staff ferrying buckets of fresh charcoal in and out of the diminutive dining area belie the specialty here. Northern-style barbecue skewers are lathered in chilli and cumin and carefully grilled to perfection. Tiny pieces of lamb, punctuated with translucent pearls of fat, are succulent and imbued with smoky meatiness. Mighty chicken wings are mounted on a single skewer, with salty, crispy skin that shatters moreishly into juicy mouthfuls. While the standout is a grilled aubergine, halved and dusted with spices. A smattering of barely cooked garlic offers a pungency that is hard to ignore, transforms this dish into something quite special. —Shekha Vyas
129 Roman Road, E2 0QN
Wild Food Cafe, Islington
It may not win over the sceptics, but there’s much to spark joy for vegans at this new branch of Covent Garden’s popular plant-based restaurant. Whereas the latter is studenty and touristy, this bright, spacious venue showcases a different level of sophisticated cooking. No fashionable ingredient, technique or Instagram trend is left unturned – so expect curiosities from the Amazon rainforest; vegetables dried in a dehydrator; and a rich, raw ‘cheesecake’ layered with rainbow colours derived from spirulina, matcha, turmeric, and goji berries. Expectations are turned on their head: a plantain stew with wild rice isn’t gravy over grain, but a red pepper-onion coulis topped with a rice quenelle, romanesco florets, and plenty of crunch from dried and fried plantains, toasted seeds, brazil nuts and cacao nibs. There are some nice touches: dill fronds accentuate the marine profile of an exquisite dish of slippery shiitake mushroom ‘oysters’ with seaweed tartare and wild sea purslane. There’s liberal use of sea vegetables and nut ‘cheeses’; plus a short menu of gluten-free pizzas. A trendy drinks list includes the likes of ‘mushroom coffee’ and cocktails based on quinoa vodka. The intentions here might be health and environment, specifically in the use of wild and foraged plants, but the results are a riot of flavours, textures and colours. Outstanding service, and a taverna-meets-conservatory interior with views of kitchen theatre, makes the experience all the more enjoyable. —Sejal Sukhadwala
269-270 Upper Street, Islington, N1 2UQ.
Not to be confused with The Crown and Anchor (also on Chiswick High Road, but distinguished by the fact that its signature dish is cheese-stuffed bread), this handsome, stucco-fronted pub is local boy Henry ‘Racine’ Harris’s latest venture. The menu is framed as “Mediterranean leaning, with Sicilian inflection,” but it ticks a lot of Francophile boxes too: think terracotta-hued soupe de poisson with croutons and rouille; salmon with beurre blanc; blushing bavette; and gloriously rich duck confit with celeriac remoulade. It’s all extremely pleasing, but the armagnac tiramisu alone is worth a trip to the far end of the District Line. —Emma Hughes
F1-F6 Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
The Georgian is a cosy, family-run café/restaurant in Clapham South. Order the supra — “a feast” of hot and cold dishes influenced by Turkish, Russian, and Persian cuisines. Charming staff are more likely to warn that portions are generous and it is better to order less and ask for more. The down-sell?
Pkhali, like finely ground vegetable pastes of spinach or beetroot bound with walnuts are a must. So too is bardrijani, fried aubergine with walnut and herb stuffing. Elsewhere, there’s hearty borsht with or without smoked sausage; chicken soup is fragrant with tarragon, dill, and lemon. The utterly moreish khatchapuri, Tibilisi-style has a flaky base topped with ricotta and mozzarella (rather than rarely available sulguni cheese).
Aromatic stews are enriched with walnut or sour plum sauce and tklapi, “fruit leather.” For a true supra, one must order khinkali too, soup dumplings similar to xiao long bao and eaten in the same, sauce-first way, with one’s hands. Be sure to take pickles on the side as well as fiery condiment ajika made with hot peppers, garlic, and herbs. Vegetarians have the option of an excellent lobio, red bean stew, redolent with herbs and pomegranates.
Breakfast is served every day and includes mamalo: rye bread with salmon, poached eggs, and sour plum sauce or delicate ricotta-filled crepes. The counter is always laden with alluring homemade cakes. It’s a transporting menu that demands return visits. —Sudi Pigott
27 Balham Hill, SW12 9DX
Friday 15 March 2019
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall
Colindale’s much-loved food court and shopping centre Oriental City, formerly Yaohan Plaza, had a long and tumultuous history, and was demolished in 2014. Bang Bang opened in the summer of 2017, only partially occupying the old site — the rest is taken up by a supermarket. It’s a compact glass and steel building, with a Loon Fung food shop to its left, Golden Dragon restaurant on the ground floor, and a tiny branch of Wonderful Patisserie on the first. Facing it is a spacious food hall festooned with red lanterns, lined with kiosks selling a large selection of dishes from across Southeast Asia, with a seating area in the middle.
The quality and variety, merely okay when the centre first opened, has vastly improved in recent months. Highlights over multiple visits have included: vegetarian and halal Malaysian platters at Coconut Tree; Yaki Ya’s yakitori and okonomiyaki; delicious bánh mì made with light, crisp baguettes at Café La Viet; creamy curries and Filipino burgers at Manila Kitchen; and Janchi Korean Kitchen’s fried chicken and hard-to-find tteokbokki. Indonesian chickpea and mushroom rendang at Makatcha is a must for vegetarians; and Very Duck specialises in duck dishes, and hand-pulled and hand-cut noodles. Black-and-gold salted egg yolk buns at Royal China One 68 are almost too beautiful to eat; and ethereal Japanese egg white pancakes at Fluffy Fluffy live up to the name. Dessert-drinks include fun and colourful chè and halo-halo; plus Taiwanese tea-based beverages, cream cheese shakes, and the latest trends in bubble tea. A huge appetite is a must. —Sejal Sukhadwala
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall, 399 Edgware Road, Colindale, NW9 0FH.
Ealing’s restaurant scene tells a story of the communities that flow along Uxbridge Road, from Hanwell along to Acton. A litany of Persian, Afghani, and Lebanese restaurants lines the road up to Northfields; in the opposite direction, a clutch of phenomenal Japanese restaurants jostle affably for the business of the area’s sizeable expat community. It’s telling that the superlative sushi at Kiraku — particularly a tokujo chirashi strewn with a chef’s choice that might include toro, hamachi, and crimson jewels of roe — comes from Atari-Ya just a few doors down. The fish is passed over a small counter where diners perch like magpies, or out into the traffic of the main dining room where exceptional noodles and broths share table real estate. Yaru soba and atsu-atsu udon are stand-out orders, noodles writhing and springy in the latter and languidly draped in the former, both winningly accessorised with greaseless, generous tempura of prawn that would easily stand up to Koya’s rightly lauded version. Book, if planning a visit: Kiraku’s longstanding excellence excites serious loyalty in those who live so close. —James Hansen
8 Station Parade, Uxbridge Rd, London W5 3LD
Suraj Sweet Mart
Wembley is a world of appearances, its Desi-ness is sometimes so embedded in the quotidian that at times it hides itself behind facades. Newsagents stack mutton rolls and idli where one might normally find chewing gum, electronic shops open up into Vedic astrology practitioners and snack shops. Nowhere else in London, apart from Elephant and Castle, has all the raw materials for a thriving mini-mall scene, where immigrant businesses forced to be imaginative eke out livings with the small space allotted to them by capital, where Goan snack shops, dosa canteens and paan peddlers all share the same unit.
Suraj Sweet Mart on a corner in Wembley Central is another exercise in misdirection: a fleeting glimpse suggests barfi and sev by the pound, but a deeper look reveals some of the best value vegetable takeaway in the city. Usually three-to-four hot curries bubble away at the counter, a judiciously spiced daal or saag paneer perhaps, while portions of chilli paneer or deep fried spicy globes of gobi manchurian can be warmed up with plain rice or biriyani for £2.50 a portion. Stand at the window opposite Palm Beach eating off a Gujurati newspaper, a hefty Punjabi samosa in hand, it’s enough to convince that Wembley is the epicentre of casual London dining. —Jonathan Nunn
44A Ealing Rd, Wembley HA0 4TL
Fans of Fleabag may be surprised to know that the delightfully flawed protagonist’s guinea-pig cafe was a real place on the village high-street of north London’s Dartmouth Park neighbourhood. Now owned by Istanbul couple, Ibrahim and Nihan Aksu, the cafe has been gutted and transformed into the aptly named Bold. Gone is the shabby decor — which had to be removed twice because Fleabag production crews reinstalled the rodent portraits for series 2 filming during the cafe’s remodel — replaced with an airy dining room, a technicolour palette, plush seating, and brilliant food. “Everyone knows kebab,” says Ibrahim, “but we wanted people to know more about modern Turkish food and how it is being served in Istanbul.” Weekends see the cafe fill with locals and their dogs fresh off Hampstead Heath, hungrily tucking into pancakes, menemen, and gluten-free porridge from the all-day breakfast menu. But it’s Nihan’s weekly specials, mezze and salad offerings that truly shine with their fresh ingredients and bright seasoning. A perfect spot for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, take advantage of Saturday’s intermittent sunshine and grab a seat at their outside tables. —Chloe-Rose Crabtree
20 York Rise, NW5 1ST
Peckham’s multi-storey car park is best known for hosting Frank’s Bar during summer but its redevelopment as Peckham Levels in 2018 brought a new group of bars and ‘street food’ vendors. Among the tacos, fried chicken, and a second outpost of the excellent Nandine there’s Zephyr Burger, specialising in ‘old school’ California-style burgers. London may be somewhat saturated with meat-in-a-bun options but it’s rare to find a really decent example of the smashed style popularised by behemoth brands such as Shake Shack. Fifty-day dry aged beef is pressed thinly on the grill creating a dark, heavily seasoned crust. Fans of the juicy, rare meat style may be disappointed but there’s a lot to be said for this method, which maximises Maillard reaction over a large surface area and leaves crisp, raggedy edges. The burger is garnished with lettuce, optional American cheese, pink pickled onions and their excellent ‘House Sauce’ — a sweet, mayonnaise-based condiment reminiscent of the Big Mac “special”. Final words of advice: one patty is never enough so it’s best to order the double. —Helen Graves
F1-F6 Peckham Town Centre Carpark, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST