The clue’s in the name that these guys on Hackney Road serve an excellent, blow-your-socks-off brew (in fact Lanark is one of Eater’s essential coffee shops) but stay for the food. The small, fun and friendly café has a short menu of doorstop sandwiches stuffed with chicken or pork and a winning combo of hot sauce, crunchy pickles and yogurt. Then there’s the legendary kimcheese (yes, grilled cheese with kimchi) or breakfast quesadilla. Go the whole hog and get something sweet as well — their changing selection of baked goods is always irresistible (P.S. please bring back those doughnut holes). —Daisy Meager
262 Hackney Rd, London E2 7SJ
This column is in the spirit of spontaneity, spending Saturday or Sunday somewhere new on a happy whim: restaurant (ad)ventures of this kind benefit from a room, a menu and a vibe that can flex to meet the evening’s mood. Salon, smuggled away on Brixton’s Market Row, can do it all. Bar snacks are polished but unfussy, ripe for picking over between cocktails or assembling a spread to take down a bottle or three of wine from a list as gluggable as it is challenging: shattering samphire tempura; a lamb tartare slapped with anchovy and a lick of oozing yolk.
For those in search of dinner proper, there’s a very reasonable four or seven course menu serving clever, confident dishes that use meat and fish as teasing flavours and adjuncts rather than monolithic centrepieces — a very fine piece of Hereford beef aside. It’s the kind of cooking that answers “What is modern British?” with softly-spoken aplomb rather than a coy shrug, along with other highly accomplished but under-the-radar restaurants like Perilla and Lupins which could easily go toe-to-toe with more starry contemporaries. While Salon will reliably cover all bases, menus are liable to change daily, so not all mystery is lost. —James Hansen
18 Market Row, SW9 8LD
“Welcome to my Boutique Bistro, located in the Badlands of W9…”, writes chef/owner Dimitra on the website of Les Douceurs De La Tentation. It’s certainly an unexpected location for a little pearler of a bistro, tucked away down a side street off Harrow Road, a short trot away from Westbourne Park tube. In the kitchen, Dimitra moves through the gears of the classical French pantheon: mahogany seafood bisques hum with the intensity of a serious fish stock; textbook pike ‘quenelles à la Lyonnaise’ arrive in nantua sauce (a béchamel base, thickened with cream and a shot of crayfish butter). Snails with boudin noir, soufflés, and tartes tatins are all cooked and brought to the table with a bouncy joie de vivre and love of cooking. Stepping inside this tiny spot instantly feels like a haven — kick back, have a Pernod at the wood-panelled bar, and let chef cook like she’s at home. ‘Badlands’ maybe, but this food feels all the more satisfying for it. —Zeren Wilson
8 Fernhead Road, W9 3ET
It’s one of those weird quirks of migration that the largest population of Korean people in Europe is located half way to Surrey on the A3 in New Malden. Prompted by the proximity of the South Korean ambassador’s residence in Wimbledon, migrants chose the nearest place that was affordable and now New Malden is home to over 10,000 South and North Koreans. There is a thriving restaurant scene here and Jin Go Gae may be the jewel in the crown.
Located well away from the main high street near Motspur Park, it has an extensive menu which encompasses various styles of cooking with emphasis on stews and barbecue. From the starters raw fermented crab is revelatory in its combination of saline freshness and funk, with sweet, caramel strands of in-shell meat in a fiery marinade. Barbecue is done with proper charcoal, giving the meat that kiss of char and smoke so lacking in most central London Korean barbecue restaurants. But perhaps best of all is the budae jigae (army stew). Using surplus ingredients first plundered from US army bases, this is ecstatic, unashamed trash food incorporating every single worthwhile nutritional group: instant noodles, kimchi, rice cakes, spam and kraft cheese. —Jonathan Nunn
272 Burlington Road, New Malden KT3 4NL
Some of the best weekends aren’t spent in London at all. If the seaside — specifically, the Kent coast — is calling, Margate’s restaurant scene is a worthy answer, and Angela’s is right up there with its finest modern seafood restaurants. It is marginally more spacious, a touch lighter and brighter, than its snug contemporary Hantverk & Found, but still cosy and homely, with the atmosphere of a front room. And like all good seafood restaurants, things change here all the time: a daily changing menu depends on what is fresh from the boats that morning. That menu might include diver scallops, with almond and brown butter; gurnard with celeriac, wild garlic and shellfish sauce; or turbot served on the bone with hollandaise.—Adam Coghlan
21 The Parade, Margate, CT9 1EX