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Try a Smoky, Grill-Kissed Balkan Speciality This Weekend

Cevapi — and its other names — in Ealing, Guyanese roti in Herne Hill, South Indian vegetarian dishes in East Ham, and more

Cevapi at Chicken and Cevapi in Ealing Chicken and Cevapi [Official Photo]

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 5 to Try restaurant recommendation archive.


Chicken and Cevapi

Food needs context, and it doesn’t.

It’s entirely possible to take a bus or a serious walk or a late night stagger from Ealing Broadway to South Ealing Road; to bypass fine crepes and blackened chicken for bread stuffed with cylinders of deeply spiced meat, raw white onion, and crimson red pepper condiment; to gorge and roll home or on to the sofa or to bed satisfied with a leaden stomach.

It’s also entirely possible to take a bus or a serious walk or a late night stagger from Ealing Broadway to South Ealing Road; to bypass fine crepes and blackened chicken for a fluffy, smoke-kissed bread that is called somun in Bosnia and lepinja in Serbia; stuffed with cevapi, which are also ćevapčići, čevapčiči, ќебапчиња, and čevabčiči, across borders and across time and across brutal conflict, conflicts in which food did not and could never bring people together. Stuffed with raw white onion, and with avjar, a paste of crimson pepper, oil, and garlic smeared with a generosity to stain lips, it’s possible to gorge, and to reflect that cevapi and all its forms are never used in the singular because serving just one would be absurd. Food needs context, and it doesn’t. —James Hansen
190 South Ealing Road, W5 4RJ

Cafe Mama Pho

The delicious aroma of soup imbues this tiny Vietnamese restaurant with a pleasant warmth. While people sharing massive bowls, brimming with varying broths give a further clue of the highlight here. of A bun bo hue is impressive, the stock a hit of concentrated beef — layered with refreshing herbs and chewy noodles. Nuggets of pork are buried in a huge banh xeo, which bursts with beansprouts and crispy chicken wings smack pleasantly of garlic. Such solid classics indicate success stories elsewhere, across the menu. —Shekha Vyas
24 Evelyn St, SE8 5DG

Umana Yana

Anyone who absentmindedly walks into Umana Yana on the crest of Brockwell Park might be forgiven — for a split second, deducing from the pictorial script dotted around the room — that it is a Chinese takeaway. Blink again and see the homemade half moons of patties behind the counter, or the unlabelled plastic bottled of mauby and of course it’s actually a Guyanese takeaway.

The food of Guyana shows the complexities of its conception in its staples: roti from Indians, rice from the Dutch who first imported it to feed African slaves on their sugar plantations, and noodles from Chinese indentured labourers. Guyanese cuisine is both one thing and many things, and if Faye Gomes at Elephant and Castle’s Kaieteur Kitchen is its best ambassador for rice in the city, then Debbie Monfries is surely her opposite number in roti. Roti meals here come like presents to be unwrapped, with fillings of goat curry, or chicken and aubergine, or tiny curried prawns, all of which can be scooped up with thin roti skins translucent with oil. A discussion on the differences between Trini and Guyanese roti (which are completely the same and irrevocably different depending on the expert) reveals that Trini roti must be consumed absolutely fresh, whereas Guyanaese roti stores much better — something born out by their response to microwaving. Monfries, like many people in Guyana, has heritage in Hong Kong and hopes to add Guayanese chow meins to the menu soon, which pair thyme and scotch bonnet chilli to wonderful effect. When this happens, it may be London’s best and only dedicated roti and noodle joint, but for now just the roti is enough. —Jonathan Nunn
294 Croxted Road, Herne Hill, SE24 9DA

Annapoorna

This homely vegetarian café in East Ham is named after the South Indian goddess of food, cooking and nourishment, with brightly coloured framed photos of her hanging on the walls. It’s a good place to explore the cuisine beyond dosas. There’s Nilgiri vegetable korma, made from carrots, potatoes, green beans, and peas cooked in a mellow paste of cashew nuts, grated coconut and white poppy seeds, with a large amount of coriander and mint leaves giving it an attractive leaf-green colour. Also on the menu is Chettinad paneer, lively with dried red chillies, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, curry leaves, black peppercorns, and many other fragrant spices. If dosa is a must though, the enormous paper rava masala is a fine option: it’s tightly rolled up like a tube and sliced on the diagonal with the generous filling of potatoes and onions bursting out. —Sejal Sukhadwala
233-235 High Street North, East Ham, E6 1JG

Johnny Take Ue’

Dough. Sauce. Cheese. London may not quite have its own pizza identity but Italian pizzaiolos like Andreaa Ciri at Johnny Take Ue’ are more than happy to offer their variations on classics, refined and enhanced.

His hype-man, Giovanni (the owner) will tell tales of the exact spot each type of tomato on the menu is picked and applaud customers’ amazing pizza choices.

Whatever the order, it will almost certainly be delicious: A properly digestible long proof dough with cornicione to match, topped with fillets of San Marzano (exactly what it sounds like) and D.O.P. Provolone make for an explosive celebration of: Dough. Sauce. Cheese.

Sit in the lap of the owner or venture down the stairs — its a short walk from Homeslice but a journey to somewhere quite unique. —Feroz FG
19 Hackney Road, E2 7NX

St. John

26 Saint John Street, , England EC1M 4AY 020 7251 0848 Visit Website

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