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5 Restaurants to Try This Weekend

Aegean stews in Hackney, corn dogs in New Malden, sweet and savoury Gujarati specialities in Wembley, an unlikely Lithuanian pub in Leytonstone, and affordable fresh pasta in Holland Park

Aegean stews are the speciality at The Old Baths Café in Hackney Wick, one weekend to try this weekend
Aegean stews are the speciality at The Old Baths Café in Hackney Wick
gaiapulses/Facebook

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.


The Old Baths Café

Yolanda Antonopolou, founder of Gaia Pulses, cooks like she has her yiayia whispering in her ear: “Start the fasolada four days ahead” ... “only use Aegean sea salt” ... ”add the extra virgin oil at the end”. Antonopolou has run the peaceful whole food café at Hackney Wick’s old Art Deco public baths since 2014, serving a short almost vegan lunch menu built around the organic bean and lentil stews she remembers from her grandmother’s kitchen (the crocheted tablecloths may have come from there too). Choose a pulse — perhaps XXL ygantes beans with red peppers or green lentils and sprouted quinoa with garlic, dill, and oregano — then add a topping such as barrel-aged feta or black olives and pickled vegetables. Beyond beans, there are Cretan dakos, crisp spanakopites, and light brunches of tahini on toast or graviera cheese toasties. The adjacent photography studio is regularly used for fashion shoots: celebrity sightings are not uncommon. —Hilary Armstrong
80 Eastway, Hackney Wick, E9 5JH

Speck

Holland Park is a deeply strange place to eat. There is an odd, affluent childishness to the food scene, with overpriced gelaterias specialising in bubble-gum-flavoured ice cream, sandwich boards scrawled with tiresome jokes about vegans, and large primary coloured restaurants offering 15-page menus that list £8 Magnums as a dessert. Just off the main stretch, though, there lies somewhere infinitely more appealing. Speck is an Aladdin’s cave of Etruscan delights, every shelf piled high with oils, preserves, wines and biscuits. There are piles of homemade cannoli and sfogliatella on large terracotta platters. Whole legs of deep-red Parma ham, bulging rolls of soft spiced mortadella, and peppery salamis. Fridges are packed full of freshly made soups and sauces and homemade dishes like courgettes stuffed with ham, aubergine parmigiana, and cuttlefish with barley. Best of all are the fresh handmade pastas: lightly ridged pillowy gnocchi, large tangles of tagliatelle and huge tortellini of spinach and ricotta. The owners are just as delightful as the contents of the delicatessen, and will likely talk diners into a small tiramisu for the journey home. —Leila Latif
2 Holland Park Terrace, W11 4ND

Azit Restaurant 아지트

When the day of judgement comes and America’s contribution to food is weighed out, the corn dog will be right up there, somewhere below Southern barbecue and the filet o fish and above just about everything else. As Meghan McCarron pointed out in a recent article on state fair food, the corndog is “ingenious” — “mixing a crisp exterior with a soft cakey batter and the salty, almost acidic umami of a hot dog in one bite.”

For a cuisine that has adopted totemic American foods like fried chicken and spam, what therefore could be more Korean than a corndog? At Azit in New Malden there is someone in charge who likes cross-cultural practical jokes — from the dining room fitted with a sofa, guitar, neon signs, and a pedestrian crossing light, to the “fusion menu” which runs from cheese balls to Korean bruschetta. The “hot dog” for £2 is the most intriguing item and it is, in fact, its own take on the corn dog, light fluffy batter that is less Victoria sponge than it is potato roll, all covered in panko crumbs and deep fried. Coming out as they are, chubby little torpedoes the size of baby aubergines, they can’t be tackled head on, so must be eaten from the side, laterally scraping sausage and batter alike from the stick, with a zig zag of self-applied condiments: ketchup (yes), honey mustard (yes) and sugar (absolutely not.) Stranded Americans yearning for the food of their youth no longer need to bother with London’s middling Mexican restaurants for a taste of home; all they need to do is go to Korea Town. —Jonathan Nunn
76 Burlington Rd, New Malden KT3 4NU

Ashapura

On festivals, special occasions and leisurely weekends, Gujaratis often queue up for their favourite breakfast of jalebi-fafda. Sticky, syrupy spirals of jalebi are paired with chunky, fried chickpea flour ‘flutes’ dotted with ajwain seeds, along with fried green chillies and a little sambharo on the side — a quick stir-fry of shredded carrots and cabbage with mustard seeds, asafoetida and more green chillies. It may sound like a strange combination but Gujaratis, who love combining savoury with sweet, swear by it. This neat little mithai shop in Wembley — a takeaway with a counter to eat standing up — sells several sweets and snacks, but this is what it does best. The jalebis, although thin and crisp, are otherwise how they should be: slightly tangy with properly fermented batter, pale yellow without food colouring, and bursting with sugary juice. Pile up sambharo inside the curves of fafda and top with a jalebi like an excitable kid — or eat everything individually like a sensible adult – but make sure there’s a large tapeli (saucepan) of masala chai bubbling away somewhere in the background. —Sejal Sukhadwala
42 Ealing Road, Wembley HA0 4TL.

Shepherd’s Inn Berneliu Uzeiga

If it wasn’t for the collection of Lithuanian hits (spanning every conceivable genre) tinkling from the speakers, the opulent red and gold curtains and corresponding upholstery could fool diners into thinking they’d stepped into the dining hall of a medieval castle. Hearty traditional fare at this UK branch of the major Lithuanian chain adorns the glossy menu, showcasing national dishes such as cepelinai, a dumpling of grated potatoes, stuffed with meat, and Bulviniai blynai, or potato pancakes. Hot and crispy pork is tender and flavoursome, served with a gently tangy sauerkraut and a tingling horseradish and pickled beetroot spread. A mighty smoked pork shank shrouded is shrouded in an outstanding cheesy mash, while a jenga-like tower of kepta duona, or garlic smothered fried bread covered in cheese is the perfect accompaniments to pints of cold beer. —Shekha Vyas
485 High Rd Leytonstone, E11 4PG

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