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.
This tiny Gujarati mithai and farsan (snack) shop and takeaway in Harrow was recommended by several Eater London readers, specifically for its crispy bhajia. The famous potato fritters are ubiquitous in London’s Gujarati restaurants, but are particularly associated with Maru’s Bhajia House in Wembley, whose family of owners first created them in Nairobi in the early 20th century. They’re made from very thinly sliced potatoes rolled into dry chickpea flour instead of a wet batter, and seasoned with a ‘secret’ combination of ingredients believed to include fresh and dried garlic, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and coriander leaves; plus some rice flour and cornflour to crisp them up. Each disc of fried bhajia is then topped with a little relish made from very finely chopped carrots, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, green chillies and fresh coriander, along with a dollop of tamarind chutney. Here the crisp, fresh, hot bhajias are indeed better than the ones recently eaten at Maru’s, where the management, and therefore the legendary old recipe, may have changed. Other snacks, nibbles and sweets are also sold, but the fried potatoes are what everyone comes here for. If the shop has run out, it’s worth waiting for staff to fry up a fresh batch. —Sejal Sukhadwala
225 Charlton Road, HA3 9HU
When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. On the week St. John turns 25 it’s important to both honour the awesome influence it’s held over almost every modern British restaurant since, and to interrogate that legend. St. John was revolutionary and it wasn’t: Its innovation was to tie back together the frayed strands that linked British food ante- and post-bellum, and those that joined together the British classes. St. John repackaged the food of Britain and France’s working class and romanticised it for middle class consumption: its genius was the uncompromising vision in the way it went about doing it. In 1994, while St. John was re-introducing a whole swathe of London to offal, in places like Harlesden and Peckham, communities were already buying tongues, hearts, cow foot for slow simmering, to gelatinise a red pea soup, and even whole heads. These communities did not need a restaurant to tell them what and how to eat; it was already embedded in culture and memory.
25 years later, on New Cross Road, restaurants can easily be found specialising in Igbo dishes from the east of Nigeria so direct even Fergus might balk: nkwobi, a cow foot chopped up and simmered with ehu seeds, or isi ewu, a whole goat’s head boiled then cooked in searing hot spices, with a dark bitterness from utazi leaves. This is not for everyone. Maybe it’s not even for 1 percent of everyone. A complete isi ewu comes with teeth, with eyes, with taste, with everything — but the important thing is to know it’s here, a blood brother to St. John like so many restaurants in London, but one which hasn’t been influenced by it in the slightest. —Jonathan Nunn
129 New Cross Road, SE14 5DJ
First opened in 1939, G. Kelly on Roman Road has quietly re-opened following a two-year refurbishment project. Harking back to the shop’s original fittings, the space boasts walls dressed with gleaming white tiles and framed black and white photos; marble table tops and warm globe lighting. In regards to food, just pie, mash and eels are served at the moment, with plans for fruit crumbles to be served in the near future. Pies are filled with beef from Walter Rose & Son and rich gravy (a vegan version is also available); mash is scraped onto the plates’ edges and the liquor is, simply, exemplary. The shop is also open for lunch on Sundays: another rarity. —Jonathan Hatchman
526 Roman Road, Bow E3 5ES
The opulently decorated Caraway, with its stencil-like lattices, carved statues and lotus-filled stone water feature, is like a beacon for a south Asian community that comes from as far as Kent and Essex, seeking its north Indian menu. The Gants Hill restaurant offers diners a feast that nods to India’s Mughal heritage, with specialities like the dastarkhani doorani kebab, a soft lamb kebab wrapped in chicken. An extensive menu means some dishes are hit and miss but a rich, velvety tarka dal is fragrant with crisp red chillies and ginger matchsticks, mopped up with a feather-light garlic naan. Tender lamb chops curried with tomato and fenugreek are wonderful, while another standout is the raan ki kurchaan. Slow cooked lamb, simmered gently with peppers is spicy and tangy with an undercurrent of umami. Also notable is the palak papdi, a dish both layered and beautiful — whole spinach leaves fried to a crisp, topped with sev, tamarind and bejewelled with pomegranate. This is rich fare, indulgent and heavy but imbued with a warmth that takes the edge off these newly chilly evenings. —Shekha Vyas
513-19 Cranbrook Road, IG2 6HA
Connie Special Restaurant
Recently, this small shopfront at the intersection of Lea Bridge and Markhouse Roads, which acts principally as a takeaway — and has only one table — was taken over by Connie, a Ghanaian woman with a West African and Caribbean retail premises in Forest Gate. Connie can cook. A menu is written in marker on a torn piece of brown paper on the wall behind the counter. Charity, Connie’s daughter, guides customers through the options, since what’s written up is not necessarily what’s available to eat. Something that’s always available, though, is excellent jollof rice: rich and richly spiced, meaty from the addition of a beef (cow) tomato sauce, which is technically, but not really, optional. There’s brown chicken stew, treacle-toffee in colour, sweet from caramelisation and piquant from Scotch Bonnet; oxtail; curry chicken; fried fish; turkey tails; and gizzard skewers. It’s very early days, but on much of the available evidence, and with the promise of suya to come, it should be a while before this shopfront is replaced once more.
364 Lea Bridge Road, E10 7LD