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.
One of the well meaning lies sold by food media is the ballad of the immigrant restaurant, that every single one must be run by a master chef or an absurdly talented aunty cooking from muscle memory, plying their skills in a new country to the delight of a new audience; weaving a story of a people, or of a memory, or of a diaspora. The truth is: most restaurants are about survival, the owner making a living and patrons filling up for the day. Banaadiri, a four-table Somali restaurant, is just one of many on Uxbridge Road that understands this truth. Inside it’s not about the chef, but the majordomo behind the counter, who acts as a pivot relaying orders to the kitchen and regaling patrons in Somali. In a strange way the closest analogue to its utilitarianism is one of those Deliciously Ella-style cafes — choose a carb, choose a protein, a bit of chicken or a tranche of salmon; except here it’s actually pleasurable. A lamb shank comes perfectly purple, ready to be torn off the bone and caressed with rice or red-sauce pasta, and some basbaas chilli sauce. In ten minutes it’s possible to be in and out, ready for the rest of the day. There may be better restaurants in London, but there are few more important to as many people. —Jonathan Nunn
342 Uxbridge Road, W12 7LS
There’s a widely held but incorrect belief in western countries that South Indian food is mostly vegetarian and North Indian is meaty. Nothing could be further from the truth: one of the highest rates of vegetarianism in India is in fact in Punjab. This spacious, cream-and-scarlet Southall café doubles up as a mithai shop and specialises in Delhi’s vegetarian fare. Fennel seeds and garlic perk up the mellow flesh of tinda (Indian baby squash); and there are soft pakoras, plain except for some finely chopped onions, that come bobbing in a pool of turmeric-golden yoghurt kadhi. The bitter, herbal notes of dried fenugreek leaves give fiery black chickpeas a more rounded flavour; and there’s more full-on bitterness in karela, stuffed with chickpea flour, onions and coriander leaves, that’s not for the fainthearted. Punjabi parathas are properly hefty, their generous, barely-contained filling of tiny cauliflower florets and grated mooli radish spilling out from the edges. Mithai and snacks are made on-site, and can be selected by walking up and down the length of the counters, inspecting displays laid out on individual tables. —Sejal Sukhadwala
11 King Street, UB2 4DG. (There are branches in Hounslow and Twickenham.)
Fish and chips are usually best by the sea, but a moment’s stroll from Coldharbour Lane, there’s an urban exception to this truism. Yes, the roar is Brixton Hill rather than the crashing waves of the South Coast, yet there is such a superb splash of brine to the rudely fresh fish here whether cod, plaice, skate or haddock, it is easy to forgive that there’s no chance of a dip.
What really matters is the impeccable crisp, delicate batter and the opalescent fish, which can be grilled for an extra quid, though who would forgo the batter? Chips are thumb thick and fluffy. Properly piquant tartare sauce is made in house, as are the marrow fat mushy peas; better still, there are jars of pickled egg and gherkin. The service is exceeding chirpy and welcoming too: A great spot for a fish and chip fix post cinema, clubbing, shopping or just when nothing else will do. —Sudi Pigott
99 Brixton Hill, SW2 1AA
This newly opened Italian opposite the lesser known O2 centre is a freelancer’s dream. Open all day it is a calm little oasis in dusty terracotta and pink tones with a thoughtfully upholstered ceiling that softens the acoustics. Starting from 6.30a.m., it serves up excellent expressos alongside freshly baked pastries and breads. The breakfast menu itself kicks off at 7.30a.m., with the requisite eggs benedict/florentine/royale alongside some more Italian offerings like a fiery ‘nduja scrambled eggs with basil and a hint of Amalfi lemon. During the day it’s a short menu of conservative smallish plates; a few pastas, salads and pizzettes. Cacio e pepe arancini are low on pepe, but impressively crisp and packed full of sweet rich pecorino. The ricotta cannolo is an irresistible little treat, flavoured with dark chocolate and orange. This is a perfect place to settle in for a few hours with a laptop, ordering little bit by little bit. —Leila Latif
120 Finchley Road, NW3 5JB
Mushtaq Sweet Centre
Not strictly a restaurant, but this small confectioners specialises in traditional South Asian mithai that goes beyond the standard jalebi and gulab jamun. The barfi, a fudge-like sweet made of condensed milk and ghee is here made with the traditional buffalo milk — the only shop in London that it is now possible to find this staple, yet essential ingredient being used. It imbues the sweets with a rich creaminess — perfect on their own, or as a pleasing dessert after a stroll around East Ham’s cornucopia of restaurants. —Shekha Vyas
350 High Street North, Manor Park E12 6PH