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Silence London’s Taco Doubters With a Trip to Surrey Quays This Weekend

Or: eat outstanding Vietnamese food in Deptford; go for a top Sunday roast in Leyton; enjoy a verified vegetarian breakfast in Walthamstow; munch an Iranian pastry in Denmark Hill

A London restaurant for the weekend, La Chingada Feroz Gajia

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.


La Chingada

Surrey Quays may already be known for having a couple of great Vietnamese restaurants — including the peculiarity in the bowling alley car park that is Cafe East — but just before Christmas, a Mexican restaurant opened on Lower Road. To stay London is thirsty for great tacos is an understatement: it would gladly swap every Masterchef winning, Mexican-ish roll-out for something approaching what Los Tacos No.1 has done for NYC. Walter Opitz set up his taquería to give Mexicans a little wedge of CDMX in the big smoke, the ability to have a few tacos at a counter, on a stool, to create the sacred bond between a Chilanga (Mexico City native) and their taquero (taco slinger.). He wants to connect to the people of Surrey Quays and chefs of the Latinx community, convivially spending time together in a space smaller than the bathroom hallway at Plaza Pastor.

Al pastor is the most popular option, but the suadero is the taco of choice: Brisket point confited till tender and served simply chopped up in a corn tortilla with the clarity of diced white onion, chopped coriander and extra cooking juices. A traffic light of ever changing salsa options is available for proper customisation. Every Sunday is funday for Opitz, as one-off specials land on the menu: tortas packed with sliced meat, rosca de reyes — King Cake; red enchiladas this Sunday, and soon his personal favourite, chiles rellenos. La Chingada may roughly translate to “what the hell,” or something worse, and navigating its website will leave diners traversing the seven levels of its particular hell, shouting as they go, but it won’t matter. The feeling of leaving La Chingada satisfied is far closer to “hell yes.” —Feroz Gajia
206 Lower Road, London SE8 5DJ

Bühler and Co

Set up a few years ago by New Zealand-born sisters Meg and Rosie Bühler, hence the name, this vegetarian cafe in Walthamstow is beloved of the locals for its good coffee and substantial meat-free breakfasts. It’s cute and cosy at the front, with monochrome tiles, light wood furniture, and contemporary artwork for sale; and although the conservatory at the back is more ramshackle, it’s currently being redecorated. Originally a daytime cafe, it started opening in the evenings, but has reverted back to being daytime-only — which is great news because brunches and lunches are what it does best. The overly ambitious evening menu, cooked by a different chef, with globe-trotting dishes such as Hungarian galushka dumplings with mange tout and mascarpone, and bao buns stuffed with to-fish (‘fish’ fashioned from tofu) were a bit hit and miss, but the daytime food is more consistent. It’s a fairly standard selection of things on, or accompanied by, toast: avocado, eggs, feta and halloumi, with the surprising option of flaky paratha instead of sturdy sourdough; and a handful of international ingredients making a guest appearance in dishes like Thai-inspired tofu with vegetables and cashews, and quinoa cakes with smoked cheddar, buffalo hot sauce, pickled red cabbage, chive yoghurt and watercress. The food is beautifully prepared and great value, and staff are super-friendly. —Sejal Sukhadwala
8 Chingford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PJ

Eat Vietnam

London always has the capacity to surprise. The pleasant shock of La Chingada, a genuinely decent taqueria existing within the confines of the M25 — other tacos are available —, meant the next meal of the night could be an old favourite, and having visited Eat Vietnam for the best-value restaurants guide, there was always the possibility of an unpleasant surprise: The return meal that doesn’t live up to memory. Fortunately the table of doubting Thomases were placated. Banh khot, little cakes of batter and prawns, were as remembered: soft, sticky and sweet. Almost no-one else does this dish in London. But it was the prosaic sounding dishes that really impressed.

99 times out of 100 something described as “juicy lamb from the grill” is going to be profoundly boring, yet here it’s a proper Barnsley chop, marinated to the bone and rendered properly so the last bite of crispy, caramel fat is the sweetest, most satisfying bite of the evening. How much would that cost at Blacklock? A fried sea bream comes on its belly in a beautiful chainmail of silver skin, still opalescent inside once the jerky exterior is peeled back. The head is picked at until the bill arrives. Not a word of criticism is aimed at a simple dish of morning glory from connoisseurs of the vegetable. What is Eat Vietnam doing differently to most of the places on Kingsland Road? What is La Chingada doing differently to dozens of mediocre producers of London tacos? The answer is simple: They still care. —Jonathan Nunn
234 Evelyn Street, Deptford SE8 5BZ

Parseh

Just up the road from Denmark Hill station is a new Iranian spot called Parseh. The owner, Ali, moved to the UK about three years ago, and said he opened the shop just before Christmas. He cooks all the rice, stews, and minced chicken sambusak each morning, and the shop is ideally placed for those from outside Camberwell visiting Dulwich to see Hamlet play at Champion Hill. Parseh is more cafe than restaurant, though you can eat in. Expect perfumed rice, gold with saffron, or a vegetable version jewelled with delicately sliced courgette and fine herbs. The lamb biryani smells as deeply fragrant as any other, while the chicken curry, where hunks have been gently eased from the bone, is deep and richly spiced. Do not forget to grab an aforementioned sambusak, either — they are generous and crisp, a perfect football snack. It’s cash only, but he’ll accept a Monzo transfer in a pinch. —Josh Barrie
51 Denmark Hill, Camberwell SE5 8RS

Yardarm

Yardarm is a small, pretty, neighbourhood restaurant, on a very pretty street in Leyton, an exemplary example of gentrification. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. The restaurant side of Yardarm hosted a number of residencies and pop-ups until Autumn 2019 when Joe — brother of owner Dan — took over permanently. The menu is simple, and changes daily and the Sunday roasts are particularly good! A meat option or veggie option with a lot of sides — such as slices of roast lamb cooked to pink perfection, a lamb pie with flaky pastry, potatoes in lemon butter, polenta and kale. An absolute feast, served to share. It’s all very pretty. —Anna Sulan Masing
238 Francis Road, Leyton E10 6NQ

Eat Vietnam

234 Evelyn Street, , England SE8 5BZ 020 8691 9888 Visit Website

Yardarm

238 Francis Road, , England E10 6NQ 020 8556 2444 Visit Website

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