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.
Asphalt out past the horizon
Lines to the sky
Locals surround bowls of hot liquor
Herbs in tow
Comfort covers the table, stew with hot bread
No this isn’t Oslo Court or St. John
It’s a Vietnamese joint instead. —Feroz Gajia
100 Redriff Road, Surrey Quays Leisure Park SE16 7LH
Filled with weighty tomes and lush green plants, this charming, quirky new cafe on Golders Green Road is like something out of one of those Netflix shows in which beautiful young Koreans sit around earnestly discussing the meaning of pizza toppings. There are beautiful young Koreans here too, but they’re more likely to be found tapping away on a keyboard, or sitting in a corner with their noses in a book. The Korean-owned venue has Korean and English chefs turning out English, French and Japanese-influenced patisserie daily on-site. There’s a basic all-day brunch menu of things-on-toast, mostly eggs, avocados and mushrooms — but the reason to come here is the £15 afternoon tea. More specifically, the scones. They’re rustic, rough-hewn, roughly square-shaped; large and sturdy yet surprisingly light, with a shiny glaze and a feather-light crumb. They come perched on top of a three-tiered floral china stand, along with a garishly-hued, overly sweet macaron filled with fresh cream in rose, lemon, and other flavours. A cake is also included, which might be a wedge of piquant blackcurrant mousse topped with mixed berries, or dojima roll or matcha gateau. Dainty squares of good crustless sandwiches come in standard varieties like ham and cheese, tomatoes, and eggs; but it’s the scones that are worth travelling for. Fresh from the oven and still warm to the touch if a visit is timed correctly, they’re better than anything more pristine found in five-star hotels. —Sejal Sukhadwala
56 Golders Green Road, Golders Green NW11 8LN
Thousands upon thousands of words have been spilled over the pink tablecloths of Oslo Court through the decades, from Fay Maschler’s moving meditation on death and memory, to Emma Hughes’ recommendation in these pages a couple of years ago. Two phrases reoccur again and again: that “time has stood still” and that Oslo Court is something of a “time warp”. All true of course, but why is Oslo Court the last of its kind?
Some of the dishes truly have gone out of fashion, but veal schnitzel holstein is certainly making a comeback via Corbin and King, and that sole meuniere could be on Noble Rot’s menu if it was half the size. The real throwback is the service, a legacy of the changing reality of what is possible in a restaurant. Oslo Court opened when it was financially viable to occupy the entire ground floor of a housing estate with a 1:1 waiter to person ratio, and have built up a loyal clientele with the stability that model ensures. New operators have to be more creative, diners deciding that eating standing up (Quality Wines), on a stool (40 Maltby St) or on a shelf (P Franco) is a worthwhile trade-off for good food.
To talk about the food at Oslo Court is a waste of time. It is a restaurant for people who love restaurants, who understand that putting pleasure in the hands of other people can be a liberating thing to do. There was one dish, one gesture that stuck. During a riotous dessert course when trolley master Neil had gone AWOL and they were sending out 15 desserts between 10, a waiter brought over some ice cream that had been ordered as a side and poured over a healthy gurgle of Pedro Ximinez, transforming a Walls-level scoop into something genuinely luxurious, tasting of dark caramel and black satin. It’s the essence of hospitality: to go beyond what is necessary or expected.
So is Oslo Court the last of its kind? Well, there are other restaurants in London who share its vast dining room, boundless free starters, its hospitality, its frenetic energy and tanned handsome waiters who are ready to banter diners off the park: they’re just called things like Hala, Gokyuzu, and Antepliler. Generosity never goes out of fashion.—Jonathan Nunn
Charlbert Street, St. John’s Wood NW8 7EN
Nobody Asked Me
For January: drink wine, eat meats! Owner Jamie is passionate about Italian wines, it’s a place he and his chef brother know well. This translates as a small, ever-changing wine list of Italian wines and really great Italian snacks. But, unlike some devotees he is aware that there are other wine regions and therefore each list has guest stars - currently it’s Austrian wines, next it will be Spanish and then New Zealand. Jamie’s other passion is supply chains, or rather, focusing the idea of sustainability around people.
The conversation around sustainability in hospitality tends to get super focused on waste — a noble pursuit for sure — but a sustainable business needs to, well, be sustained and work as a business. To focus on the people involved at every level of the endeavour is a good way to do this, and often contributes to less waste; of talent, time and produce. NAM is working with supplier Passione Vino who champion the small producers. The produce is from Ham and Cheese Company, choosing mainly producers who rear, butcher and make the charcuterie themselves. So, if bucking the sensible behaviours of January, go and sustain yourself at a local independent, so it can sustain itself, too. —Anna Sulan Masing
88 Chatsworth Road, Lower Clapton E5 0LS
Tables of men quietly going through bottles of full-sized bottles of Hennessy is not the expected sight at a local fish and chip shop. But at Citi Kitchen, the generous BYOB policy turns the little eatery from a neighbourhood chipper into something more community-focused. It’s not just that people travel from miles around for a taste of the masala fish, chilli-flecked hunks of cod in an airy, light beer batter, but a range of other specialities shine here too. Predominantly touted as a catering company, which focuses on an extensive menu of Gujarati and Desi-Chinese cuisine, the small restaurant kitchen also churns out solid North Indian dishes. Keema mattar is a highlight; rich, delicately spiced lamb mince, with a blossoming sweetness from peas and onion. Naan is buoyant and crispy, punchy with garlic and wisps of coriander. An earthy methi chicken is creamy and pungent with a fresh, verdant texture, while chilli paneer is well seasoned, threaded with peppers and onions which add tang and depth. And a range of grilled items, sizzling and popping, are the perfect winter warmer, perfect for beer, soft drinks, or, well, cognac. —Shekha Vyas
21 Beehive Lane, Ilford IG1 3RG