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.
Etles Uighur Restaurant
The original Etles in Walthamstow was instrumental in putting the little-known Uighur cuisine on the London map. It’s the food of Turkic Muslims from Xinjiang in northwest China, with influences from its neighbours in Central Asia that’s unfamiliar even to most of the rest of China: a distinctive range of hand-pulled noodles, spice-accented lamb kebabs, dumplings that are more like Tibetan momos, pilavs that could have come straight from Afghanistan, hard pastry shell-like naan with a biscuit texture for dipping into creamy salted tea, Middle Eastern-style baklavas, and even Russian honey cake. A liberal use of spices, vinegar, sesame seeds and dairy are the signatures; and peppers, onions, tomatoes and cucumber turn up in many guises.
This new branch has just opened in the somewhat mundane Child’s Hill section of Finchley Road. It replaces another Uighur restaurant, Karvon: Etles owner Mukaddes Yadikar and her husband Ablikim Rahman were already busy with the original venue and raising their three small children, but when Karvon came unexpectedly on the market six months after opening, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Now they divide their time between the two venues, with Yadikar, a chatty, generous host dressed in beautifully decorative Etles (Atlas) fabrics in charge of this larger and, for now, quieter space. She comes in early to make various types of noodles that are slim and slithery like a satin dress, wriggly and short like fat worms — but not in an off-putting way — and wide tagliatelle-like ribbons. Big plate chicken is not to be missed: a savoury, tangy, slightly sweet and spicy stew of succulent chicken pieces and rustic, earthy potato chunks perked up by different varieties of dried red chillies, Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. —Sejal Sukhadwala
424 Finchley Road, NW2 2HY
As China attempts to commit a cultural genocide of the Uighur Muslims of Western China, the centuries old respect between the residents of the region has been reflected in 2020 London. With the influx of Xinjiang Chinese of all faiths to the U.K., a large swathe of new openings representing the region has become the quiet talking point in the food community. Stag City is slightly different from most, in that it tries to represent all of Western China and is also halal, out of respect for the huge muslim population there. Laghman made famous in Lanzhou are hand pulled and offered in a multitude of iterations, big plate chicken dominates the table and represents Shawan, while skewers of cumin and chilli-spiked lamb glisten next to the mountain of rice called plov. —Feroz Gajia
291 Finchley Road, West Hampstead NW3 6ND
Diners shouldn’t let the takeaway counter and large billboard for burgers and pizza put them off; a foray further into this restaurant’s meandering interior reveals a pleasantly panelled dining room and a dais at the back for larger parties to sit, cross-legged in the traditional Afghan style. Food here is the real deal, from the juicy mantoo, filled to bursting with seasoned mince, to the multi-textured naan, with its pillowy edges and crisped interior. Chapli kebabs are 20cm wide and a fingertip thick, stuffed with tomato and sweet, pearlescent onion — pops of coriander and chilli seeds add pleasant heat. Qabuli palow, a sultana-studded mountain of rice, threaded through with slivers of amber carrot, hides the tenderest lamb shank, while the borani-e-bandenjan, thin slices of fried aubergine, smothered with yoghurt and dry mint is nuanced and complex in a way which gives confidence in the treatment of vegetarian dishes. With stews, karahis and grilled meats also on offer, further exploration of the menu promises exciting things for this latest neighbourhood spot. —Shekha Vyas
399 Barking Road, East Ham E6 2JT
Dalston has Rio cinema, Dalston has vintage shops, it has the Ridley Road Market, the Curve Garden, a board games bar, Vortex jazz club... But Dalston also has the Andu Cafe. Don’t let the cash-only sign be an issue — withdrawing money for this vegan Ethiopian cafe is worth it. And the best part, is that diners have just one choice to make — whether to eat the sample platter with injera or rice (if you’re like me, you’ll get the rice). Don’t also be put off by “sampler platter”; the six dishes for 7 pounds: gomen, a collard greens stew with garlic and spices; yemisisir wot, a spicy lentil stew cooked in berbere sauce; tikil gomen, cabbage, potato, and onion stew; ater kik, which is a split peas curry; fesolia, which is a mixed vegetable stew; and shiro wot, a deliciously spiced split peas curry stewed with garlic, tomato, onions and olive oil — are extremely filling for lunch or dinner. It’s BYOB as well. Don’t just go there for Veganuary please. Andu Cafe is a smashing lunch-dinner spot for all seasons and months. —Apoorva Sripathi
528 Kingsland Road, Dalston E8 4AH
Anju at The Gun
Anju, a Korean restaurant by chef Taewoo Kim, is the latest residency at The Gun on Well Street. It’s perfect post-Christmas, but still a hearty winter meal — Korean fried chicken covered with slightly fermented gochujang and mac and cheese with kimchi should be the weekend go to, always. Or, there’s the “old school bibimbap,” which will chase any memories of turkey and roast out with its sesame rice, kimchi, fried egg and choice of protein. But if you’re still hankering for slabs of animal to keep the holiday spirit still alive ... the melty 12 hour slow-cooked pork belly is perfect. Actually, get a group, order everything as it’s a small menu, and share. It’s yum, it’s plentiful, and there are great vegetarian options available. —Anna Sulan Masing
235 Well Street, Homerton E9 6RG