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Go for Sizzling Dolsot Bibimbap in a Fulham Shopping Palace This Weekend

Or: superlative Pakistani stews in Hendon; superlative Pakistani stews in Upton Park; fish and chips in solitude in Kilburn; and some of the best beans in London off Old Kent Road

Bibimbap with carrot, pickles, and egg yolk Lucas Oakeley

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.


Simya

The Shopping Palace on Fulham’s North End Road is a place of wonder, where diners are just as likely to leave with a bedazzled phone case and a short back and sides as with a stomach full of kimchi. Cloistered at the back, Korean restaurant Simya occupies a bijou space — its walls are plastered with hand-painted murals that depict bucolic scenes of wheat threshing — but its compact kitchen produces serious no-frills cooking. The beer is cold; the dumplings are hot.

Galbi mandu are the pick of that crimped and deep-fried coterie, each crescent dumpling fit to burst with a ground beef mixture that’s redolent of a good gastropub burger. Dolsot bibimbap requires less critical thought. Although it comes served in a sizzling hot stone pot that gifts the occasional morsel of scorched rice, the beef inside remains brackish and tender. Freshly diced bean sprouts, cucumber and carrot provide a neat textural ballast, as each bite sends an umami dinghy hurtling down your throat and the dolsot’s gentle sizzle provides an ASMR backing track to Simya’s playlist of K-pop ballads. —Lucas Oakeley
345 North End Road, Fulham SW6 1NN

Ahmad’s Cafe

For 30 years Al Firdous has been nourishing Upton Park’s residents with its brand of Pakistani homestyle cooking; cottony naan, pakoras and curries — rich with spices, onions and gently warming — a steadfast institution around which undulations of change have swept through the neighbourhood. Over the past couple of weeks, its own current of change into Ahmad’s Café has shown that some of this change can spell real evolution rather than lobotomy for the area. A takeover by the original owner’s sons has ushered in a revitalised version of the premises. Exposed brickwork, sunshine yellow and turquoise accents, fairy lights and distressed furniture culminate in an internationally “trendy” aesthetic which, together with a prolific social media presence, has given Ahmad’s a very 2020 vibe. Aside from a few updates to the menu — breakfast service, a focus on grilled meat and the addition of masala chips — the food remains the same, and the same quality, as it always was. Weekend specials of paya and nihari are strong. Sizzling lamb chops are tender, fatty and charred, gnawable and dripping straight off the bone. Saag gosht is a medley of texture; velvety gravy embossed with hunks of lamb — gelatinous marrow, ripe for sucking — while a luscious chicken karahi is mopped up with sesame-studded kulcha. —Shekha Vyas
187 Plashet Road, Upton Park E13 0QZ

The Kilburn Arms

When Channel 4 first launched, there were so few viewers that a joke started doing the rounds:

“I’ll take you somewhere where it’ll be just you and me, nobody will ever see us.”

“Where?”

“Channel 4.”

These words came to mind last Friday — yes, Valentine’s Day — when this attractive, spacious Victorian pub in Willesden Lane was almost empty. It’s famously almost always empty. There are, and were that day, a few couples in the know, dodging dodgy set menus and overpriced restaurants in favour of a discreet pint in hushed surroundings, complete with beautiful etched glass windows and chessboard tiles — but very few. The amazingly chatty, super-efficient manager appeared unperturbed: the pub’s main business seems to come from the B&B upstairs, and she put it down to not doing trendy things like live music nights to pull more punters in.

The lack of customers is not due to food and drink, which — while fairly basic — is of great quality. It’s standard pub grub that includes the likes of burgers and steak, but fish and chips is what the place is renowned for; octopus salad and lobster ravioli is as posh as it gets. There’s very little for vegetarians, but the fries are fluffy, crisp and moreish; and desserts like chocolate tart delectable, served with an orange sorbet that in fact tastes like the distillation of all the tropical fruits in the world. The main reason for coming here is to sink into the chesterfields, perhaps play board games piled up on the windowsills, and relax, reflect, and soak up the quietude — a true luxury in London.

“I’ll take you somewhere where it’ll be just you and me, nobody will ever see us.”

“Where?”

“The Kilburn Arms.”

Don’t leave it till next Valentine’s Day though. —Sejal Sukhadwala
99 — 101 Willesden Lane, Kilburn, NW6 7SD

Mingles

A short school lesson: Krio is the quotidian language of Sierra Leone, formed from the Jamaican Creoles of free slaves with a smattering of neighbouring Yoruba. Though it is native to about 2 percent of the population it unites disparate tribes and different classes, and is easily adaptable depending on how familiar someone is. It’s more than a pidgin: it’s its own language with its own grammar rules. Over dinner at Mingles off Peckham Park Road, the conversation turned to how Krio’s structure gives inanimate objects agency of their own. Instead of “will there be cannoli at Quality Wines?” — “if you go to Quality Wines you will meet cannoli.” Instead of “street food halls in London are a waste of money” — “money has come here to die.” Every sentiment turned into a saying through a language’s beauty. Mingles is really the place to come to be schooled in Salone cuisine, and the point about language may seem irrelevant, but how else to explain what this supposedly inanimate food does?

The texture on a starter of gizzards is simply astonishing — silky and lush, with a penetrating heat that goes on and on. The question is less “what has the chef done to these gizzards?” and more “what are these gizzards doing???.” Elsewhere there are the leaves so beloved of Salone palates — cassava, potato, crain crain, as well as okra cooked down into gooey mucilage, displaying exceptional draw, with an intense blue cheese sweetness that seems to have been put there by alchemy. But there is no more beloved dish in Sierra Leone than binch, and there is probably no greater disparity in London between what a menu item promises and what it delivers. It’s written as “Beans,” but it’s like ordering “eggs” and getting Beluga caviar. These beans are in another league — so often textures compare to butter and cream, but butter and cream should be compared to these beans, as soft as a VAR-assisted penalty and as rich as Michael Bloomberg. They come with assorted meat and fish flakes but they don’t need them: order them plain and get a lesson in texture as profound as any haute Chinese or Japanese restaurant. As he’s leaving, the owner says something in Krio and a translation is offered. “If he goes to Salone, he’ll phone his work and tell them he’s never coming back.” On the basis of this meal, he’s not wrong. —Jonathan Nunn
1 Peckham Park Road, Peckham SE15 6TR

Aladin Kebabish

Sometimes all that’s needed is a perfectly spiced, long simmered pot of bone marrow and collagen heavy gravy with freshly baked flatbreads to sop it up. At Aladin Kebabish, one of the best Pakistani restaurants in London, it takes multiple guises: as a huge, unspeakably tender lamb shank submarined in a ginger and chilli-laden nihari; as the height of restorative turmeric-laced bone broths in a lamb trotter heavy paya; in the unctuously fortifying meaty porridge haleem, almost thick enough to stand a spoon in. Other dishes are available, including an excellent namak mandi and halwa puri on weekend mornings, but buttery kulcha and properly thick paratha with rib-sticking dishes to dip into are the order of every day. —Feroz Gajia
147 — 149 W Hendon Broadway, Hendon NW9 7EA

Story

199 Tooley Street, , England SE1 2JX 020 7183 2117 Visit Website

High Street

High Street, , England KT3

Texture

34 Portman Street, London, W1H 7BY Visit Website

Cafe East

100 Redriff Road, , England SE16 7LH 020 7252 1212 Visit Website

P Franco

107 Lower Clapton Road, , England E5 0NP 020 8533 4660 Visit Website

Aside

56 Goldsmith Road, , England SE15 5TF 020 7358 1760 Visit Website

Eat Vietnam

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

Aubergine

106 Mitcham Road, , England SW17 9NG 020 8244 1020 Visit Website

Aladin Kebabish

147-149 West Hendon Broadway, , England NW9 7EA 020 8203 9777 Visit Website

40 Maltby St

40 Maltby Street, , England SE1 3PA

Men

51 Chatsworth Road, London, Greater London E5 0LH Visit Website

Namak Mandi

25 Upper Tooting Road, , England SW17 7TS 020 8767 6120

Noble Rot

51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London, Greater London WC1N 3NB +44 20 7242 8963 Visit Website

Tart

65 Lordship Lane, , England SE22 8EP 020 8299 4989 Visit Website

Yardarm

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

Quality Wines

88 Farringdon Road, , England EC1R 3EA 020 3602 8115 Visit Website

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