Welcome back to the column which highlights the best dishes Eater London’s staff and contributors ate during the week. Look back on previous best dishes of the week here.
Langoustines at Brat
The best, best dish I ate in the last week was a bò tái chanh, blushing raw beef mingling with peanuts, chilli, and lemongrass, amid a parade of intestines of all stripes. But that’s for another time, so Tomos Parry’s Brat gets the pick, for a dish that balances the restaurant’s gently tussling identities. Langoustines, split like butterflies and as sweet as Haribo, with wood smoke hanging around like cologne in a dive bar and a votive branch of rosemary as a gesture to its subtlety against the flesh. It’s the “buy something really really good and do little to it” approach that informs the raved about turbot and centrepiece protein dishes, the big plates that just need a salad and some tomatoes to make a meal, but writ small, a cog in a whirring procession of battered samphire with seaweed salt, brooding rabbit sausage in broth, and Welsh mutton oggie that anyone from Cornwall would want to eat at scale. The slurped, ruined carapaces were a quiet testament to their brilliance. —James Hansen
4 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch E1 6JL
Penne at E. Pellicci
I’m as susceptible to the charms of a teeny plate of fresh pasta as the next Very Online London Food Person. But some days, that just won’t do. Last Friday was one of those: it was cold, it was drizzly and I’d gone down with the kind of cold that makes you feel like you’re walking around in a Victorian diving suit. The plan had been to bolster ourselves against the weather at E Pellicci with bubble and squeak — but as I looked over the menu my gaze snagged on a dish that made my heart sing. It was penne Pellicci: perfect al dente quills nattily dressed with garden-fresh homemade pesto and tomato sauces, topped with pine nuts and baby spinach leaves. It was genuinely the best plate of pasta I’ve eaten for several months, and there was a lot of it — like most British people who grew up outside London in the 1980s I’ve retained a soft spot for distinctly un-piccolo portions. —Emma Hughes
332 Bethnal Green Road, Bethnal Green E2 0AG
Hot dog at Deli 98
London doesn’t have enough good hot dogs. There are plenty of great sausages but juicy meat tubes nestling in pillowy buns are few and far between. A particularly long week found itself sandwiched, between two similar but different takes on the all-beef hot dog; one at Monty’s Deli and this one, at Deli 98 in Seven Sisters. Enriched buns stuffed with conduits of emulsified meat and then smothered with their particular style of mustard and onions. Both hot links exhibited the best version of the three defining characteristics required to be great: Superb snap, gentle permeated smoke and an almost gushing moistness. They differed in quality and condiment preparations but both struck the satisfying balance you want from an upmarket dog. London might not get Japadog or New York City stalwart Grays Papaya any time soon, but we can be proud to have a few quality dogs made with care and attention across the city. —Feroz Gajia
98 High Road, Seven Sisters N15 6JR
Fish ball and pig skin curry at Kam Tong
I have a presence on Instagram that must be borderline infuriating to anyone who follows me; a constant deluge of all the food that I have eaten that day, with maybe a brief explanation of what it is, whether it was good, with no geotag. Part of this is abject laziness, but it’s also a kind of barometer to find out what excites people, something measured by the number of desperate replies: “Where is this???”. I didn’t anticipate such a reaction to a post of fishballs and pig skin curry on the dim sum menu at Queensway’s Kam Tong. Evidently, I didn’t account for London’s homesick Hong Kong and Malaysian contingent, for whom bobbing ping pong balls of fish and pieces of crackling, all thirstily soaking up spicy coconut milk rich broth slick with platelets of nose aggravating chilli oil, are as comforting as a freshly washed linen duvet. There is a similar dish at Wing Yip’s Reindeer Cafe in Cricklewood, as well as the now closed for refurbishment Longji at Bang Bang Oriental. This is better than both — a highlight of a dim sum menu that is currently seriously outperforming it’s reputation. —Jonathan Nunn
59 — 63 Queensway, Bayswater W2 4QH
Martini at Padella Shoreditch
My friends and I are all renowned for being late. If we’re meeting for dinner, you can bet that we’ll end up meeting an average of 20 minutes later than the arranged meeting time. But as I was literally up against the clock getting to Padella in Shoreditch, I was the first one there. So I ordered a martini. While it’s technically not a dish, it was one of the best things I had in the last week. The frosted glass was a sign of good things to come — namely an excellently made dry gin martini with … A gorgonzola-stuffed olive. It was everything you’d want from an apéritif: bright, punchy and smooth, plus a little snack at the end. Cheers to me for being on time. —Daisy Meager
1 Phipp Street, Shoreditch EC2A 4PS
Rhubarb and vanilla pastry at Flor
Important PSA: Flor is now open from 9a.m., making it even more viable as a stolen perch at breakfast. Jonathan Nunn of this very column has previously noted that all of the reviews of Michelin-starred Lyle’s’ sequel have not mentioned Anna Higham and team’s superlative bakery operation, thereby presenting an incomplete picture of the thing and also misunderstands what is so singular about the jewellery box space on the fringes of Borough Market. Its croissants, pains aux chocolats, lardy buns, and painted nails emoji pink rhubarb and vanilla pastries are an entry into a fundamentally adoptive, enfolding culinary field that is too often posited as steadfastly French trad — layers of cultural accretion rising and merging under heat and steam like the layers in the ... You get the idea. So: Yorkshire forced rhubarb, as rosy as the gums its tang strips, balanced by sweet custard and softened by flecks of vanilla that look more like sumac against the pink. The pastry shatters, the rhubarb relaxes, the custard squelches, shards fall on to the beautiful countertop, and whatever London patisserie might mean is what remains. —James Hansen
1 Bedale Street, Borough Market SE1 9AL
Içli köfte at Dede Tantuni
Queuing on a Monday night for an untested pop-up is something I did a lot of a decade ago, waiting for an hour in the cold to maybe get a seat, and probably stand, at the altar of the latest over-hyped food trend. I have no issue queuing in my 30s, but I do have a wider circle of food-obsessed friends most of whom have no patience for queues when there is great food to be had everywhere. So before a tremendously comforting beef and fennel hot pot and a fantastic deep fried banana — not at the same restaurant; both in Greenwich — I took four friends to try tantuni for the first time and in the process had a first of my own.
Içli köfte, the Turkish equivalent to kibbeh, is usually cooked bulgur encasing a filling of minced meat or potatoes, shaped into a teardrop-ended galaxy formation and fried until golden. At Stoke Newington’s Dede Tantuni, it is offered boiled, which produces a compressed mantle of flavourful wheat berries hiding a gushing core of spiced meat and juices dying to get out. The table was filled with showier dishes, but I was enthralled by these filled dumplings. I wonder how the potato version is... —Feroz Gajia
44 Stoke Newington Road, Hackney Downs N16 7XJ
Banana fritters at The Golden Chippy
One thing I’ve been learning about London’s fish and chips scene is that the best thing on the menu is often neither the fish nor the chips. The cheese fritters at Marylebone’s The Golden Hind, Kubrickian monoliths oozing salty feta or mozzarella in a small tribute to its Italian and Greek pedigree. Holborn’s The Fryer’s Delight, where the stale fish is no match for a half chicken gloriously fried in beef tallow, an unholy marriage of animal fats. And now, The Golden Chippy in Greenwich: one of those small, neighbourhood takeaways that every so often inexplicably gets voted #1 on Tripadvisor, leading to articles about how some plucky cafe charges less than The Ritz and, wow, it has a marginally better rating.
After good but not life-changing fish and chips we get talking to Chris, the Turkish Cypriot owner, about the possibility of frying some chocolate bars. No can do — chocolate would leak into the oil — but not for lack of talent. “I can deep fry anything: chocolate, ice cream. You name it, I can deep fry it,” he says proudly, with the terrifying confidence of a man who would deep fry his first born if someone told him he couldn’t. Instead we get that old warhorse — banana fritters, so often a sickly mush of 80s nostalgia. Not here. Here they arrive like yogurtlu adana in their ovular tray, logs of expertly battered banana, not a trace of grease in sight, cheap whipped cream as yoghurt, cinnamon standing in for chilli flakes and a drizzling of caramel. The crunch of the well-seasoned batter yields to perfectly molten banana, the richness of the caramel is cut through by the sandy warmth of the cinnamon. There is a sprig of mint to signal it was made by someone who cares. It was miraculous. The only restaurant that could make a better version of banana fritters is 40 Maltby Street, and even then I’m not sure they would be nearly as illicitly, unrestrainedly delicious. —Jonathan Nunn
62 Greenwich High Road, Greenwich SE10 8LF
Minced pork and chickpea xiaomian at The Holborn Whippet
Like any great equation, Shoreditch’s Noodle & Beer is first and foremost an elegant articulation of something we already know to be true. Pythagoras’ Theorem or Euler’s Identity are not just useful mathematical shorthand — their sheer beauty is suggestive of a world that might just make sense after all, one constructed by a higher power hiding in plain sight. So, too, is the pairing of Xiaoxiao Wang’s insistently spiced, gleefully QQ carbs with something ice cold and fizzy; hardly a revolutionary formula, to be fair, but one expressed beautifully on Bell Lane. Having said that, Wang’s pao jiao ji-zard was only the second-best advertisement for this combination I ate in the last seven days — nudged down from top spot by the Chongqing noodles at ... The Holborn Whippet pub.
Xiaomian experts would, I’m sure, tell me that I’ve got this ranking wrong — and, admittedly, I probably preferred the slightly bouncier, more flavoursome noodles over in Shoreditch. But I’m giving the crown to Liu Xiaomian and the Whippet anyway, partly for the glorious slick of slightly vinegary chilli oil hiding at the bottom of the bowl, but in truth just as much for their mutual willingness to act as test-beds for this sort of innovative business model which originated at sibling pub The Jackalope. It is baffling to me that “pub food” has remained in thrall to pies, braises and heavy puddings even as the national taste for beer has slipped away from bitter and towards lager; here, there is evidence of common sense prevailing. In short: noodles + beer = a good idea. —George Reynolds
25 — 29 Sicilian Avenue, Holborn WC1A 2QH
Toro don at Atari-Ya Ealing Common
What do we talk about when we talk about a restaurant being busy, beyond the quantitative? It is full, its seats are occupied. There are many shades — the faintly mournful wake for a restaurant packed out on its last night of existence; the faintly obnoxious bustle that gamifies so many new openings; the violently sceney scrum of a one-off collaboration that is unlikely to be the sum of its parts but is still, somehow, deeply enticing. Atari-Ya, on Ealing Common’s station parade, is always busy, but it’s none of these: it’s busy in the way a jazz band’s backing section is busy, pulling and pushing against solos while maintaining the metronomic confidence of a rhythm that runs through the nerves. Iberico pork cutlets dunked in and out of the frier for a superlative tonkatsu; blades cutting through salmon, squid, scallop, yellowtail for nigiri; and a dish of lurid tuna slices fanned over a bowl of body temperature rice, ginger petals wound up into a tight orchid; furikake scattered like confetti. Brought out to the table, chopsticks up and down in a room full of happy locals getting full. Busy. —James Hansen
1 Station Parade, Uxbridge Road, Ealing W5 3LD
Pashaq at Turpan Uighur Restaurant
In one of the great Seinfeld episodes, Jerry convinces the Pakistani owner of his new local restaurant Dream Cafe to ditch the mixed-up menu of inauthentic dishes and concentrate on Pakistani food. No-one turns up, the restaurant closes down, and Jerry is judged to be “a very bad man.” This episode is why, to this day, I am too scared to give advice to new restaurateurs.
The answer that the episode never considers is doing the two simultaneously, which is exactly what is happening at Turpan in Bloomsbury. The owner, Halil, has taken over Eve’s Cafe and turned it into a Uighur restaurant, while keeping the same fish and chips and falafel on the menu; the same pictures of Sophia Loren on the wall; the same vinegar and brown sauce on the table. The regular clientele are baffled as to why the cafe has been suddenly been taken over by Chinese students, but it works, somehow. On the second time I came here I saw one person devouring a platter of qoruma chop, fried worms of caramelised noodle, with a deep, salty hit from lamb, onion, pepper and chilli, and then moving on to a whole chicken escalope sandwich with cheese: An absolutely unforgettable luncheon.
From three visits, which have more or less proved it to be the equal of Dilara and Etles, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best dish is the pashaq — lambs’ trotters. Trotters can be a chore to get through, but here they’re a joy, five sets of feet connected by collagen: Hold one up with chopsticks and they oscillate like a perpetual motion machine of fat, falling off the bone like a negligee, each little joint to be sucked like a pastille and stripped of its savoury, spicy sauce. Left over sauce? That’s when to get the escalope sandwich, to create a Uighur-Italian dip for the ages. —Jonathan Nunn
108 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury WC1B 3NA
Potato dauphinoise pie at Puff
I didn’t actually order the dauphinoise pie at Puff, the bakery pop-up by ex-St. John chef Ravneet Gill and former Little Bread Pedlar baker Nicola Lamb. I went for the rice pudding, which, although a top breakfast choice and the main bulk of it custard, didn’t stand a chance against the pie. My friend instantly regretted letting me try a forkful of the creamy, garlicky, delicately-sliced potatoes layered and stuffed elegantly between flaky pastry, topped with a pickled walnut, and regretted it even more when I persuaded him to share half of it with me. Channelling the immortal words of Joey Tribbiani: What’s not to like? Potatoes, good; cream, good; pastry, good. On a day when Storm Ciara brought the kind of blistering winds and thrashing rain that meant you had to hang out your clothes when you got home, the fat and carb combo provided all the winter padding I needed. —Daisy Meager
80 City Road, Old Street EC1Y 2AS | Every Sunday up to and including 1 March
Apple fritter at 40 Maltby Street
Seeing certain dishes, menus, and restaurants from every angle on Instagram gives you an eerie familiarity with a place. It can feel like you know the restaurant intimately, consuming dishes and fostering opinions without ever setting foot inside. 40 Maltby Street’s Steve Williams builds this hype through his weekly changing menu, chalked up on a blackboard every Wednesday evening.
Having missed out on the apple fritter on a couple of occasions, and having seen so many pictures, my expectation was a cinnamon sugar-crusted apple turnover, with a bit of cream on the side. Sitting in a nook on a Saturday night beside babbling bakers, the real fritter arrived, an elongated isosceles of fried dough no thicker than a £2 coin encasing a light apple compote, a fluffy dough-based sarcophagus dusted in a cinnamon sugar with the hidden depth of ground allspice. An inspired addition that combatted any chance of the dessert being too sweet, and also proved to be a worthy way to flavour the cream pooled underneath. —Feroz Gajia
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey SE1 3PA
Pandan pancakes with palm sugar and coconut at Sambal Shiok
When I lived in Singapore, I spent a lot of time on planes. This was great for two reasons: 1) Changi Airport is a phenomenal model of efficiency and an object lesson to airports everywhere. 2) It is basically impossible to pass through it without encountering at least one branch of the Indonesian bakery chain Bengawan Solo. Across multiple visits I slowly built up an appreciation for Southeast Asian kuih / kue / kueh, eventually settling on three favourites: the spice-enriched layer cake kueh lapis, the glutinous rice flour / coconut sandwich kueh bugis, and the pandan-infused crepes called kueh dadar, practically bursting at the seams with grated coconut cooked in palm sugar. When I saw “pandan pancakes with palm sugar and coconut” on the blackboard at Sambal Shiok last Saturday, I did not put two and two together — expectations lowered by many lesser brunches at many lesser restaurants, I was expecting American-style hockey pucks with an apologetic drizzle of syrup and maybe some coconut ice cream. Reader, I was wrong.
These were a scaled-up kueh dadar of my dreams, practically submerged in toasted coconut flakes and swimming in a pool of warm coconut crème-pat. There was a burst of concentrated sweetness from the palm sugar, supreme richness from the various expressions of coconut, and just a trace of something musky and grown-up from the pandan. Hot take: pandan is to vanilla as truffle is to mushroom. It was a perfect pudding, and the sort of dish that makes you want to jump on a plane, especially if it’s landing at Changi. —George Reynolds
171 Holloway Road, N7 8LX
Intrecosto curry rice at Tayer and Elementary
The sando is dead, long live the sando. The Iberico pork katsu sando has become Tātā Eatery’s perceived calling card by accident as much as design, a totem for a trend as much as a singularly brilliant tower of sweet, savoury, soft, and crunchy. It’s no longer available at Tayer and Elementary — find it at Tōu at Arcade Food Theatre — with the bar menu now showcasing the wit and creativity that typified Zijun Meng and Ana Gonçalves’ pop-ups and finds its keenest expression on the tasting menu in the back. Rice cookery, and its eddying between Portuguese and Chinese cooking, expresses what Tātā means better than possibly any other dish, and this curry rice, blanketed in a golden sheen of fragrant sauce, cosseting fried grains, peas, and egg, spiked with yuzu pickles and topped with breaded Iberico intrecosto — rib meat — is a bowl of pure comfort treated with the utmost care. In one of the more cutting-edge bars in the city and one of its coolest, most expressive restaurants, serving a dish like this at lunch is a gesture of pure hospitality. Scrape it clean, please. —James Hansen
152 Old Street, EC1V 9BW
Grill platter at Singburi x Ombra
Technically the best thing I ate all week was some flamin’ hot/tangy cheese mash up Doritos with foie gras shaved on top, the kind of excessive snack that people used to be lined up against the wall and shot for during revolutions. “Qu’ils mangent de la Doritos,” as they never said. But I didn’t pay for that nor was it on any menu. The second best thing is written up below, so I am reduced to sloppy thirds: a platter of barbecued meats, edible scoops and salad put on by Singburi’s Sirichai Kularbwong and Mitshel Ibrahim during their joint dinner at Ombra. I’m still deeply skeptical about the idea of chef collaborations, but this was a collision of two great food cultures, trying to see where they have common language, where their Venn diagrams overlap. Here sai krok, well known to those who study the Singburi menu, was re-imagined with ‘nduja, a sausage that melts in the mouth without the usual snap and chew. Skewers of lamb were Bangkok via Lagos, marinated in coconut, garlic and turmeric until as soft as galouti, and sprinkled with aromatic yaji at the end. A yam (salad) of tuna crackled with chopped red chillis, onions, and mint, all scooped up with lacy pig skin as thin as gauze. So much skill and imagination on display, so why is it that three days later ... All I’m thinking about is Doritos? —Jonathan Nunn
1 Vyner Street, Hackney E2 9DG
Sweet potato curry at The Hare and Billet
On the same day that the U.K. left the E.U., I left the U.K. to go back home to India, performing a Brexit of my own. Except my leaving did not require a public vote, just an expiration of student visa. So for my farewell meal, I decided to have the best of British food — fish and chips, but with battered sausage instead. And for my farewell event, I decided to attend a pub quiz at Blackheath, a quiz that I had previously won along with some friends. Since I was doing a very British thing of attending a pub quiz, and consuming battered sausage the next day, I thought I’d do one better and go for a quintessential British curry. But Blackheath pub Hare and Billet is too posh to make chicken tikka or chicken balti or lamb pasanda. Instead: roasted sweet potato curry with wild rice, tenderstem broccoli and onion bhaji. None of these are any elements found in an Indian curry, but that’s what made it all the more better! The bhajis were perfectly coated in besan — unlike some recipes I have seen that call for all purpose flour and eggs — and amazingly crispy, the broccoli very tender, the wild rice, quite tasty actually (I missed white rice), and the curry sauce, mild and gentle with coconut. While the elements do not make a “proper” curry, together they reminded me of a palak dal. Extreme ship of Theseus behaviour detected, but executed well. Also, yes we did come first but lost out on the win thanks to a niggling tie-breaker question on the heaviest pumpkin ever grown. —Apoorva Sripathi
1A Hare and Billet Road, Blackheath SE3 0QJ
Crab curry spaghetti at Singburi x Ombra
Everyone has a few dream restaurants: I’d love to see 40 Maltby Street open a fried things and pastry shop; a prego and ice cream shop from chef Leo Carreira; the Singburi soup, sticks and laab drinking den. During a collab dinner at Ombra, Singburi’s Sirichai Kularbwong reminded me of one idea I’ve always wanted to do myself: mashing a crab curry with spaghetti, crème fraiche and pickled peppercorns is the kind of mish-mash I’ve quietly enjoyed for most of my life and want to share with others.
Growing up, bastardised pasta dishes were a staple of weekend meals at home, where Western food was desi-fied to placate my father, my mum punching up the lamb mince in her spagbol and sneaking a bit of garlic paste and green chilli into the ricotta stuffed conchiglie. It all seemed perfectly normal. In my teens it became a perfect playground to play with new ingredients, flavours and textures, from soy butter mushroom pappardelle to buffalo chicken linguine. Fast forward to my first time in New York and a meal at Basta Pasta, a Japanese Italian restaurant where creations similar to my own but elevated were served with all the legitimacy of a “real” Italian restaurant. My once quiet comfort food was reignited into an obsession: I looked into the vast pantheon of Japanese pasta dishes — uni pasta, mentaiko pasta, pink sauce — then Korean — gochujang pasta, toowoomba — before being introduced to Filipino pancit and then witnessing the ridiculous ferocity with which Latinx talk about their local pasta sauces — tallarines verdes, caruso sauce, fideos secos.
All of this came flooding back on Monday night. The background heat spurred me on, the pickled peppercorns provided surprise as the expectation was capers, and the dried salmon crumb stood in for pangrattato while enhancing the brown crab meat without detracting from the freshness of the white crab meat. Inauthentic pastas of the world, is it a million pound idea? Possibly. Are they delicious? Definitely. Don’t forget my cut. —Feroz Gajia
1 Vyner Street, Hackney E2 9DG
Confit potato latkes at Bubala
I spent two days this week battling the sort of stomach bug that destroys appetite. At its worst, the thought of ever eating anything again felt ridiculous; the idea that people went out of their way to write about food seemed blackly hilarious. It eventually passed, as these things do, although not without ruining multiple sets of plans. The surest sign that I was finally on my way to recovery came not in the half-bowl of Heinz cream of tomato soup consumed while my abandoned dinner companions tucked into the Ombra x Singburi collab documented above, but in the memory of a dish eaten the previous Saturday. When I was ill, recalling the deep-fried richness of the confit potato latkes at Bubala, and the powerfully garlicky toum served alongside, was exactly the sort of thing to leave me retching; as I got better, it was exactly the sort of fortifying fare I wanted to eat). At the time, I was incredulous at the depth of flavour they packed in compared to other, more trademarked exponents of the form, and spent a good hour digging through recipes online, trying to figure out the secret. Eventually I capitulated and contacted head chef Helen Graham: it’s a lengthy bath in garlic and thyme butter before deep-frying. Their authenticity as ekht latkes may be slightly up for debate, but their sheer deliciousness — and their locked-in place on a list of the city’s best side dishes — certainly is not. One order comprises three hefty potato bricks; plenty for one person, probably not enough for two. —George Reynolds
65 Commercial Street, Spitalfields E1 6BD