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.
The Best Broasted
Revisiting a street after a decade feels like looking through a pair of cheap 3D glasses. The red side filled with sights of places that once were; the blue the present day. A Willesden Green High Road previously dominated by Portuguese and Italian eateries of all sizes, now shared with Brazilian and North African cafes and restaurants. Remembering the South Indian spot lunch was grabbed from and the copious number of fried chicken and burger restaurants there once... Well, some things never change.
Tipped off by a local, with the words “my best kept food secret in London” a tube journey ensued on what once was black but now is silver. The green and yellow room of The Best Broasted is dominated by more methods of cooking than the average food hall, but only one matters today: A Henny Penny pressure fryer, the preferred method for American fried chicken chains to create their entombed poultry delights. This cooking method, at one point marketed as broasting, consists of sealing the floured chicken in hot oil before cooking it under pressure, keeping the resultant fried chicken juicy and cooked to the bone in a fraction of the time. The flaw is that this perfect chicken then ends up in a heated display cabinet where it loses its lustre faster than francium decays. Here in this Syrian restaurant, a whole chicken is broasted to order (~20 minutes) and then served on a platter along with some amazing pommes soufflé like potatoes, fluff encased in a crisp armour that somehow captures the best of three different potato preparations. Alongside is a serviceable thick chilli sauce, snackable pickles and a toum with enough garlic to wake its eater up for breakfast the next day. The chicken coating is craggy and crisp, seasoned with a mix of cinnamon, coriander seed, cumin and allspice, giving it a tinge of sweetness which is soon placated by the gushing meat and plumes of steam escaping as teeth meet bone. —Feroz Gajia
18F, High Road, Willesden Green NW10 2QD
Saffron Circle appeared in these pages a couple of weeks ago — a contemporary Indian that opened on the former site of Guglee in Finchley Road. Guglee had a sister restaurant in West Hampstead, or, more accurately, a brother restaurant, since two Maharashtrian brothers ran each of the two branches. That Guglee also closed; but another stylish Indian from the same owners has opened in its place.
Colaba is named after a vibrant district of Mumbai that houses the Gateway Of India, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, and a seaside promenade lined with fashionable boutiques and restaurants alongside historic old cafes, and like many new neighbourhood Indians, it’s trendy in an understated way, with chic posters of brightly painted saints and other modish artwork. Despite claiming to be “inspired by Mumbai”, it’s pan-Indian: like many new places, the Mumbai connection is tenuous, probably based on current Indian restaurateurs’ desire for a sprinkling of Dishoom’s fairy dust. Unlike Dishoom, the yellow dal, made from split moong beans and bengal gram, is much superior here to the black urad dal: austere in its stripped-down flavours of onions, browned garlic, and cumin seeds. This is the sort of dal many Indians eat at home every day — the richer, region-specific black dal being more famous in the West because it was once hyped up by the renowned Bukhara restaurant in Delhi. The rest of the menu is a standard but well-executed selection of restaurant classics like butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, and chana masala: unlike Guglee, it’s not overly ambitious and doesn’t take risks. —Sejal Sukhadwala
279 West End Lane, West Hampstead NW6 1QS
The Docklands is full of visible ghosts, reminders of when ships actually used to pass through it. Yachts now repurposed as hotels; cranes at half mast, still as statues, docks turned into water centres and warehouses into restaurants. China Palace is in one of those warehouses, in the shadow of the huge examination room that is the Excel Centre. Dim sum here on a Sunday brings in many nearby Chinese families, although one wishes it was better to make the journey worth it — it is no better or worse than most of Chinatown. What is worth the journey is the salted egg yolk lobster, cut up into chunks and fried in a batter sweet and sandy with salted yolk that clings to the shell and the meat. There are two ways to tackle this: scrape the yolk off with the teeth, or just eat the shell and pray the mouth can handle it. Either way, there will be detritus of salted egg yolk and crispy onions left to pour over rice, a small treat that may be even better than the lobster itself. —Jonathan Nunn
R1, Warehouse, Excel West, 2 Western Gateway, Royal Docks E16 1DR
Part grandma’s house, part function room, this Romanian restaurant is always going to be interesting. Golden wallpaper, balloon arches and pulsing techno add a certain energy to a relatively quiet hall, but it’s easy to imagine that it comes alive on weekends. Ciorba, traditional sour soups, are solid, despite lacking the essential tang — hearty ciorba de fasole, rich with beans and smoky bacon is a highlight. Sarmale, meat-stuffed cabbage leaves, are a fine balance of sour and savoury, while a towering mixed grill of chips, pork, chicken, sausages and mitetei — spiced kebabs of beef and pork — garnished with mustard, is an ideal winter sharer. —Shekha Vyas
270 High Road, Leytonstone E11 3HS
Regulars are greeted like long lost family members at Sufi, while newcomers stare mouths agape at the chef in the front of the restaurant plunging his arms into clay oven to bake taftoons. Panir sabzi is an absolute pleasure, a large pile of fresh parsley, tarragon, mint and basil with creamy panir and crunchy walnuts. Naz khatoon is creamy and smoky with grilled aubergine whilst the mast-o-mosier is a perfect punch of sour yoghurt sweetened with caramelised garlic. Main courses deliver just as well, the kebabs are perfectly charred and topped with sweet grilled red peppers. Best of all is the fessenjan, chicken slow-cooked in sweet and sour sauce of walnut and pomegranate. It is sticky and aromatic with a sour kick of fresh pomegranate against the slow-cooked meat. The extremely reasonable bill comes with sweet syrupy baklava, bright with green pistachio and pink dried rose petals, as a lovely final touch. —Leila Latif
70 Askew Road, White City W12 9BJ