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.
If Wing Yip is currently the best place to stock up on instant noodles for the long months ahead, Wing Tai is the best place to ignore advice and go for irresponsible event dim sum: Birthday dumplings, celebratory dumplings, networking dumplings, bar mitzvah dumplings; with the right crowd even post-funeral dumplings. Like Reindeer Cafe it is attached to Wing Yip and is designed for go-big-or-go-home groups of families: a whole suckling pig can be ordered in advance for a mere £200, surely a consideration for any table over 10 people.
Portions of it can be ordered as the highlight of a very good roast meats menu, long shards of burnt-sugar brown crackling hiding soft strands of pork. Vegetables get the full force of the wok, pea shoots quick-fried in garlic arriving fresh and smoky, and a poached chicken comes body temperature warm, corn yellow and soothingly aromatic with ginger and spring onion. On the dim sum menu it’s worth wandering a little off-piste: a cube of glutinous rice stuffed into a bao-like bun is like an edible Thomas Heatherwick seed pavilion, while cheung fun stuffed with beancurd wrapper and minced prawn has a wonderful interplay of crisp and squidgy. It’s the unfilled pan fried cheung fun which impress the most, coming like a cross between pillowy gnudi and pierogi, plain but with a pork, onion and prawn condiment on top. A small riposte to anyone who denies that cheung fun are dumplings. —Jonathan Nunn
Unit 2, Wing Yip Business Centre, 395 Edgware Road, Cricklewood NW2 6LN
Being both real and engaging on Instagram is difficult for most businesses; Balady does it with ease, tantalising diners to Temple Fortune with promises of the best falafel, hummus and chips in the world. With Balady Alaesh, Oz Sabbo has enlisted his good friend Shachar to cook meat — and soon fish — with a Moroccan influence that underpins the whole brand while embracing his Jewish roots. The standouts are the merguez made with chillies smuggled from Morocco; the pargit (spring chicken thighs) doused in the house harissa and lemon; the arayes, a melding of meat-sauce-pita-grill; and the Moroccan cigars, a beguilingly fluffy dense meat floss encapsulated in pastry. Oz is a mensch, someone who makes the happiness of his friends, family, staff, customers and suppliers his top priority: The Instagram stories will attest to that. —Feroz Gajia
756 Finchley Road, Temple Fortune NW11 7TH
What The Pitta!
The British Kebab Awards are something of a curiosity — that they exist at all is curious in itself, given that many Brits treat kebabs — particularly the Turkish döner — as drunken Friday night fodder or hangover fare, the butt of laddish jokes and innuendos. Even more curiously, the famously meaty dish has spawned a vegan equivalent, and the Shoreditch branch of a chain selling it won the ‘best takeaway in London’ category of the kebab awards last week.
A Turkish meat lover who had just become vegan set up What the Pitta! at the now-closed The Pump in Shoreditch; it has since opened in Boxpark Shoreditch and Croydon. This small, popular Camden branch is primarily a takeaway, but has a few seats inside and outside. The döner is made from soya chunks marinated in a lightly spiced sauce, and comes tightly foil-wrapped in a warm, thin lavash that’s freshly baked on site — not many kebab joints do this anymore.
Soya chunks may look meaty but don’t taste of meat; instead their soft, porous texture is perfect for absorbing other flavours. Here, every bite is different from the crunch of red cabbage, cucumber and shredded lettuce; the lively heat of good chilli sauce; the tang of pickled whole jalapeños; and the pungency of red onions and garlic-laden tzatziki made from soya yoghurt, which here tastes like regular yoghurt. The accompanying chips are short, thin and very crisp. Yep, definitely worthy of an award. —Sejal Sukhadwala
89—91 Bayham Street, Camden NW1 0AG
After winning Brixton Kitchen’s competition for a six-month residency at Brixton’s Market Row last year, Filipino restaurant, Sarap has finally opened its first stand-alone site. Chef Budgie Montaya sticks to a short and snappy menu, which looks pretty identical to the one served at the previous Sun and 13 Cantons residency in Soho, but with a few seasonal changes here and there such as hot and sour squid sinigang soup and grilled market fish escabeche. Most likely limited on what he can offer thanks to the small site and even smaller kitchen — it’s a competition prize after all. Don’t worry though: the big hitters like the slow-roasted glassy-skin lechon liempo and jackfruit and potato adobo have stuck around. Budgie has been flying the Filipino flag since 2016 with the message that “Filipino food is not a trend,” and judging by the quality of the food his mantra is here to stay for good. —Angela Hui
14D Market Row, Brixton, London SW9 8LD
Morso Kensal Rise
The Italian restaurant scene isn’t taking quite the same hit as the Chinese one in the wake of coronavirus but is not escaping unscathed. Assuming the NHS advice allows a brief respite this weekend there are few better choices than supporting the second branch of South Hampstead’s much loved Morso. Specialising in pasta and grappa the original offers piles of freshly made pasta for under a tenner that compete with Padella’s long queued-for bowls. The new branch in Kensal rise has not strayed far from the original, serving up a virtually identical menu in an equally sleek but comfortable space. All the lovely little touches are there too, raviolo with a vivid orange yolk in the middle of a creamy spinach nest, complimentary charred slices of ciabatta with jars of fresh ricotta, piles of crispy tomato arancini with vivid green pea and pecorino purée and dark velvety chocolate tart with sweet rosemary mascarpone. —Leila Latif
43 Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Green NW10 3NB