A warm welcome back to the column which highlights the best dishes (or things) Eater London staff and/or contributors ate during the week.
23 September 2022
Fried prawn dumplings at Saikei
Thank you to Vittles editor and Eater London contributor Jonathan Nunn for characteristically recommending a Greenwich restaurant situated in the basement of a Holiday Inn Express, just out of the Blackwall Tunnel, on a roundabout just off the A102. This place is close to perfect; and is probably the best family friendly restaurant I’ve been to in London. Space, table size, service, energy, and food are all excellent. Special mention though to the fried prawn dumpling, which sets a new standard in my mind for a perfect bite, the perfect miniature hot item: crisp, well-fried dough houses a beautifully seasoned medley of chopped prawn, Chinese chives, salt, garlic, and diced beansprouts. And this is just to start. —Adam Coghlan
85 Bugsby’s Way, SE10 0GD
Falafel and fried aubergine pita at Hiba Taboun
Freshly made pita houses this outstandingly well balanced vegan sandwich. Hiba Taboun’s are the best sandwiches in Walthamstow. —Adam Coghlan
2, Golden Parade, E17 3HU
Pastelito de guayaba at Bake Street
If the crème brulée cookie is the sweet calling card at Bake Street, a blowtorch’s flame from Rectory Road station, then the pastelito de guayaba is perhaps the move. Both prepared — here mixed, laminated, rested, filled, and baked — by Chloe-Rose Crabtree, if the former is an exercise in excess, the latter thrives on its elegant balance. The thickly buttery pastry, with sharp edges from the crackled exterior, finds its partner in a headily tart guava jam, which oozes like floral lava. Eaten the following day, on a grey dog walk 12 miles away, it was the breakfast the morning deserved. —James Hansen
58 Evering Road, Lower Clapton N16 7SR
Mangalitza ham, egg, and mustard at the Quality Chop House
When there is simply not enough richness in an array of cod’s roe; chicken and foie parfait; and pulled pig head croquettes, just add ham and eggs. Part of the set menu at Quality Chop House — which began with a crab rarebit, with balancing acidity provided by, wait, wtf, crème fraiche?! — this absolute slab of Mangalitza ham was richer than a banker celebrating Kwasi Karteng’s massive mini-budget. Sinus-obliterating mustard was tempered down to a relieving tingle by the sheer lusciousness of the fat, while the fried egg was nothing less than gilding the lily. The dessert was fool; this one had to skip it. —James Hansen
92 — 94 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell EC1R 3EA
11 February 2022
Trout kinilaw at Sarap
This trout kinilaw — enlivened by rhubarb and the coconut cane vinegar in which the fish is cured — is one of the “recommended” starters at chef Budgie Montoya’s Filipino bistro pop-up in Heddon Street. The colours on the plate remind you of the Indian flag (Irish maybe, for some), glistening orange trout slices floating in a pool of white, speckled with a herby green oil. The combination of lightly vinegared fish with the fragrance of coconut works well; the three sweet, salty, tangy mouthfuls make you feel like you’re in the tropics. Hard to think of a better compliment for a cold February weeknight dinner in London. —Maazin Buhari
10 Heddon Street, Mayfair W1B 4BX
Venison pie, walnuts, red cabbage, and horseradish cream at 40 Maltby Street
“Just look at it,
“even i have no words to describe it,
“i would say the move this week is to go in and order 3.” —Jonathan Nunn
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey SE1 3PA
Yum Yum from Raab’s the Bakers
“Is there ever any need to spend north of four quid on a doughnut?” is an essay for another day.
Still, anyone reading this who is prone to such behaviour might want to get down to Raab’s the Bakers on Islington’s Essex Road. This little blue-fronted shop has been preparing all manner of cakes, bakes, sandwiches, and confectionary since 1948; its window display stacked with Chelsea buns, Tottenham cake, and Bakewell slices. The doughnuts, if you arrive early enough, come in all shapes and sizes — small little beignet-style efforts dusted just with granulated sugar (five for a pound); ones fuller than they need to be with raspberry jam. There are ring doughnuts and chocolate doughnuts, even doughnut “sticks,” because why not present sugar-coated deep-fried enriched batter in every available format?
And then there’s the Yum Yum, which is a kind of iced bun / glazed doughnut hybrid — its fried edge giving way to a pleasingly chewy sweetish bready interior. The day’s baker was unable to confirm exactly if the dough mixture was the same as for doughnuts, but would settle on “it’s definitely similar.”
“Is there ever any need to spend north of four quid on a doughnut?” Almost certainly not when you can get something even better — one of Raab’s chubby Yum Yums — for £1.35. —Adam Coghlan
136 Essex Road, Islington N1 8LX
4 February 2022
The Sable Breton at E5 Bakehouse
The sable Breton, then, is a cookie sent from heaven. All I needed to hear from the person behind the counter at E5 Bakehouse earlier this week was that it originates in Brittany and had in it, “a lot of salty butter.”
First, a word of advice: Do not be put off by the modest appearance of this little fella. A diddy, dense puck, it appears both on first hold and first bite to bear all the brilliance and moisture of what the Americans call a “biscuit.” Which is to say, dry. You could also be forgiven for thinking this was a half-sized savoury scone.
Luckily, it is neither. It is broadly what the Brits call a shortbread biscuit, but what sets it apart are the caramelised crumbs of Hackney Wild, the bakery’s best-known sourdough loaf. In just the same way crumbs add texture and taste to the various Pump Street “bakery” series chocolate bars, here too they bring a little crunch, a little chew, and a pleasingly deep Brit-biscuity richness. They behave almost like flecks of stem ginger, if it were candied in muscovado.
A fine way to spend £1.60. —Adam Coghlan
396 Mentmore Terrace, London Fields E8 3PH
The Don Defonte by Nick Bramham at Bodega Rita’s
The Chicken Big Mac is the perfect sandwich for a nation that habitually enjoys the taste of boot; a cynical afterthought of a burger thrown to us like the clapping seals we are to distract us from the quality of McDonald’s specials in literally every other country. But we take what is given to us gladly — an attitude which is as true of sandwiches as it is of governments (if the French had been given chicken Big Macs they would have built barricades and invented a new genre of agitprop cinema by now).
To imagine a better world you have to be shown it is possible. This is why the sandwich today at Bodega Rita’s by Quality Wines’s Nick Bramham is so important; a sandwich inspired by an experience of another city (in this case, New York) retold with British and Italian ingredients, glued together by the soft hoagie from Bodega Rita’s (themselves no sandwich slouches.) I could, megaphone in hand, shout about the just doneness of the beef, the layer of fried aubergine which acts as a sauce shield, the lack of melting on the cheese which ensures the right level of moistness, but it would probably be pointless. It’s sold out and isn’t coming back. I, on the other hand, bought two; the revolution can wait. —Jonathan Nunn
92 Cowcross Street, Farringdon EC1M 6BH
Steamed egg at New Fortune Cookie
If I was forced to eat one thing for the rest of my life it would probably be Chinese steamed egg with some boiled rice. I know, I know, boring and very telling. I constantly crave that smooth, unblemished custard texture, there’s something about it that always provokes a child-like giddiness in me. This version at New Fortune Cookie is flecked with bright orange salted duck egg and hunks of obsidian century egg bringing a concentrated saltiness to the party. Topped with a pool of soy sauce and diced spring onions for freshness and texture. Admittedly, the quality of the century egg could’ve tasted fresher and funkier here, but a jiggly, silky plate of pure joy. —Angela Hui
1 Queensway, Queensway W2 4QJ
Bakken Special at FKA Black Axe Mangal
Affectionately known as “the OG” Black Axe Mangal dish, the Bakken Special currently headlines the regularly changing four-course set menu of BAM greatest hits, which the restaurant has been serving for the past few months. While the sliced short rib with hash browns akin to confit potatoes, “crispy fuckin’ rabbit,” and the famous lamb offal flatbread remain highlights, the Bakken Special was the key standout from a recent dinner. On paper, the dish and its components seem outrageous, which is absolutely the case. But although so many bold flavours are incorporated, it’s the precise balance that makes everything work so well.
Presented on a large grill plate that’s placed in the middle of the table for two people, it’s worth eating this with somebody you truly love, otherwise sharing becomes astoundingly perplexing. Tangles of smoked and slow-braised lamb are at the fore, cloaked with a spice blend including the likes of cumin, fennel, and caraway seeds, and a rich “Bakken” sauce with pomegranate molasses and fermented turnip juice. It’s then topped with fistfuls of lightly pickled red cabbage to counteract some of the lamb’s fattiness, a handful of parsley, creamy yoghurt, chilli sauce, and some grilled kidneys thrown in to provide another dimension of both flavour and texture. Ideally use half of the convoying flatbread to scoop the lamb, and the other to mop up the excess sauce and fat. —Jonathan Hatchman
156 Canonbury Road, Islington N1 2UP
Seasonal herb salad at Kiln
I love Kiln, I love dining at the counter and the buzz of that and that it’s got a menu two people can happily order pretty much all of it, if greedy. Which I am. I also think that the array of dishes hits all the notes needed — some lean more sour, or more aromatic, or more umami… So the dishes work together to create a very flavour-balanced meal.
This means it’s hard to get “a favourite,” but the other day I had a dish that I’ve thought about daily since. Kiln often has a herb salad that changes with the season (the vegetable component rotating between turnips, carrots, pumpkin... Right now it’s squash!) and I had one with radish and beetroot. The earthy beets were so moreish and the radish (is there a more perfect vegetable?!) had the perfect clean crunch; the herbs with dressing of lime, fish sauce and a touch of sweetness all made something deep in flavour but also fresh. I also love shrimp floss, which it was finished with. It was the forkful of food I had in between every other bite. In particular, it was superb beside the laap. —Anna Sulan Masing
58 Brewer Street, Soho W1F 9TL
21 January 2022
Fish curry and roti prata at Hawker’s Kitchen
Readers of the column will, I hope by now, know that I’m not a fan of Weetabix. No, start the day with savoury is a motto I’ve always wanted to live by but found hard to realise with any kind of consistency outside of the home in England. “The Full English” is much more of a cliche than a breakfast people actually eat. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With any luck, this will become a Good Savoury Breakfast Diary. And so here we are with the first instalment of 2022, on a side street near King’s Cross Station, eating fish in a sour tomato-rich curry sauce with four (two of which are ordered as an extra side) freshly made chewy, flaky, incredible roti prata. For a little supplementary heat and to turbo-charge the morning umami intake, a small pot of sambal is worth the extra £1.49.
If anyone knows of a better way to start the day in central London, I’m all ears. ‘Til next time. —Adam Coghlan
64 Caledonian Road, King’s Cross N1 9DP
A pair of tacos at Sonora Taqueria
Welcome to the best dishes of 2022! Some New Year prescriptions insist in change, jettisoning the old in favour of the new, but they say nothing for old favourites ploughing a furrow of consistent excellence. So to Netil Market (via ELDN HQ) for a brace of typically gossamer flour tortillas from Sonora. One laden with pork adobada and chunks of grilled pineapple; the other with machaca and soft nuggets of potato. Cold wind blowing across London Fields could not dim it for a second. —James Hansen
Netil Market, 13-23 Westgate Street, London Fields E8 3RL
Chicken fry at Udaya Kerala
Eater pal Jonathan Nunn has written about the fries at Udaya in East Ham (which cooks Kerala food and has been around since 1999) both for this website and (of the netholi, specifically) as one of the 60 South Asian dishes Londoners should know. And it is very good. But, as a fried chicken lover I cannot pass the opportunity to eat some if it’s on the menu and, its possible, this is my favourite in London...? The outside is so crisp, but light, and the inside is tender. The spice is warming, with a slight heat that builds. It’s fried with slithers of onions which are also SO GOOD — they added a bit of sweetness. I asked my housemate if he had any particular thoughts to add, to explain the dish, his response was simply: “can’t stop thinking about it, tbh could eat it all again this evening” which is all you need to know, really. Eat it, daydream about it.
—Anna Sulan Masing
105 Katherine Road, East Ham E6 1ES
Scialatelli allo scoglio at Campania and Jones
Sitting outside at Campania and Jones, basking in the warming glow of a gas heater, feels both extremely and vaguely European. It’s less like dining in Hackney and more like sitting at an Italian trattoria in Paris or Berlin. Campania’s food is consistently charming, but the best eating on the night was a generous bowl of scialatielli allo scoglio. Bucking the trend for pasta portions in London that have a frustrating tendency to leave you wanting, this dish was more than a bit of slap and tickle. A tangle of udon-like scialatelli noodles came in a thick and rustic red sauce, rich with nubs of tomato and what seemed like an entire seabed of mussels and clams. The sweet, jammy tomatoes brought out the best of the seafood’s salinity for a satisfying melee of flavour. —Lucas Oakeley
23 Ezra Street, Shoreditch E2 7RH