A warm welcome back to the column which highlights the best dishes (or things) Eater London staff and/or contributors ate during the week.
Whole roast duck at Four Seasons
Until last month, my meals in Chinatown would always begin on an iconic green table in the erstwhile dumpling stalwart, Jen Café. Since its sudden closure, I feel like an anchorless ship in the area. If Jen Café was about whetting your appetite with dainty snacks, my new first port of call, Four Seasons, is about ordering a whole duck with all the trimmings, and feasting until you can scarcely imagine you will ever have an appetite again. It sets a rather different tone, but I’m starting to get used to it. —Sean Wyer
84 Queensway, Queensway W2 3RL
Five-Oh at Mamma Dough
There are occasions when only a pizza will do — Fridays, breakups, hangovers, leftover breakfasts, when the (or your personal) world is coming to an end... This was one such day, cold and windy with my ulcers closing in on me faster than adult responsibilities. Thankfully, this big boi at Mamma Dough Peckham (a stone’s throw from the Overground station which is handy) hit all the high notes: beautiful leopard-spotting on a fluffy, crisp crust; delicate cotto ham; sweet juicy pineapples contrasted from the chillies (and the additional chilli oil on the table); plus the freshest basil pesto to dip the crusts in. The five-oh was the stuff pizza dreams are made of, at least until the next pizza occasion. —Apoorva Sripathi
179 Queen’s Road, Peckham SE15 2ND
Arrabbiata at Terroni of Clerkenwell
The shelves of Terroni’s are a 21 century Andy Warhol: a matrix of true blue and butter yellow De Cecco packets in all their iterations. Above them sit castles of panettone in lilac and midnight blue boxes. You have to look up to notice them, though, and when I arrived, I had my gaze firmly fixed on the ground. The weather was bad and my mood unbudgingly so. Eyes on lap, I plunged my finger in the general direction of the pasta section and asked for a glass of red wine.
Two waiters flanked the arrabbiata, coaxing it towards me: one for the plate, the other for the pepper mill. A careful passage for an angry dish. The thirty tubes, nestled together in their spiky red swamp, were enough to pierce through my brain chemistry. They were enough to make me sit up, look up, and notice the rich bread disguised as celestial towers overhead.
The turnaround was fast: twenty minutes later, and I was stepping across the threshold, a pastel turret under each arm, lips upturned, and the cut of the arrabbiata — like a good first kiss — still nibbling at my tongue. —Hester van Hensbergen
138 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell EC1R 5DL
Breakfast burrito at Quarter Kitchen
The Mexican (especially breakfast) food at Rodrigo Cervantes’s Quarter Kitchen just keeps on getting better. Yes, the tacos are excellent, but it’s the burrito where Cervantes’s intelligence and playfulness is most evident. His breakfast burrito, he says, is based on the one McDonald’s serves in America. You can tell. It’s a high-low hot item: mostly a nostalgic embrace of all the quick wins in great fast food — salt, sugar, fat, acid, but through his salsas, the “build,” and the lightness of toasting, it’s also a little cheffy, just enough. This time round, I went off-menu, swapping out the sausage patty for Cervantes’s sugar-cured smoked streaky bacon. Together with eggs, hash brown, American cheese, and salsa roja, it was exceptional. —Adam Coghlan
St John at Hackney Churchyard, Lower Clapton Road, Clapton E5 0PD
Buttermilk-fried pheasant at 40 Maltby Street
In the current geopolitical climate, there’s few things that fill me with a deep, reliving surety so much as ordering a plate of deep-fried food from 40 Maltby Street. If there’s ever been a missed iteration of a croquette or fritter on their list, I haven’t witnessed it. No exception to the rule, this week’s buttermilk-fried pheasant with bacon, cabbage, and quince felt like the most welcoming segue into the firm autumnal flavours that will grace our plates for the coming weeks. It was perfectly pitched: soft and tender pheasant in a crispy exterior, a crunch of raw cabbage and a knife’s tip of quince — couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying dish. —Nathalie Nelles
40 Maltby Street, Bermondsey SE1 3PA
28 October 2022
Chapli at Taste of Peshawar
The chapli at Taste of Peshawar announce themselves long before they arrive at any table. A rippling noise, soft at first but quickly louder, cascades across the floor of the restaurant, rising above the chatter of families sitting down to thick-set bowls of karahi, chips for the kids. The effect is mesmerising, the lake of oil bubbling fierce and louder as it caramelises its cargo, a fine sheen of lamb fat aromatic with coriander seed and tomato wafting up like mist. Plated crisp but steaming, there’s a momentary pause as it leaves the pot, before another order goes in and the bubbles begin again. —James Hansen
62 Harrow Road, Wembley HA9 6PL
Sampler platter at Andu
I love platters. I love the abundance, the choose-your-own-dish adventure, the variety, the opportunities to mix and match, and the greed of it all — if one chooses a starter platter as a main. It’s one of the many reasons why I love Andu Cafe in Dalston, besides the fact that all their dishes are vegan, complement each other well, and only cost £6 per person (if you get the sampler platter which is more than enough for one.) The platter consists of the gomen (collard greens sauteed with onions); shiro (a chickpea stew that reminds me of the onion-tomato chutney served with dosais); fosolia (a carrot and French bean medley); tikil gomen (cabbage and potatoes); misir wot (red lentil stew spiced with berbere); and aterkik (a curry of yellow split peas), which can be paired with a portion of the lip-smackingly tart injera or steaming rice. But the wholesome reason I love Andu Cafe is that it reminds me of home food: nourishing and cosy, with absolutely no frills attached. —Apoorva Sripathi
528 Kingsland Road, Dalston E8 4AH
Schezwan Masala Dosa at Dosa Express
Not long ago, I would have said it’s not very often that I go out for a bite to eat, stick my phone on aeroplane mode as a treat, and emerge to the news that there’s a new prime minister. In 2022, though, that’s almost become the rule, rather than the exception. This week’s coronation lunch gave me everything I could want from a classic masala dosa — thick coconut chutney, not-quite-mashed potatoes, and the all-important crispy edges — but with the tangy Indo-Chinese hit I was craving. —Sean Wyer
547 High Road, Wembley HA0 2DJ
Snacks at Snack Bar Grelha D’Ouro
The best way to welcome someone into your home is to boss them around a little. A new friend arrived for dinner; I placed a glass of wine into one hand and foisted a plate of cooked chestnuts into the other: to be peeled, discarding the rotten. For the others, candles to light and Parmesan to grate. By the time we ate the meal we had all made, strangers had become companions.
Snack Bar Grelha D’Ouro is of the same school of hospitality. As soon as she sat down, my friend was warmly chided for not looking after her coat, “there is a spare seat next to you, don’t leave it on the floor!” Men dining alone in front of the football had their half-eaten plates wordlessly scooped up and moved to make space for others.
Our host filled three glasses to the brim with white wine — glowing ectoplasmic under the barlight. She asked what we would eat. “We just want snacks,” we said. “And not the Francesinha.”
She brought us thick slabs of bruschetta jeweled with equal parts garlic, onion, tomato, and mozzarella; squid stuffed with minced meat until it stood upright and alert; and alheira, a loose weave sausage of unconfirmed meat, bread, and paprika. “It’s much better than chorizo,” she said emphatically. Daubed on to more bread, it was grisly delicious: smoky and garlic-bright. We debated another round, but settled on more ectoplasm instead. —Hester van Hensbergen
145 S Lambeth Road, Stockwell SW8 1XN
Shio ramen at George Black’s Batch Baby Pop-up
While I wouldn’t begin to claim any expertise on ramen, the bowls coming out of this humble pop-up kitchen space felt like an excellent antithesis to the drab sameness of the London scene. Far from the monotonous richness of chain tonkotsus, or the thin, watery, slightly metallic shoyus of Soho, George Black’s shio ramen was layers-deep with character. Salty, fishy, fatty, and caramelised, cut through with a sharp and unexpected lift of citrus. Plus, of course, toothsome noodles with their kinks and turns, a deftly cooked and marinated egg, and tender little slices of pork. Without the language to articulate why exactly this ramen felt special, I’ll simply note that since having it, I find my mind wandering back to that bright spark of sudachi tucked neatly into the hearty crab character of the broth, meditating on that little moment of greatness. —Nathalie Nelles
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, Greenwich 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, Walthamstow 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