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Braised sauerkraut, leek, nduja and grilled merguez sausage at The Lacy Nook
Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

London’s Best Balkan Restaurants

Where to find flija, pite, sarma, cevapi — and more

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Braised sauerkraut, leek, nduja and grilled merguez sausage at The Lacy Nook
| Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

The first recorded Albanian restaurant in London was opened in 1908 by Kosovo-born Tony Precha, who went on to own a trio of cafes serving national dishes such as layered pancakes (flija) and filo pastry pies (pite) in Walbrook, Gresham Street and Great Tower Street.

It’s a fun fact, considering that finding more than a handful of Albanian restaurants in 2018, or, indeed any restaurants from its neighbouring countries in the Western Balkans — Kosovo, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Serbia — is a particularly trying task. Give it a quick search and expect to be led to more Turkish wedding venues than homes to dishes like sarma (stuffed cabbage) and cevapi (small minced-meat kebabs).

This is no coincidence; the cooking talent of the Balkan region has been largely put to work producing the cuisine of its more marketable cousins: Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Say ‘miredita’ (good day in Albanian) to the waiter at an independent Italian restaurant, and the response might be a surprise.

For adventurous eaters, somebody who has toured the region, or a member of the diaspora, there are still places to find that traditional Mediterranean flavour with a Balkan twist.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Rea’s Place, Child’s Hill Park

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33 Hodford Rd
London, UK

Rea’s is a family-owned spot in Golders Green that serves savoury Balkan pastries and sweets. Placed in the corner or Child’s Hill park (the home of Eagles United FC), the café offers a milky sponge cake topped with caramel (trileqe) and coconut syrup pieces (sheqerpare) with coffee, as well traditional cheese and mince burek — a form of stuffed filo pastry. Like with most Balkan-owned food spots, there is also an extensive range of grilled options on offer. Rea’s has grilled spicy sausage (suxhuk), minced patties filled with cheese (bombica), as well as the regular kofta, ushtipka and pleskavica. 

Rea’s is a family-owned spot in Golders Green that serves savoury Balkan pastries and sweets
Rea’s Place

2. The Lacy Nook

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8 Cazenove Rd, Cazenove
London N16 6BD, UK

Elena and Jana’s Euro-fusion lunch and dinner spot brings a Macedonian twist to modern dinning. In the Stoke Newington-based restaurant there’s both Middle Eastern-inspired falafel and halloumi dishes and Balkan specialties, such as cevapi, red pepper sauce (ajvar) and localised cream cheese, kajmak. Lacy Nook’s chefs use distinctly Balkan flavours, while producing accessible, contemporary dishes. Its newly added braised sauerkraut, leek, nduja and grilled merguez dish is a perfect example of this. To get a better sense of traditional flavours from the region, Lacy Nook’s Balkan stew, Balkan shepherds salad and cevapi with lepinja bread are a must-try. Drink Macedonian wine, or home-made spirit, rakija, which the owners keep behind the bar and serve on special request. 

The Lacy Nook, one of London’s best Balkan restaurants

3. Zara Cafe London

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163 Hornsey Rd
London N7 6DU, UK
020 8089 0416

Zara is a local café, popular for its English breakfasts and omelettes, but frequently visited by Kosovo-Albanian families at the weekend. It wouldn’t normally be a place to trek across London for, except for the popular — yet off-menu — Balkan-inspired sandwich it serves. The sandwich is filled with mini minced meat patties (qebapa) in a cream cheese and salad and wrapped with traditional Balkan-style bread. It’s likely the most ordered dish in the café.

Zara Cafe’s Balkan-inspired sandwich makes it one of London’s best places to experience food from southeastern Europe
The off-menu Balkan-inspired sandwich at Zara Cafe is one of the city’s best-kept sandwich secrets

4. Queens Arms London

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1 Kilburn High Rd, Maida Vale
London NW6 5SE, UK

A British pub based in Kilburn may seem like an unlikely spot to find a Balkan sausage fix, but the Queens Arms has long been a base for the Kosovan diaspora, which has a large population in West London. The pub, owned by the parents of a famous Kosovo-Albanian pop star, is for the most part popular with the locals and a lively place to drink and feast on fish and chips. But its specially selected ‘Mediterranean’ menu is where the real fun lies — one of the tastiest selections of Balkan grilled meats in London. It offers a mix of kofta and burger dishes, made in the style that most of its Kosovo patrons would have grown up with. Ask for the kofte, ushtipka, or pleskavica and which is served with traditional bread and plenty of feta cheese. The chips with grated feta are essential to complete this Balkan pub meal.

Grilled meat at the Queen’s Arms — one of London’s best Balkan restaurants
Grilled meat at the Queen’s Arms in Kilburn

5. Da Kevinuccio at Sunday Upmarket

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91 Brick Ln
London E1 6QL, UK

This food-stall found on Brick Lane at the weekend features hearty Albanian meals, from okra and leek stews to traditional spinach pite. The father-son owned spot cannot be missed among the many stalls, as they sport multiple red flags with double-headed eagles. As suggested by the name, there are some Italian-style pasta dishes also on the menu. 

Da Kevinuccio on Brick Lane at the weekend features hearty Albanian meals
Da Kevinuccio at Sunday Upmarket

6. Mugi's Coffee Bar

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15 Station Parade, Uxbridge Rd
London W5 3LD, UK

Based in Ealing, Mugi has one of the widest selections of recipes and snacks from the former Yugoslavia in London. Owned by Montenegro-born Željko Mugoša, the café features staples from the region from homemade bean soup with smoked meat, to Balkan-style kofta served with ajvar and burek — a filo pastry dish filled with meat, cheese, or spinach. Deserts such as tulumba, a fried batter soaked in sugar syrup, add to the authentic Balkan experience. Mugi also has an outstanding array of snacks available for purchase that are commonly found in Balkan countries, from Argeta chicken pate to Eurocrem — Nutella’s Southeastern-European counterpart. The friendly staff are welcoming to both newcomers and the café’s steady stream of patrons from the region.

Ealing’s Mugi Coffee Bar is one place in London to find and excellent selection of Balkan snacks
The retail offering at Mugi Coffee Bar in Ealing

7. Taste Croatia

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9 Stoney St
London SE1 9AA, UK

For a chance to taste a range of Croatian delicacies, from cured meats to flavoured olive oil and cheeses, head to Borough Market’s Taste Croatia Deli. The stall serves a range of condiments, snacks, and wines inspired by and made around the country, including truffles, relishes, pates, and salamis. Try the pumpkin oil and the red pepper dip as authentic additions to liven up a meal.

8. Peckham Bazaar

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119 Consort Rd
London SE15 3RU, UK

South London’s Peckham Bazaar is one of the few restaurants on this list led by a classically trained chef. Albanian-born John Gionaleka opened the spot in 2015 to serve dishes inspired by the country and its surrounding regions that fell under the Ottoman Empire — or what he calls the ‘Eastern Mediterranean.’ The restaurant doesn’t serve what would typically be found on an Albanian family’s kitchen table, but the dishes draw inspiration from the ingredients commonly found in the Balkan region.

Chicken thighs are served with custom pickled vegetables; stuffed peppers are paired with pine nuts, raisins, and herbs. Octopus, cuttlefish, and bream dishes are put together to reflect Southern Albania’s coastlines. The restaurant is a far cry from the grilled meat platters most Albanians are used to, but it takes diners through the elemental flavours that people of the Balkans are accustomed to.

Peckham Bazaar serves the food of the “Eastern Mediterranean”
The grill at Peckham Bazaar
Celia Topping

1. Rea’s Place, Child’s Hill Park

33 Hodford Rd, London, UK
Rea’s is a family-owned spot in Golders Green that serves savoury Balkan pastries and sweets
Rea’s Place

Rea’s is a family-owned spot in Golders Green that serves savoury Balkan pastries and sweets. Placed in the corner or Child’s Hill park (the home of Eagles United FC), the café offers a milky sponge cake topped with caramel (trileqe) and coconut syrup pieces (sheqerpare) with coffee, as well traditional cheese and mince burek — a form of stuffed filo pastry. Like with most Balkan-owned food spots, there is also an extensive range of grilled options on offer. Rea’s has grilled spicy sausage (suxhuk), minced patties filled with cheese (bombica), as well as the regular kofta, ushtipka and pleskavica. 

33 Hodford Rd
London, UK

2. The Lacy Nook

8 Cazenove Rd, Cazenove, London N16 6BD, UK
The Lacy Nook, one of London’s best Balkan restaurants

Elena and Jana’s Euro-fusion lunch and dinner spot brings a Macedonian twist to modern dinning. In the Stoke Newington-based restaurant there’s both Middle Eastern-inspired falafel and halloumi dishes and Balkan specialties, such as cevapi, red pepper sauce (ajvar) and localised cream cheese, kajmak. Lacy Nook’s chefs use distinctly Balkan flavours, while producing accessible, contemporary dishes. Its newly added braised sauerkraut, leek, nduja and grilled merguez dish is a perfect example of this. To get a better sense of traditional flavours from the region, Lacy Nook’s Balkan stew, Balkan shepherds salad and cevapi with lepinja bread are a must-try. Drink Macedonian wine, or home-made spirit, rakija, which the owners keep behind the bar and serve on special request. 

8 Cazenove Rd, Cazenove
London N16 6BD, UK

3. Zara Cafe London

163 Hornsey Rd, London N7 6DU, UK
Zara Cafe’s Balkan-inspired sandwich makes it one of London’s best places to experience food from southeastern Europe
The off-menu Balkan-inspired sandwich at Zara Cafe is one of the city’s best-kept sandwich secrets

Zara is a local café, popular for its English breakfasts and omelettes, but frequently visited by Kosovo-Albanian families at the weekend. It wouldn’t normally be a place to trek across London for, except for the popular — yet off-menu — Balkan-inspired sandwich it serves. The sandwich is filled with mini minced meat patties (qebapa) in a cream cheese and salad and wrapped with traditional Balkan-style bread. It’s likely the most ordered dish in the café.

163 Hornsey Rd
London N7 6DU, UK

4. Queens Arms London

1 Kilburn High Rd, Maida Vale, London NW6 5SE, UK
Grilled meat at the Queen’s Arms — one of London’s best Balkan restaurants
Grilled meat at the Queen’s Arms in Kilburn

A British pub based in Kilburn may seem like an unlikely spot to find a Balkan sausage fix, but the Queens Arms has long been a base for the Kosovan diaspora, which has a large population in West London. The pub, owned by the parents of a famous Kosovo-Albanian pop star, is for the most part popular with the locals and a lively place to drink and feast on fish and chips. But its specially selected ‘Mediterranean’ menu is where the real fun lies — one of the tastiest selections of Balkan grilled meats in London. It offers a mix of kofta and burger dishes, made in the style that most of its Kosovo patrons would have grown up with. Ask for the kofte, ushtipka, or pleskavica and which is served with traditional bread and plenty of feta cheese. The chips with grated feta are essential to complete this Balkan pub meal.

1 Kilburn High Rd, Maida Vale
London NW6 5SE, UK

5. Da Kevinuccio at Sunday Upmarket

91 Brick Ln, London E1 6QL, UK
Da Kevinuccio on Brick Lane at the weekend features hearty Albanian meals
Da Kevinuccio at Sunday Upmarket

This food-stall found on Brick Lane at the weekend features hearty Albanian meals, from okra and leek stews to traditional spinach pite. The father-son owned spot cannot be missed among the many stalls, as they sport multiple red flags with double-headed eagles. As suggested by the name, there are some Italian-style pasta dishes also on the menu. 

91 Brick Ln
London E1 6QL, UK

6. Mugi's Coffee Bar

15 Station Parade, Uxbridge Rd, London W5 3LD, UK
Ealing’s Mugi Coffee Bar is one place in London to find and excellent selection of Balkan snacks
The retail offering at Mugi Coffee Bar in Ealing

Based in Ealing, Mugi has one of the widest selections of recipes and snacks from the former Yugoslavia in London. Owned by Montenegro-born Željko Mugoša, the café features staples from the region from homemade bean soup with smoked meat, to Balkan-style kofta served with ajvar and burek — a filo pastry dish filled with meat, cheese, or spinach. Deserts such as tulumba, a fried batter soaked in sugar syrup, add to the authentic Balkan experience. Mugi also has an outstanding array of snacks available for purchase that are commonly found in Balkan countries, from Argeta chicken pate to Eurocrem — Nutella’s Southeastern-European counterpart. The friendly staff are welcoming to both newcomers and the café’s steady stream of patrons from the region.

15 Station Parade, Uxbridge Rd
London W5 3LD, UK

7. Taste Croatia

9 Stoney St, London SE1 9AA, UK

For a chance to taste a range of Croatian delicacies, from cured meats to flavoured olive oil and cheeses, head to Borough Market’s Taste Croatia Deli. The stall serves a range of condiments, snacks, and wines inspired by and made around the country, including truffles, relishes, pates, and salamis. Try the pumpkin oil and the red pepper dip as authentic additions to liven up a meal.

9 Stoney St
London SE1 9AA, UK

8. Peckham Bazaar

119 Consort Rd, London SE15 3RU, UK
Peckham Bazaar serves the food of the “Eastern Mediterranean”
The grill at Peckham Bazaar
Celia Topping

South London’s Peckham Bazaar is one of the few restaurants on this list led by a classically trained chef. Albanian-born John Gionaleka opened the spot in 2015 to serve dishes inspired by the country and its surrounding regions that fell under the Ottoman Empire — or what he calls the ‘Eastern Mediterranean.’ The restaurant doesn’t serve what would typically be found on an Albanian family’s kitchen table, but the dishes draw inspiration from the ingredients commonly found in the Balkan region.

Chicken thighs are served with custom pickled vegetables; stuffed peppers are paired with pine nuts, raisins, and herbs. Octopus, cuttlefish, and bream dishes are put together to reflect Southern Albania’s coastlines. The restaurant is a far cry from the grilled meat platters most Albanians are used to, but it takes diners through the elemental flavours that people of the Balkans are accustomed to.

119 Consort Rd
London SE15 3RU, UK

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