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Udon noodles by Koya Ko at Market Halls Victoria, the new London restaurant food hall
A bowl of piping hot udon noddles in dashi will warm the cockles of your heart
Maria Nakhmanovich/for Market Halls

11 London Dishes to Warm the Cockles of Your Heart

Buttery shepherd’s pie, creamy haleem, comforting stews, hot soups, and more

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A bowl of piping hot udon noddles in dashi will warm the cockles of your heart
| Maria Nakhmanovich/for Market Halls

Eater editors and writers share the comfort food they frequently turn to — warm bowls of soup, bubbly lasagna, and homely kidney bean curry — as the winter nights draw in.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Avgolemoni at Alex's Cypriot Sandwiches and Soup

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At every Greek-Cypriot grandmother’s home, a simmering pot of avgolemoni soup awaits — a salty-sour egg and lemon broth, thickened with rice and boiled chicken (similar soups exist in Arabic and Sephardic cuisines). Alex’s Cypriot Sandwiches and Soups in Southgate use a guarded family recipe, cooked daily on the premises. For Cypriots, their hot bowl of avgolemoni is the answer to everything. —Chris Cotonou

A bowl of avgolemoni soup with a bar-marked sandwich on a wooden table
A hot bowl of avgolemoni from Alex’s Cypriot Sandwiches and Soups
Chris Cotonou

Sag pakora at The Wanstead Kitchen

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Find crunchy solace in the Wanstead Kitchen’s sag pakora: deep-fried spherical golden brown orbs. They’re light, crisp and laden with chunky strips of onion and a healthy dose of spinach that’s not in the least bit oily. Hints of garlic, ginger, garam masala and green chilli come through beautifully after each bite. It may just be a starter, but really, an ideal vessel to dunk into other curry offerings such as beef shatkora and chicken sabzi. —Angela Hui

Nihari/Haleem at Lahori Nihaari London

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Offering staunch and rich insulation against the cold and general malaise of 2020, these two dishes will lift low spirits. On the weekdays, nihari, shimmering with ghee and the gentle heat of ginger; on weekends, it has to be the creamy haleem, a deep earthy dish with layers of enveloping spice, mopped up carefully with fluffy, crispy kulcha naan. —Shekha Vyas

A Piping hot bowl of udon noodles with miso pork at Koya Ko

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Legendary Japanese restaurant mini chain Koya’s newest restaurant off Broadway Market in Hackney pairs a shortened menu with a fast-food-like, order-and-wait-style service to great effect. It is the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch — especially on a cold winter’s day — where bowls of piping hot udon in dashi (go for the classic pork, ginger, and miso) are a fair match for the elements, even for those who elect to take a table under the tent on the terrace outside. —Adam Coghlan

Mirmiz at Sidi Bou London

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Amina Hamdi and Hatem Kareem’s Tunisian restaurant dedicates a whole section of its menu to stews, and the brick-red mirmiz is the stand-out. The spine of the dish is not the rich chickpeas, tender lamb, or sweet peppers that make up its bulk, but the interplay of brick-red harissa, which Hamdi prepares, and tabel, the spice mix of fennel seed, caraway, cumin, and coriander seed that anchors many Berbere-derived dishes in the nation’s cuisine. With fluffy bread it’ll put a winter coat on any freezing night, which is apt because diners will have to travel to the restaurant to get both it and the warm hospitality which is undimmed by the temperatures outside. James Hansen

A plate of Tunisian mirmiz, with lamb, chickpeas, peppers, and onions
Mirmiz at Sidi Bou
James Hansen/Eater London

Bamia at Masgouf

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The okra isn’t the most exciting order at Masgouf, the five-site London restaurant group named after Iraq’s national dish: seasoned grilled carp. No, it’s the lamb kouzi and kebab skewers that are thrilling; but sometimes comforts come before thrills, and that’s when the usually reserved bamia speaks up. A warming plateful of steamed rice served with a tangy and ever so slightly crunchy tomato-okra stew feels like eating a hug, and makes even the coldest afternoon sunsets, a bit more bearable. The bamia isn’t just basic; it is essential. —Maazin Buhari

Kidney bean curry at Noormahal Sweets

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Many people in the west “discovered” the comfort of beans and pulses during lockdown, but they’ve always been popular in other cultures. Rajma makhani is a Punjabi classic, made from kidney beans in a duvet-thick butter-based gravy, warm with onions and tomatoes, soothed with milk and cream and sharpened with garam masala. This small vegetarian takeaway in Southall does a textbook version: homely as a Punjabi auntie’s shalwar kameez; bright and joyful as her bracelets. —Sejal Sukhadwala

Shepherd’s pie at 40 Maltby Street

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Shepherd’s pie lies within a category of dishes (which includes crumble) that are always better at home. This is because almost no chef can restrain themselves from adding a cheffy touch, completely undermining its clumsy appeal. V.1 of 40 Maltby Street’s shepherd’s pie had one touch (a rosemary butter), but the improved V.2 dispenses with it: all rich ale-brown mince, fluffy potatoes with paper thin shavings of chilled butter on top, creating stiff, burnt peaks and bubbly troughs when blasted in the oven. It understands that, like Filipino sawsawan, the real seasoning is added by the eater as per their childhood: ketchup (still for children), brown sauce (better), or Lea and Perrins and hot sauce (best). —Jonathan Nunn

Ghormeh sabzi and tahdig at Mahdi Restaurant

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Mahdi in Hammersmith promises to satisfy every Persian food craving. Ghormeh sabzi is made to comfort without cloying, with fresh herbs and sharp limes to cut through the rich lamb. Ordered as a starter, it comes with a nest of caramelized rice tahdig, a cradle everyone deserves on these cold nights. For mains, there are more sustaining stews, rice dishes, and an extensive grill list to choose from. Hester van Hensbergen

Egusi soup at Pitanga

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Pitanga’s take on this classic Nigerian dish, favoured for its fragrant nuttiness and discreet heat, comes crafted with tender regard by chef Nky Iweka. The potency of Iweka’s comforting soup comes from its stock — a rich and crimson mélange punctuated by West African palm oil, smoked prawns, scotch bonnet chillies, and flaked stockfish. Thickened by lightly toasted ground egusi, the soup is almost buoyant in texture and clings onto every morsel of pounded yam or eba that’s thrown its way. —Lucas Oakeley

Pitanga at Pitanga
Lucas Oakeley

Soondubu/Maeuntang at Imone

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As bubbling cauldrons of soondubu jjigae approach the table, the banchan is nudged to one side. A soft tofu stew, it’s a translucent broth with the merest opaqueness; a reminder that the tofu has begun softening in the yuksu (stock). Flanked by spicy, glistening maeuntang fish stew, pan-sized pajeon, fritters golden and filled with seafood, and the unnecessary/necessary Korean Fried Chicken, the dinner table fulfils the promises of the Let’s Eat dreams and comforts around it. —Feroz Gajia

Soondubu jjigae with banchan on a table
Soondubu jjigae at Imone
Feroz Gajia/Eater London

Avgolemoni at Alex's Cypriot Sandwiches and Soup

A bowl of avgolemoni soup with a bar-marked sandwich on a wooden table
A hot bowl of avgolemoni from Alex’s Cypriot Sandwiches and Soups
Chris Cotonou

At every Greek-Cypriot grandmother’s home, a simmering pot of avgolemoni soup awaits — a salty-sour egg and lemon broth, thickened with rice and boiled chicken (similar soups exist in Arabic and Sephardic cuisines). Alex’s Cypriot Sandwiches and Soups in Southgate use a guarded family recipe, cooked daily on the premises. For Cypriots, their hot bowl of avgolemoni is the answer to everything. —Chris Cotonou

A bowl of avgolemoni soup with a bar-marked sandwich on a wooden table
A hot bowl of avgolemoni from Alex’s Cypriot Sandwiches and Soups
Chris Cotonou

Sag pakora at The Wanstead Kitchen

Find crunchy solace in the Wanstead Kitchen’s sag pakora: deep-fried spherical golden brown orbs. They’re light, crisp and laden with chunky strips of onion and a healthy dose of spinach that’s not in the least bit oily. Hints of garlic, ginger, garam masala and green chilli come through beautifully after each bite. It may just be a starter, but really, an ideal vessel to dunk into other curry offerings such as beef shatkora and chicken sabzi. —Angela Hui

Nihari/Haleem at Lahori Nihaari London

Offering staunch and rich insulation against the cold and general malaise of 2020, these two dishes will lift low spirits. On the weekdays, nihari, shimmering with ghee and the gentle heat of ginger; on weekends, it has to be the creamy haleem, a deep earthy dish with layers of enveloping spice, mopped up carefully with fluffy, crispy kulcha naan. —Shekha Vyas

A Piping hot bowl of udon noodles with miso pork at Koya Ko

Legendary Japanese restaurant mini chain Koya’s newest restaurant off Broadway Market in Hackney pairs a shortened menu with a fast-food-like, order-and-wait-style service to great effect. It is the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch — especially on a cold winter’s day — where bowls of piping hot udon in dashi (go for the classic pork, ginger, and miso) are a fair match for the elements, even for those who elect to take a table under the tent on the terrace outside. —Adam Coghlan

Mirmiz at Sidi Bou London

A plate of Tunisian mirmiz, with lamb, chickpeas, peppers, and onions
Mirmiz at Sidi Bou
James Hansen/Eater London

Amina Hamdi and Hatem Kareem’s Tunisian restaurant dedicates a whole section of its menu to stews, and the brick-red mirmiz is the stand-out. The spine of the dish is not the rich chickpeas, tender lamb, or sweet peppers that make up its bulk, but the interplay of brick-red harissa, which Hamdi prepares, and tabel, the spice mix of fennel seed, caraway, cumin, and coriander seed that anchors many Berbere-derived dishes in the nation’s cuisine. With fluffy bread it’ll put a winter coat on any freezing night, which is apt because diners will have to travel to the restaurant to get both it and the warm hospitality which is undimmed by the temperatures outside. James Hansen

A plate of Tunisian mirmiz, with lamb, chickpeas, peppers, and onions
Mirmiz at Sidi Bou
James Hansen/Eater London

Bamia at Masgouf

The okra isn’t the most exciting order at Masgouf, the five-site London restaurant group named after Iraq’s national dish: seasoned grilled carp. No, it’s the lamb kouzi and kebab skewers that are thrilling; but sometimes comforts come before thrills, and that’s when the usually reserved bamia speaks up. A warming plateful of steamed rice served with a tangy and ever so slightly crunchy tomato-okra stew feels like eating a hug, and makes even the coldest afternoon sunsets, a bit more bearable. The bamia isn’t just basic; it is essential. —Maazin Buhari

Kidney bean curry at Noormahal Sweets

Many people in the west “discovered” the comfort of beans and pulses during lockdown, but they’ve always been popular in other cultures. Rajma makhani is a Punjabi classic, made from kidney beans in a duvet-thick butter-based gravy, warm with onions and tomatoes, soothed with milk and cream and sharpened with garam masala. This small vegetarian takeaway in Southall does a textbook version: homely as a Punjabi auntie’s shalwar kameez; bright and joyful as her bracelets. —Sejal Sukhadwala

Shepherd’s pie at 40 Maltby Street

Shepherd’s pie lies within a category of dishes (which includes crumble) that are always better at home. This is because almost no chef can restrain themselves from adding a cheffy touch, completely undermining its clumsy appeal. V.1 of 40 Maltby Street’s shepherd’s pie had one touch (a rosemary butter), but the improved V.2 dispenses with it: all rich ale-brown mince, fluffy potatoes with paper thin shavings of chilled butter on top, creating stiff, burnt peaks and bubbly troughs when blasted in the oven. It understands that, like Filipino sawsawan, the real seasoning is added by the eater as per their childhood: ketchup (still for children), brown sauce (better), or Lea and Perrins and hot sauce (best). —Jonathan Nunn

Ghormeh sabzi and tahdig at Mahdi Restaurant

Mahdi in Hammersmith promises to satisfy every Persian food craving. Ghormeh sabzi is made to comfort without cloying, with fresh herbs and sharp limes to cut through the rich lamb. Ordered as a starter, it comes with a nest of caramelized rice tahdig, a cradle everyone deserves on these cold nights. For mains, there are more sustaining stews, rice dishes, and an extensive grill list to choose from. Hester van Hensbergen

Egusi soup at Pitanga

Pitanga at Pitanga
Lucas Oakeley

Pitanga’s take on this classic Nigerian dish, favoured for its fragrant nuttiness and discreet heat, comes crafted with tender regard by chef Nky Iweka. The potency of Iweka’s comforting soup comes from its stock — a rich and crimson mélange punctuated by West African palm oil, smoked prawns, scotch bonnet chillies, and flaked stockfish. Thickened by lightly toasted ground egusi, the soup is almost buoyant in texture and clings onto every morsel of pounded yam or eba that’s thrown its way. —Lucas Oakeley

Pitanga at Pitanga
Lucas Oakeley

Soondubu/Maeuntang at Imone

Soondubu jjigae with banchan on a table
Soondubu jjigae at Imone
Feroz Gajia/Eater London

As bubbling cauldrons of soondubu jjigae approach the table, the banchan is nudged to one side. A soft tofu stew, it’s a translucent broth with the merest opaqueness; a reminder that the tofu has begun softening in the yuksu (stock). Flanked by spicy, glistening maeuntang fish stew, pan-sized pajeon, fritters golden and filled with seafood, and the unnecessary/necessary Korean Fried Chicken, the dinner table fulfils the promises of the Let’s Eat dreams and comforts around it. —Feroz Gajia

Soondubu jjigae with banchan on a table
Soondubu jjigae at Imone
Feroz Gajia/Eater London

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