While north east London is ever so edgy — Tottenham! Walthamstow! Green Lanes! — Golders Green has avoided the coolification of zone 3 north London. But cool, schmool — the food is excellent. Home to one of the UK’s largest Jewish populations, kosher cuisine dominates, so no shellfish, no pork, no combining meat and milk. So too does Israeli-style hummus and shawarma, and salt beef from the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. The main drag of Golders Green Road is not the prettiest of streets, but it makes up for it in sheer exuberance: Golders Green on a Sunday evening is as bustling as Shoreditch on a Friday night. Although perhaps don’t head for NW11 on a Friday night: Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, means that most of these nine restaurants are closed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.Read More
9 Great Restaurants in Golders Green
Where to find superb sabich, legendary bagels, luxurious latkes and revelatory rugelach
With its white painted bricks, craft beer-lined bookshelves and exposed lightbulbs, this Middle Eastern street food bar could be straight outta, well, Shoreditch. Its actual inspiration is the pita-slinging takeouts of Tel Aviv, where incredible falafel fly out of tiny kitchens to a thumping soundtrack. Here, falafel, glaring green with coriander, is scooped and fried fresh to order; excellent hummus comes topped in umpteen ways — but really it’s all about the sabich pita, stuffed with fried aubergine, hard boiled egg and pickles, all drenched in tahini.
2. Hummus Bar
Specialising in chickpea dip hasn’t proved fortuitous in 2018, but surely, hopefully, this restaurant is too good to fail? Dark wood decor and cheesy Americana beer signs don’t initially suggest greatness, and booking a table is essentially impossible (answering the phone is not a Hummus Bar strong point). But turn up on a hope and a prayer and they might reluctantly let you sit for what is probably the best hummus outside of the Middle East, submerged in a lake of tahini and topped with falafel, mushrooms, salt beef or, er, ground beef and BBQ sauce, ‘sloppy joe’ style.
This huge Turkish ocakbasi restaurant with its garden centre pine plank ceiling and faux-stone walls is so popular that queues for takeaway stretch long beside the huge coal-filled fire pit where chefs play foosball with the dozens of skewers moving down the line, and dining tables spill out onto the street. Fiery dips and the romesco-like cevizli biber are excellent, as is the house specialty of yogurtlu and iksender kebabs: lamb and chicken cooked with tomato and yoghurt-butter sauce, with ample flatbread for post-mortem mopping.
4. The Salt Beef Bar
London NW11 0AL, UK
The interior of this miniature cafe is so retro — having apparently not been redecorated in the 33 years it’s been open on this unlovely junction of Finchley Road and the North Circular — as to be immensely hip in 2018. Formica tables sit down with tins of mustard; twenty year old adverts frame the walls and sports gently chatter on the radio. Essentially, it’s a greasy spoon, but with congealed egg and fried bread replaced by wonderful home cured salt beef, latkes, chopped liver and lokshen pudding, all served by the lovely Greek Cypriot owner, whose manner is as soft and gentle as the rosy beef he carves and stuffs into white, rye or bagel slathered with that mustard.
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5. Sami's Restaurant
London NW11 8HB, UK
Where Pita is slick and shiny, Sami’s is the shabby, old school shawarma bar lurking at the far end of the main drag. The red and black signage makes it look slightly like a dodgy nightclub in Amsterdam’s red light district and service comes Israeli-style — that is, not necessarily the politest — but what it lacks in vibes, it makes up for in failsafe kosher food. Yemenite soup, thick with beef ribs and potatoes and turmeric, is a surefire cure all for colds, jet lag and hangover; after that, it’s all about the build your own pita/laffa bar. Put on the spot at the time of assembly, choices will fly out the window, but make sure to include the aubergine, fired to sweet juicy pulp, and both hummus and tahini. Top with superlative shawarma, more freshly fried falafel or chicken shaslik straight off the grill.
6. Bella del Gelato
London does not lack gelato. Kosher gelato, on the other hand, is rarer — so this broom cupboard of a shop, whose volcanic core temperature in summer might well be a cunning business tactic, is constantly busy. All 16 flavours on offer are made on site, and while purist pedants’ lips might curl at the day-glo mounds of ‘Blue Moon Vanilla’ and ‘Pink Bubblegum’, a cone of bright strawberry or espresso dark Swiss chocolate, licked vigilantly on a summer evening stroll along Golders Green Road, is pure pleasure.
7. Carmelli Bakeries Ltd
The word ‘legendary’ gets bandied around a lot, but when a bakery makes the best bagels in London, it probably deserves the L word. Carmelli also claims to be the first British bakery to boil and bake its bagels by hand, resulting in the slightly sweet, super dense and crunchy exterior-ed excellence that former locals beg current locals to bring as gifts by the sackful. Bagels aside, there is cheesecake and baklava and still-warm rugelach to be prised straight from baking trays on the glass counter.
8. Met Su Yan
The name of this kosher pan-Asian restaurant is a joke. At first glance, it sort of looks and sounds Oriental. Actually, it’s a phonetic Hebrew translation for “excellent”. Don’t come expecting hyper-regional delicacies from remote provinces: this is unabashedly catch-all ‘Chinese’, albeit with some glatt (strict) kosher substitutes: chicken toast instead of prawn and a lot of lamb in black bean and Peking sauce besides the roast duck and sweet and sour chicken. Authentic? No. Comforting? Definitely.
9. Cafe Japan
This light, slender canteen is a branch of Atari-Ya, which means the sushi comes with pretty slick pedigree: their wholesale operation T&S Enterprise supplies Mayfair’s flashest raw fish joints, from Nobu to Zuma. So when not in the mood to drop a grand in Berkeley Square, Cafe Japan’s toro and spring onion rolls, eel nigiri and teriyaki salmon make for a cheaper, equally delicious supper in a far more pleasant environment. As for that famous £42 Nobu black cod miso? £15 at Cafe Japan. Buy three and put the extra £3 down to smugness.