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Guyanese meat and rice at Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle, one of the best value restaurants in central London Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

The Best-Value Restaurants in London

Where to find outstanding Syrian, Somali, Guyanese, Canto-Malay, and Ghanaian cuisine — plus so much more

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“Top 100 brilliant budget restaurants,” “Eat on the cheap,” “Awesome eats for a fiver.” As a city, London is obsessed with finding a bargain. Especially at a time when there’s barely any change from £20 for avocado on toast and a latte. But the increasing importance of terms like ‘budget’ and ‘cheapness’ brings with it some problems. What is a cheap eat: something that costs £20 for a meal? £10 for a lunch? £5 for a snack? This fixation on price means that the “cheap eats” can be relegated to a lower rung than more feted restaurants — best of the rest, a last resort for that last weekend before pay day.

But cheapness can be suggestive of other, more important qualities too. It suggests value — a virtue in scarce supply in a city of rising rents and costs. It suggests generosity, and the primacy of the idea that a restaurant should feed its guests rather than impress them. It suggests community, for those cafes and restaurants which have chosen to serve the needs of the local — often a working class or immigrant — population, particularly during coronavirus lockdown when a polo-mint economy gave restaurants outside the centre a new relevancy.

The Eater London 38 is a guide to the most innovative and essential restaurants in London, the restaurants that have turned London into a destination food city and the most vital place to eat out in Europe. The following list of restaurants is essential in another way: for Londoners, these restaurants span all the neighbourhoods and cuisines that define the city. They’re the places to visit two, three times a week for cooking that tends towards home and comfort. They’re reminders that sometimes great value just means ... Great.

For the full, six-part, 90-restaurant guide to the city’s best-value restaurants, by geography, click here.

London’s restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars reopen for indoor service from 17 May, with the rule of six in place. Customers can check with individual venues to determine their availability and Covid-secure measures before deciding to visit.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Taste of Pakistan Restaurant

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369 Hanworth Rd
Hounslow TW4 5LF, UK
020 8572 1298

To get the measure of Taste of Pakistan, check out the owner’s response to negative Google Reviews and find the confidence of an uncle who knows just how good he is. Unlike most Pakistani grills in London, which are Lahori, Taste of Pakistan’s owner hails from north west Pakistan, where the burlier Pashtun cuisine overlaps with Afghanistan rather than India. Chapli kebabs come pockmarked with coriander seeds, stacked like pancakes with naans as big as torsos to wipe them up, while charsi karahi has an acidic, pickled tang. The place is rightfully rammed every night, so for anyone who doesn’t live in Hounslow, booking is an absolute must.

2. Gana

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15 Village Way E
Harrow HA2 7LX, UK

One of the most tempting single pages of a London menu is at this Sri Lankan institution in Rayners Lane. The regular menu reels through the island’s greatest hits, and then when it feels like a decision is finally made: A page of specials, tucked at the back like a stolen afterthought. Fried nethali, plump anchovies popped and crunched whole; garlic fry worth shunning people for a week; chicken liver curry; squid stuffed with egg; muyal (rabbit); kudal (lamb intestines); and marai (venison) — all fried or curried. The venison fry comes dense and sticky, almost the texture of jerky and dark as molasses, riddled with crispy onions just before the point of burning. Some of the best subcontinental game cooking in London, at a third of Gymkhana’s prices.

Fry at Gana in west London
Gana
Gana [Official Photo]

3. Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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121 High St
Hounslow TW3 1QL, UK

The best of the Dishoom menu, as everyone knows, is contained in the small plates section where paus, bhels, fries and cheese toasts abound. Shree Krishna Vada Pav is what happens when the menu is only this and where zero concession is made to Western tastes — 70+ Maharastrian snacks inspired by Bombay and its Chowpatty Beach, made for the Gujarati communities of Harrow and Hounslow. The food here shares much affinity with the working class food of the north of England — any fried carbs available are stuffed in between soft barms; think samosas, vadas, bhajis, along with various puris and wraps sprinkled with sev and Desi-Chinese curries. Don’t miss the paneer bomb, a light tomato curry of paneer, stuffed into bread and then deep fried.

Shree Krishna Vada Pav in west London
Shree Krishna Vada Pav
Shree Krishna Vada Pav [Official Photo]

4. Tetote Factory

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12 South Ealing Road, London, W5 4QA United Kingdom
London W5 4QX, UK

Thesis: Tetote is the most precise bakery in London. Its custard buns emerge from the oven like bowls in a kiln, each one burnished and pristine, exploding warm crème-pat across South Ealing Road.

Antithesis: Tetote is the most chaotically evil bakery in London. Its barbecue chicken bun contains fried, golden nuggets of chicken, surrounded with a sticky moat of smoky barbecue sauce and mayonnaise.

Synthesis: Tetote is the best bakery in London.

Custard and adzuki bean buns at Tetote Factory in west London
Tetote Factory
Jonathan Nunn

5. Dosa Express

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547 High Rd
Wembley HA0 2DJ, UK

It’s possible to play dosa bingo at this self-service cafe located in the back of a Wembley mini mall, where the menu is arrayed on the wall in 100 sheets of A4 paper, each option a variant of dosa. Take a number and settle into the chaos. Try the traditional — Mysore masala, onion or chutney — the frugal — butter or ghee — the desi-Chinese — stuffed with chilli paneer, Schezwan masala — or the bizarre — chocolate, banana and ice cream. More importantly, make sure to chase it all with rich almond cashew milk, which is golden yellow and sweet as burfi.

Dosa Express, one of the best value restaurants in London
Dosa at Dosa Express
Dosa Express/Facebook

6. Al Enam

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Acton Business Centre, School Rd, Park Royal
London NW10 6TD, UK

On the outskirts of the Park Royal industrial estate at Acton Business Centre, a remarkable flowering of Iraqi and Lebanese restaurants has developed around what would now be called “dark kitchens,” giving a public interface to traditional catering businesses. Al Enam is the largest and most impressive of these restaurants. Lamb shawarma is exceptional here, chopped fine and stuffed in sub rolls with chips, it has the pleasing soft, yielding texture of a good Philly Cheesesteak. Fish cooking is beyond the capability of most grill houses, with butterflied seabass cooked over flames hotter than hel, turning the skin into a burnt shell to scoop perfectly cooked flesh from. Still, the best thing here may just be the lentil soup, given gratis to every table, served with bread, lemon and pickles.  

7. Imone

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169 High St
New Malden KT3 4BH, UK

It’s sometimes difficult to get a grip on London’s suburban K-Town of New Malden, given so many conflicting stories on who is serving the best barbecue and who is currently using charcoal. Ignore the noise and go straight to Imone, where perfectly modulated banchan snap with a refreshing acidity and signal care in the kitchen. The best dishes on the menu are fish based. Saengsun jjim is a showstopper, a whole whiting in a deeply savoury, spicy sauce, leavened by herbaceous and bitter chrysanthemum greens, while maeungtang has a cleanness and restraint that only the very best Korean broths achieve. Always order the special ─ currently naengmyeon, a sparse cold noodle dish, which is sure to change as the weather cools.

Saengsun jjim: whole whiting in “a deeply savoury, spicy sauce, leavened by herbaceous and bitter chrysanthemum greens” at Imone, the best restaurant in New Malden
Saengsun jjim at Imone in New Malden
Jonathan Nunn

8. Yasmina Restaurant and Bakery

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18 Western Ave
London W3 7TZ, UK

Tucked around the corner from East Acton station on an anonymous stretch of the Westway is Yasmina, home to London’s best man’oushe. Upon tasting his breads it’s not a surprise to hear that chef Ramadan used to be known as Ramadan al Khabbaz, or Ramadan the baker. Crisp, aerated and so light that they’re in danger of floating away, the man’oushe are best topped with minced lamb (lahm bi ajeen); or simply za’atar and cheese drenched in olive oil, preferably dipped into real garlic sauce and wrapped around pickles. The rest of the menu is equally outstanding, from the fattoush to the kibbeh, which cracks satisfyingly to reveal sticky and sweet minced meat.

Two man’oushe, one with zaatar and one with lamb, at Yasmina Restaurant in West Acton
Yasmina
Jonathan Nunn

9. Aladin Kebabish

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147-149 W Hendon Broadway, Hendon
London NW9 7EA, UK

Aladin’s Kebabish in West Hendon is being slept on by everyone outside of about one thousand Pakistani families who know that it is one of the essential places in London to explore the “holy trinity” of Karachi cooking: haleem, nihaari, and Karachi qorma. The haleem contains the ghost of the strands and fibres it once was, rich and glutinous, while the nihaari is among the city’s best, the fat forming little islets bobbing in an ocean of red oil, above a shank that can be dismantled completely with the back of a spoon. The qorma is unlike any korma Londoners know, inspired by the Mughals but rich without being creamy, with heavy black pepper spicing, all cut through with subtle acidity.

Curry at Aladin Kebabish, one of the best value restaurants in west London
Curry at Aladin Kebabish

10. Sam Sandwiches

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9 Shepherd's Bush Market, White City
London W12 8DE, UK

At Sam’s Sandwich, the titular Sam, Samir Ladoul works wonders in the medium of Algerian sandwiches, as good as any NY deli or LA torta. Meat comes in the form of marinated chicken, lamb’s liver, kofte patties or merguez sausage, made fresh every lunchtime by a neighbouring butcher in Shepherds Bush Market. Choose two of these and they will be fried with egg and chips into one scoopable mass, with the prudent additions of olives, harissa, and mayonnaise. The result is generous and hefty, meaty and rich, but leavened by the bitterness of olives, the tang of harissa, and the lightness of the bread itself. An exceptional London sandwich.

11. The Best Broasted

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18-f, High Rd, Willesden Green
London NW10 2QD, UK

On a site in Willesden Green which has always seemed to be a Syrian restaurant, the normality of The Best Broasted’s menu is only punctured by the appearance of broasted chicken ─ a deep-fried and pressure-cooked one-two combo knock-out that can cook a whole chicken in 15-20 minutes, escaping its Wisconsin origins to take off across the Middle East. The result is chicken juicer than its jagged exterior gives it any right to be, but that’s actually not what to come for. The best thing is the potatoes that come with it, huge coins that at some points are cooked to the appearance of a fresh Pringle and at others puff up like pommes soufflés, with a font of outrageously garlicky toum to baptise them.

A broasted chicken under a pile of potatoes at Best Broasted The Best Broasted [Official Photo]

12. Balady and Balady Alaesh

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750 Finchley Rd
London NW11 7TH, UK

If Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi had used all their powers to hone a sandwich, it would look like the cannonball of a sabich at Balady, the vegetarian, Israeli Temple Fortune cafe where the Sabbo brothers force feed diners falafels that shine like emeralds. Just before lockdown the brothers opened a sister cafe two doors down called Alaesh, where jus-soaked arayes rival any London burger, and a portion of Moroccan fish stew comes with all the sticky burnt vegetables from the bottom of the pan. But the best thing is still the hand-cut chips, capable of sparking homesickness for anyone born between Greece and Syria.

Falafel and hummus at Balady in west London
Balady
Balady/Facebook

13. Normah's

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Normah's 23-25 Queensway Market, Bayswater
London W2 4QJ, UK

Normah Abd Hamid’s tiny Queensway Market unit — tucked in an unlikely location between a sign advertising Russian films and an Uzbeki cafe — now rivals Roti King for the title of “London’s best Malaysian caff.” The roti canai here is on a par with Roti King’s, with the fluffy interior not compromised by the caramelisation she achieves on the crust, but diners come mainly for the assam pedas, a scarlet bloodbath of whole fish, tangy with tamarind as sour as wine gums, and lifted by a prickling chilli heat. All of Normah’s dishes work better when she or her nephew are convinced to cook them “pedas” — spicy — but if she doesn’t, service is so charming that it won’t matter.

Assam pedas at Normah’s Cafe in Queensway
Assam pedas at Normah’s Cafe in Queensway
Normah’s Cafe [Official Photo]

14. Chu Chin Chow

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7 Cat Hill, East Barnet, London
Barnet EN4 8HG, UK

Ask locals about Chu Chin Chow and they might tell you it’s an excellent buffet restaurant, a place to come on Saturday and load up on chow mein. Another type of local might say that actually, get the Malaysian chicken with caramelised wands of lemongrass, or the fruity capital ribs or the duck with an exoskeleton of crispy yam, or gigantic butter prawns with sugar spun floss, or salted yolk squid, or chilli crab with roe sweeter than treasure, from what is London’s best Canto-Malay restaurant hidden in Zone 5 Barnet. Others say there is a further secret menu containing poon choi, gigantic buns filled with curry and exemplary chicken rice with the pink flesh and yellow skin of a Battenberg. Huge, if true.

Malaysian fried chicken, centre, at Chu Chin Chow, one of London’s Best Chinese restaurants for takeaway Jessica Wang

15. Namak Mandi

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25 Upper Tooting Rd, Tooting
London SW17 7TS, UK
020 8767 6120

A chaotic, multileveled Pashtun restaurant made up of small private rooms, Namak Mandi has quietly established itself as the stand out restaurant in Tooting’s already crowded Desi scene. Karahis here start their life as mountains of lamb and tomato, made fresh to order and reduced over 45 minutes until it comes together symphonically. Chapli kebabs are pushed out into a sea of scalding fat like funeral boats, and arrive moist with a solid centimetre of blackened crust. But the best dish is the gola karahi, loose and aggressively spiced minced meat kebabs that add a note of char to complete a layered sauce glistening with lamb fat.

A wok of simmering lamb karahi at Namak Manda in Tooting
A wok of simmering lamb karahi at Namak Manda in Tooting
Ejatu Shaw

16. Cafe TPT

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21 Wardour St
London W1D 6PN, UK

A standout among all the Hong Kong-inspired dai pai dongs that line the west side of Wardour St, Cafe TPT is a template for how all Cantonese restaurants of this type in London can and should be — competent at almost everything and exceptional at some. Creamy and rich beef brisket curry on rice and Singapore noodles, elastic and smoky from the wok, are great options, but it’s the pork chop Macau-style with onions, cheesy bechamel and spoonfuls of chilli oil that is unmissable — a chaise longue of a comfort dish that is best eaten in the early hours of the morning to soak up a Soho night.

Fried rice at Cafe TPT in Chinatown, one of the best value restaurants in central London
Cafe TPT
Cafe TPT [Official Photo]

17. Roti Joupa

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12 Clapham High St
London SW4 7UT, UK
020 7627 8637

One of the few Trini places in London that has permeated the general food-interested consciousness, possibly due to its ideal location near Clapham North station on the edge of the Common, Roti Joupa specialises in the Indian-influenced cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago. Pliant rotis are folded over each other as vehicles for curried meats and vegetables, but the ideal way to experience Roti Joupa is through an Avengers assemblage of snacks: hot doubles with chickpeas and hot sauce — ask for it — fluffy pholourie; buss-up pieces of roti, scragged edged and perfect for dunking in a curry; and, best of all, London’s best mac n cheese, tray bake style and floating in a paddling pool of tamarind.

The best Trinidadian roti and Caribbean food in London: Fried baras filled with chickpea curry from Roti Joupa on Clapham Common, London Adam Coghlan/Eater London

18. Paneri Taverna

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340 High Rd, Wood Green
London N22 8JW, UK
020 8888 3111

From the outside Paneri seems to be a simple kebab shop, but step past the counter and it could be mistaken for a homely taverna somewhere on the Cypriot coast. Grilled meat and fish are revered here, with excellent taut sheftalia — pork and offal sausages wrapped in caul fat — being the highlight from the skewers, their skins blistering on the grill. Two spits rotate by the window, one of lamb souvla and one of chicken, so often the cheaper, less appealing option, but here they’re juicy and plump with lacquered skin and meat which falls off the bone.

19. Le Chamarel

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27 Turnpike Ln, Harringay
London N8 0EP, UK

This tiny Turnpike Lane cafe covers Mauritius’s diverse culinary ground, which is predominantly Indian but influenced heavily by French colonialism and Chinese indentured workers. Fried snacks such as meat samossas, gateau piment, and gateau arouille, that’s fragrant and sweet with taro root, are ideal for takeaway or as starters. Rice as riz frit (a fried Chinese preparation) or biriyani can be paired with prawn rougaille, with its Provençal origins, or the spicier octopus vindaille, a cousin of vindaloo derived from the Portuguese-Goan dish of vinha d’alho.

Le Chamarel
Le Chamarel [Official photo]

20. Little Ochi Restaurant

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113 Dulwich Rd, Herne Hill
London SE24 0NG, UK
020 7737 7329

There’s no written menu in this Jamaican seafood restaurant in Herne Hill; just walk directly to the fridge, pick a fish and tell the chef how you want it cooked: steamed in a sauce made of tomato, thyme and okra, fried with a side of bammy, or in sweet brown stew with rice and peas. The fish is cooked to order and there is one chef ─ make sure there is time to wait, take a seat, nurse a Red Stripe for an hour, and then enjoy the fish. This is not a restaurant for everyone, but it’s all the better for it, offering the kind of unaffected simplicity that some people spend money going on holiday for right on Brockwell Park’s doorstep.

Little Ochi
Jonathan nunn

21. Kaieteur Kitchen

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335-336 Elephant and Castle
London SE1 6TB, UK

There are so few chefs in London who oversee every plate of food in their kitchen, but Faye Gomes is one of them; every dish, no matter how simple, is blessed by little touches of care which signal that she, and only she, has made it. Previously in the ill-fated Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre’s moat, she is now in the temporary Castle Square development where she serves Guyanese stews, exceptional vegetable rices, noodles and roti, and fried fish. Her most exceptional dish is her weekend pepper pot, vinyl black with two day cooked beef, oxtail, tripe and lamb, and the bittersweetness of cassareep.

Guyanese meat and rice at Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle, one of the best value restaurants in central London Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

22. Hala Restaurant

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29-30 Grand Parade, Harringay
London N4 1LG, UK

Arguably the most accomplished all-round restaurant on Green Lanes. Hala means ‘aunt’ in Turkish — a name that used to be reflected in the homeliness of the decor, although the Green Lanes arms race has meant a shiny refurbishment. It’s still reflected in generosity of the food served, and by the sight of aunties making gözleme in the window every morning. Solo diners should try the paça çorbası, a platonic meat broth taken to its rich, buttery extreme, only achievable by careful stewing of gelatinous sheep’s foot, served with pickles to cut through. The best of the grills are adana, kaburga or ribs and pirzola or chops, mopped up with bread, but groups should make room for excellent versions of içli köfte and manti.

Kebabs at Hala, one of the best value restaurants in north London
Hala
Hala [Official Photo]

23. La Barra

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Walworth Rd
London SE1 6SP, UK

On the surface, it looks like another Colombian cafe, one of many in Elephant and Castle, but to those in the know, it’s one of London’s best fried chicken joints. Colombian and Venezuelan dishes disguise the real speciality of Maria-Luisa Riascos Solis, which is pica pollo — a Dominican obsession, KFC amped-up and given the full Latin American treatment. For £15, get five big shallow fried pieces of heavily spiced thigh, drumstick and wing, along with pork belly and lung jerky. Make sure to wait until these cool down, or be prepared to nurse a burnt upper mouth for a week. Get here early, it often closes around 8pm, and make sure to save room for at least one empanada.

La Barra
La Barra/Facebook

24. Zeret Kitchen

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216-218 Camberwell Rd, Camberwell
London SE5 0ED, UK

On a small Brutalist housing estate off the Walworth Road Tafe Belayneh works alchemy with lentils that any number of molecular gastronomists or meat-free burger companies would sell their soul for. Luckily, it is possible to just buy her self-published recipe book. Her Ethiopian and Eritrean vegetarian dishes including the misir wat — lentils spiced with berbere — or the defn misir wat have the uncanny meaty depth of a slow-cooked ragu, and the completely vegan smorgasbord of 5-6 stews surrounded by injera has to rank as one of the best bargains in London. Meat is also outstanding, with a kitfo as rich and soft as butter and a springy, savoury dulet of finely chopped kidneys and tripe that could convince even the most ardent offal skeptic.

25. Tasty Jerk

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88 Whitehorse Ln
London SE25 6RQ, UK

To track down the best jerk in London, follow the smoke: in peak hours the inside of this Thornton Heath legend is blackened with the soot and char of barbecued meat as huge drums are open and shut in a rhythm that merely suggests the amount of technique that goes into making truly great jerk. It’s the belly pork that’s the revelation — crisp and soft with fat like chicharron and the sweetness of char siu, seasoned by those three blackened drums, with notes of char; of soot; of black oil and petroleum; of that smoke, which penetrates every strand of meat and rushes into the nose and throat at first bite. A jerk meal will contain vital extras: stodgy rice and peas with meat gravy on top to give respite, coleslaw to cool down, and sweet, searing hot sauce that showcases the fruit and tear-inducing power of the scotch bonnet.

26. Towpath Café

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42 De Beauvoir Cres, De Beauvoir Town
London N1 5SB, UK

The year can normally be divided into native oyster season and Towpath season, but this year put a bit of a spanner in the works. Opening up in the dying embers of lockdown summer gave Towpath Cafe a new remit, with dishes intended to provide shelter against the London autumn and the guts to put brisket and tzimmes on the menu: A stew tasting of nothing but meat, root vegetables and time, deep chocolate brown and pectin sweet; a London mole. The cafe is now reverting to its spring/summer guise,

Jason Lowe, Towpath Official

27. The Bash Restaurant Cafe Bar

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71 -73 W Green Rd, Tottenham
London N15 5DA, UK

West Green Road’s The Bash may be the best Congolese restaurant in London by virtue of being the only one, but it’s still right up there with London’s essential West and East African joints. Most of the dishes that make it worth travelling to Tottenham are off menu and have to be requested, so just ask. Pondu, for example — cassava leaf, stewed greens chock full of chlorophyll and lifted by pieces of smoked fish. Ntaba/taba is Congolese barbecue, infused with smoke and paired with a scalp-sweating hot sauce. But it’s the fish here that shines the most: a whole malangwa (pangasius) full of meaty flesh without any dryness, with aromatic ginger enlivening an onion and tomato sauce.

Vegetable rice at The Bash, one of the best value restaurants in north London
Vegetable rice at The Bash, in north London
The Bash [Official Photo]

28. Alhaji SUYA (Peckham)

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15 Peckham Park Rd
London SE15 6TR, UK

As the star of Nigerian food rises in London’s firmament, it’s important to pay homage to those who have done it with little recognition. Although London’s Nigerian food culture is dominated by the Yoruba and Igbo variants, the country’s beloved suya is a Hausa invention, and it’s by a young Hausa chef, Abdullahi Mai Kano, who is currently leagues ahead of the competition. Beef, lamb and chicken are the standard options, but it’s the fatty cut of tozo that is the standout, melting on the tongue, while the homemade yaji provokes a nasal rush that is almost ecstatic. This, along with the homemade kilishi (beef jerky with the purple hue of a bruise and a long, sweet burn) makes the return to Alhaji’s reopened home in Peckham an essential trip.

29. Al Kahf

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112-114 Vine Ct, Whitechapel
London E1 1JE, UK
020 7247 7779

On a stretch of Whitechapel Road that is no stranger to rice, Al Kahf outdoes even the Dhaka and Sylheti-style biryanis with its bariis iskukaris, served with Flintstone-sized portions of lamb shoulder. Located underground off an unpromising alley, Al Kahf follows the familiar Somali template of part canteen/part social club, but it does everything just that little bit better. The cooking of the shoulder only looks simple because so few places actually take care to do it well; here it falls off the bone in layers of sweet fat and crispy skin, served alongside spiced rice, sweetened with currants and enriched with the lamb’s own broth. It’s food so good it needs no accompaniment, except basbaas to cut through it all.

30. Sonora Taquería

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13-23 Westgate St, Hackney
London E8 3RL, UK

Perhaps it was inevitable that in a city which has traditionally disrespected corn, the breakthrough tortilla is made of wheat. When Pollo Feliz entered the London taco scene it seemed to come from nowhere, offering a style of taco that was marginal outside of north Mexico and across the border in Arizona. Still, these are exemplary tortillas without having to make allowances for it being London; soft, pliant, and crisp, with a layer of melted cheese that adds decadence to short rib barbacoa. Now rebranded as Sonora, and with a new location exactly 2 metres away from their old Netil Market stall, it’s only going to get better.

Michelle Salazar and Sam Napier of Sonora Taquería, formerly Pollo Feliz, in Netil Market, Hackney. One of London’s only flour tortilla producers and one of the city’s best taquerias. Michaël Protin/Eater London

31. Pho Thúy Tây Cafe

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899 Old Kent Rd
London SE15 1NL, UK
020 3105 6453

In a city where the regionality of Vietnamese cuisine is usually flattened into a bland litany of pho and bun, Thuy Nguyen’s cafe on Old Kent Road is completely sui generis ─ a proudly Hanoi restaurant where the pho is limpid and crystalline and the broth so life-affirming anyone could drink it everyday. But it’s the Thursday and Friday specials that launch it into another league: crispy salt and pepper duck tongues, herbal, rare beef salads; or blood sausage, boiled or fried and formed from pale-marble boudins, dipped in the corrupt flavour of mam tom ─ a bureaucratic grey shrimp paste with the funk of a thousand prawn heads reduced to the density of a neutron star.

The exterior of Pho Thuy Tay Vietnamese restaurant on Old Kent Road, London, with bricks surrounding a white sign with Pho Thuy Tay written in black text Michaël Protin/Eater London

32. Neco Tantuni Kunefe Salonu

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4 Brick Ln
Enfield EN3 5BA, UK
020 8804 8909

Antepliler on Green Lanes has kunefe, Durak on West Green Road has tantuni, but Neco gets the edge for doing both of them even better. Two of London’s great late-night snacks are located in the deepest, darkest corner of Enfield, where it turns out London’s genuine taco culture is actually Turkish. Chopped meat and fat is stuffed into little cigars of thin lavash bread, mopped with a film of meat juice, or sandwiched into the lightest, crispiest sub roll. Kunefe here is excellent, caramelised but not overly sweet, and balanced enough to take without adornment of cream. The whole family, all originally from Mersin, work here, but if the wife makes the tantuni it’s just that little bit better.

33. Smokey Jerkey 2 London

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158 New Cross Rd
London SE14 5BA, UK
020 3807 6941

Even if Smokey Jerkey’s pale blue signage has faded over the years, the flavours of its jerk have not. Owner Louie MacPherson has been at this New Cross institution for 15 years, and the care that goes into every aspect of the meal is seen from the custom-made furnace that thrives on hickory wood smoke and the long marinade in cayenne chillis, to the house-made Bajan pepper and Trinidadian scorpion sauces, with the former burning slow and long on the tongue and the latter piercing right through it. Jerk here is restricted to chicken, pork and lamb: the first two are as good as any other version in London bar Tasty Jerk, but the lamb is untouchable.

34. Singburi

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593 High Rd Leytonstone
London E11 4PA, UK
020 8281 4801

For so many, hands down the best Thai restaurant in London, and for others one of the most outstanding restaurants in London full stop. Sirichai Kularbwong’s blackboard of joy is updated daily, spanning the rich diversity of southern Thai food, although lockdown has allowed Kularbwong to access new sourcing channels. His moo krob, sticky with chillis and caramelised chunks of pork fat, now sits alongside a jungle curry of Matt Chatfield’s cull yaw, as well as the usual array of mind-bendingly complex salads, sour curries and stir-fries displaying elite wok technique. Still, the soul of Singburi lies not the virtuosic, but in the humble soups Kularbwong puts on, which achieve a masterly control of balance and depth. He’s sticking with takeaway for the forseeable future.

35. Kate's Cafe and Restaurant

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174 Balaam St
London E13 8RD, UK

The first stop for any West African musician playing down the road at Barking, or at least it would be if anyone was playing Barking right now. Kate Armah’s Plaistow restaurant is still iconic among the Ghanaian and wider African community — see its Instagram feed to find out if it’s John Boyega or Zendaya who has been enjoying the red red recently. Kate’s can be found by following sound — just listen for basslines and Sarkodie rapping quickly in Twi — or smell. Roasted akonfem — guinea fowls — or deep-fried tsofi, fatty turkey tails, are worthy companions for jollof rice. Those more at home with textural pleasure should go for the fried gizzards or the hausa koko, a sour, spicy millet porridge that is truly the breakfast of champions.

A platter of Ghanaian food at Kate’s Cafe
Kate’s Cafe and Restaurant
Kate’s Cafe and Restaurant [Official Photo]

36. Lahori Nihaari

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50 Plashet Grove
London E6 1AE, UK
020 8586 9148

Dining in Lahori Nihaari, with its concise menu of grills, slow cooked meats and daals, gives the feeling of being cooked for by someone’s mum, if that mum also happened to own a really good Pakistani restaurant. The draw here is the lamb or chicken karahi, a stew of on-the-bone meat aggressively spiced with ginger, chillis and a heart-clogging slick of scarlet oil on top that beats each and every of the Whitechapel pretenders hands down. It is possible to order non meat dishes here, but they are just as rich ─ get buttery daal maash and the sesame studded kulcha naan to soak up every last drop.

37. Thattukada

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229 High St N
London E6 1JG, UK
020 8548 8239

Kerala drunk food comes in three categories: stir-fried, deep-fried, and battered to an absolute crisp. Now that Preeti, the wife of the duo who owns Thattukada, is back in the kitchen, the restaurant can reclaim its crown as the queen of all three. Curries and roasts have a depth of flavour and spicing that belie their simple descriptions, and should be mopped up with crisp parottas or snow white appams. But it’s the legendary fries that are unmissable — half a chicken cut into segments then aggressively and skilfully fried with chilli and crispy onions, little netholi (anchovy) cooked and eaten whole, or battered mussels that pop thrillingly in the mouth.

Beef fry with parotta at Thattukdada in East Ham, one of London’s best south Indian restaurants
Thattukada
Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

38. Waka Waka and Zanzibar Style

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Unnamed Road
Barking IG11 8EU, UK

As Smithfield and Billingsgate make the journey east, it’s worth noting that Barking already has a thriving market, mainly of West African, Romanian and Caribbean stalls. It’s also home to the only Zanzibari barbecue in the city, although it has two of them: Waka Waka and Zanzibar Hot Style, both of which have the same offering but do different things well. Go to Waka Waka for barbecued chicken singing with smoke and anointed with tamarind and hot sauce, with mandazi — a triangular pin cushion of fried, sweet dough ─ to soak up the juices. Then go on to Zanzibar Hot Style for East African style biryani, sticky with caramelised onions and beef mishkaki. Finish with halwa and a cup of ubuyu, candied baobab, from either.

1. Taste of Pakistan Restaurant

369 Hanworth Rd, Hounslow TW4 5LF, UK

To get the measure of Taste of Pakistan, check out the owner’s response to negative Google Reviews and find the confidence of an uncle who knows just how good he is. Unlike most Pakistani grills in London, which are Lahori, Taste of Pakistan’s owner hails from north west Pakistan, where the burlier Pashtun cuisine overlaps with Afghanistan rather than India. Chapli kebabs come pockmarked with coriander seeds, stacked like pancakes with naans as big as torsos to wipe them up, while charsi karahi has an acidic, pickled tang. The place is rightfully rammed every night, so for anyone who doesn’t live in Hounslow, booking is an absolute must.

369 Hanworth Rd
Hounslow TW4 5LF, UK

2. Gana

15 Village Way E, Harrow HA2 7LX, UK
Fry at Gana in west London
Gana
Gana [Official Photo]

One of the most tempting single pages of a London menu is at this Sri Lankan institution in Rayners Lane. The regular menu reels through the island’s greatest hits, and then when it feels like a decision is finally made: A page of specials, tucked at the back like a stolen afterthought. Fried nethali, plump anchovies popped and crunched whole; garlic fry worth shunning people for a week; chicken liver curry; squid stuffed with egg; muyal (rabbit); kudal (lamb intestines); and marai (venison) — all fried or curried. The venison fry comes dense and sticky, almost the texture of jerky and dark as molasses, riddled with crispy onions just before the point of burning. Some of the best subcontinental game cooking in London, at a third of Gymkhana’s prices.

15 Village Way E
Harrow HA2 7LX, UK

3. Shree Krishna Vada Pav

121 High St, Hounslow TW3 1QL, UK
Shree Krishna Vada Pav in west London
Shree Krishna Vada Pav
Shree Krishna Vada Pav [Official Photo]

The best of the Dishoom menu, as everyone knows, is contained in the small plates section where paus, bhels, fries and cheese toasts abound. Shree Krishna Vada Pav is what happens when the menu is only this and where zero concession is made to Western tastes — 70+ Maharastrian snacks inspired by Bombay and its Chowpatty Beach, made for the Gujarati communities of Harrow and Hounslow. The food here shares much affinity with the working class food of the north of England — any fried carbs available are stuffed in between soft barms; think samosas, vadas, bhajis, along with various puris and wraps sprinkled with sev and Desi-Chinese curries. Don’t miss the paneer bomb, a light tomato curry of paneer, stuffed into bread and then deep fried.

121 High St
Hounslow TW3 1QL, UK

4. Tetote Factory

12 South Ealing Road, London, W5 4QA United Kingdom, London W5 4QX, UK
Custard and adzuki bean buns at Tetote Factory in west London
Tetote Factory
Jonathan Nunn

Thesis: Tetote is the most precise bakery in London. Its custard buns emerge from the oven like bowls in a kiln, each one burnished and pristine, exploding warm crème-pat across South Ealing Road.

Antithesis: Tetote is the most chaotically evil bakery in London. Its barbecue chicken bun contains fried, golden nuggets of chicken, surrounded with a sticky moat of smoky barbecue sauce and mayonnaise.

Synthesis: Tetote is the best bakery in London.

12 South Ealing Road, London, W5 4QA United Kingdom
London W5 4QX, UK

5. Dosa Express

547 High Rd, Wembley HA0 2DJ, UK
Dosa Express, one of the best value restaurants in London
Dosa at Dosa Express
Dosa Express/Facebook

It’s possible to play dosa bingo at this self-service cafe located in the back of a Wembley mini mall, where the menu is arrayed on the wall in 100 sheets of A4 paper, each option a variant of dosa. Take a number and settle into the chaos. Try the traditional — Mysore masala, onion or chutney — the frugal — butter or ghee — the desi-Chinese — stuffed with chilli paneer, Schezwan masala — or the bizarre — chocolate, banana and ice cream. More importantly, make sure to chase it all with rich almond cashew milk, which is golden yellow and sweet as burfi.

547 High Rd
Wembley HA0 2DJ, UK

6. Al Enam

Acton Business Centre, School Rd, Park Royal, London NW10 6TD, UK

On the outskirts of the Park Royal industrial estate at Acton Business Centre, a remarkable flowering of Iraqi and Lebanese restaurants has developed around what would now be called “dark kitchens,” giving a public interface to traditional catering businesses. Al Enam is the largest and most impressive of these restaurants. Lamb shawarma is exceptional here, chopped fine and stuffed in sub rolls with chips, it has the pleasing soft, yielding texture of a good Philly Cheesesteak. Fish cooking is beyond the capability of most grill houses, with butterflied seabass cooked over flames hotter than hel, turning the skin into a burnt shell to scoop perfectly cooked flesh from. Still, the best thing here may just be the lentil soup, given gratis to every table, served with bread, lemon and pickles.  

Acton Business Centre, School Rd, Park Royal
London NW10 6TD, UK

7. Imone

169 High St, New Malden KT3 4BH, UK
Saengsun jjim: whole whiting in “a deeply savoury, spicy sauce, leavened by herbaceous and bitter chrysanthemum greens” at Imone, the best restaurant in New Malden
Saengsun jjim at Imone in New Malden
Jonathan Nunn

It’s sometimes difficult to get a grip on London’s suburban K-Town of New Malden, given so many conflicting stories on who is serving the best barbecue and who is currently using charcoal. Ignore the noise and go straight to Imone, where perfectly modulated banchan snap with a refreshing acidity and signal care in the kitchen. The best dishes on the menu are fish based. Saengsun jjim is a showstopper, a whole whiting in a deeply savoury, spicy sauce, leavened by herbaceous and bitter chrysanthemum greens, while maeungtang has a cleanness and restraint that only the very best Korean broths achieve. Always order the special ─ currently naengmyeon, a sparse cold noodle dish, which is sure to change as the weather cools.

169 High St
New Malden KT3 4BH, UK

8. Yasmina Restaurant and Bakery

18 Western Ave, London W3 7TZ, UK
Two man’oushe, one with zaatar and one with lamb, at Yasmina Restaurant in West Acton
Yasmina
Jonathan Nunn

Tucked around the corner from East Acton station on an anonymous stretch of the Westway is Yasmina, home to London’s best man’oushe. Upon tasting his breads it’s not a surprise to hear that chef Ramadan used to be known as Ramadan al Khabbaz, or Ramadan the baker. Crisp, aerated and so light that they’re in danger of floating away, the man’oushe are best topped with minced lamb (lahm bi ajeen); or simply za’atar and cheese drenched in olive oil, preferably dipped into real garlic sauce and wrapped around pickles. The rest of the menu is equally outstanding, from the fattoush to the kibbeh, which cracks satisfyingly to reveal sticky and sweet minced meat.

18 Western Ave
London W3 7TZ, UK

9. Aladin Kebabish

147-149 W Hendon Broadway, Hendon, London NW9 7EA, UK
Curry at Aladin Kebabish, one of the best value restaurants in west London
Curry at Aladin Kebabish

Aladin’s Kebabish in West Hendon is being slept on by everyone outside of about one thousand Pakistani families who know that it is one of the essential places in London to explore the “holy trinity” of Karachi cooking: haleem, nihaari, and Karachi qorma. The haleem contains the ghost of the strands and fibres it once was, rich and glutinous, while the nihaari is among the city’s best, the fat forming little islets bobbing in an ocean of red oil, above a shank that can be dismantled completely with the back of a spoon. The qorma is unlike any korma Londoners know, inspired by the Mughals but rich without being creamy, with heavy black pepper spicing, all cut through with subtle acidity.

147-149 W Hendon Broadway, Hendon
London NW9 7EA, UK

10. Sam Sandwiches

9 Shepherd's Bush Market, White City, London W12 8DE, UK

At Sam’s Sandwich, the titular Sam, Samir Ladoul works wonders in the medium of Algerian sandwiches, as good as any NY deli or LA torta. Meat comes in the form of marinated chicken, lamb’s liver, kofte patties or merguez sausage, made fresh every lunchtime by a neighbouring butcher in Shepherds Bush Market. Choose two of these and they will be fried with egg and chips into one scoopable mass, with the prudent additions of olives, harissa, and mayonnaise. The result is generous and hefty, meaty and rich, but leavened by the bitterness of olives, the tang of harissa, and the lightness of the bread itself. An exceptional London sandwich.

9 Shepherd's Bush Market, White City
London W12 8DE, UK

11. The Best Broasted

18-f, High Rd, Willesden Green, London NW10 2QD, UK
A broasted chicken under a pile of potatoes at Best Broasted The Best Broasted [Official Photo]

On a site in Willesden Green which has always seemed to be a Syrian restaurant, the normality of The Best Broasted’s menu is only punctured by the appearance of broasted chicken ─ a deep-fried and pressure-cooked one-two combo knock-out that can cook a whole chicken in 15-20 minutes, escaping its Wisconsin origins to take off across the Middle East. The result is chicken juicer than its jagged exterior gives it any right to be, but that’s actually not what to come for. The best thing is the potatoes that come with it, huge coins that at some points are cooked to the appearance of a fresh Pringle and at others puff up like pommes soufflés, with a font of outrageously garlicky toum to baptise them.

18-f, High Rd, Willesden Green
London NW10 2QD, UK

12. Balady and Balady Alaesh

750 Finchley Rd, London NW11 7TH, UK
Falafel and hummus at Balady in west London
Balady
Balady/Facebook

If Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi had used all their powers to hone a sandwich, it would look like the cannonball of a sabich at Balady, the vegetarian, Israeli Temple Fortune cafe where the Sabbo brothers force feed diners falafels that shine like emeralds. Just before lockdown the brothers opened a sister cafe two doors down called Alaesh, where jus-soaked arayes rival any London burger, and a portion of Moroccan fish stew comes with all the sticky burnt vegetables from the bottom of the pan. But the best thing is still the hand-cut chips, capable of sparking homesickness for anyone born between Greece and Syria.

750 Finchley Rd
London NW11 7TH, UK

13. Normah's

Normah's 23-25 Queensway Market, Bayswater, London W2 4QJ, UK
Assam pedas at Normah’s Cafe in Queensway
Assam pedas at Normah’s Cafe in Queensway
Normah’s Cafe [Official Photo]

Normah Abd Hamid’s tiny Queensway Market unit — tucked in an unlikely location between a sign advertising Russian films and an Uzbeki cafe — now rivals Roti King for the title of “London’s best Malaysian caff.” The roti canai here is on a par with Roti King’s, with the fluffy interior not compromised by the caramelisation she achieves on the crust, but diners come mainly for the assam pedas, a scarlet bloodbath of whole fish, tangy with tamarind as sour as wine gums, and lifted by a prickling chilli heat. All of Normah’s dishes work better when she or her nephew are convinced to cook them “pedas” — spicy — but if she doesn’t, service is so charming that it won’t matter.

Normah's 23-25 Queensway Market, Bayswater
London W2 4QJ, UK

14. Chu Chin Chow

7 Cat Hill, East Barnet, London, Barnet EN4 8HG, UK
Malaysian fried chicken, centre, at Chu Chin Chow, one of London’s Best Chinese restaurants for takeaway Jessica Wang

Ask locals about Chu Chin Chow and they might tell you it’s an excellent buffet restaurant, a place to come on Saturday and load up on chow mein. Another type of local might say that actually, get the Malaysian chicken with caramelised wands of lemongrass, or the fruity capital ribs or the duck with an exoskeleton of crispy yam, or gigantic butter prawns with sugar spun floss, or salted yolk squid, or chilli crab with roe sweeter than treasure, from what is London’s best Canto-Malay restaurant hidden in Zone 5 Barnet. Others say there is a further secret menu containing poon choi, gigantic buns filled with curry and exemplary chicken rice with the pink flesh and yellow skin of a Battenberg. Huge, if true.

7 Cat Hill, East Barnet, London
Barnet EN4 8HG, UK

15. Namak Mandi

25 Upper Tooting Rd, Tooting, London SW17 7TS, UK
A wok of simmering lamb karahi at Namak Manda in Tooting
A wok of simmering lamb karahi at Namak Manda in Tooting
Ejatu Shaw

A chaotic, multileveled Pashtun restaurant made up of small private rooms, Namak Mandi has quietly established itself as the stand out restaurant in Tooting’s already crowded Desi scene. Karahis here start their life as mountains of lamb and tomato, made fresh to order and reduced over 45 minutes until it comes together symphonically. Chapli kebabs are pushed out into a sea of scalding fat like funeral boats, and arrive moist with a solid centimetre of blackened crust. But the best dish is the gola karahi, loose and aggressively spiced minced meat kebabs that add a note of char to complete a layered sauce glistening with lamb fat.

25 Upper Tooting Rd, Tooting
London SW17 7TS, UK

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16. Cafe TPT

21 Wardour St, London W1D 6PN, UK
Fried rice at Cafe TPT in Chinatown, one of the best value restaurants in central London
Cafe TPT
Cafe TPT [Official Photo]

A standout among all the Hong Kong-inspired dai pai dongs that line the west side of Wardour St, Cafe TPT is a template for how all Cantonese restaurants of this type in London can and should be — competent at almost everything and exceptional at some. Creamy and rich beef brisket curry on rice and Singapore noodles, elastic and smoky from the wok, are great options, but it’s the pork chop Macau-style with onions, cheesy bechamel and spoonfuls of chilli oil that is unmissable — a chaise longue of a comfort dish that is best eaten in the early hours of the morning to soak up a Soho night.

21 Wardour St
London W1D 6PN, UK

17. Roti Joupa

12 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UT, UK
The best Trinidadian roti and Caribbean food in London: Fried baras filled with chickpea curry from Roti Joupa on Clapham Common, London Adam Coghlan/Eater London

One of the few Trini places in London that has permeated the general food-interested consciousness, possibly due to its ideal location near Clapham North station on the edge of the Common, Roti Joupa specialises in the Indian-influenced cuisine of Trinidad and Tobago. Pliant rotis are folded over each other as vehicles for curried meats and vegetables, but the ideal way to experience Roti Joupa is through an Avengers assemblage of snacks: hot doubles with chickpeas and hot sauce — ask for it — fluffy pholourie; buss-up pieces of roti, scragged edged and perfect for dunking in a curry; and, best of all, London’s best mac n cheese, tray bake style and floating in a paddling pool of tamarind.

12 Clapham High St
London SW4 7UT, UK

18. Paneri Taverna

340 High Rd, Wood Green, London N22 8JW, UK

From the outside Paneri seems to be a simple kebab shop, but step past the counter and it could be mistaken for a homely taverna somewhere on the Cypriot coast. Grilled meat and fish are revered here, with excellent taut sheftalia — pork and offal sausages wrapped in caul fat — being the highlight from the skewers, their skins blistering on the grill. Two spits rotate by the window, one of lamb souvla and one of chicken, so often the cheaper, less appealing option, but here they’re juicy and plump with lacquered skin and meat which falls off the bone.

340 High Rd, Wood Green
London N22 8JW, UK

19. Le Chamarel

27 Turnpike Ln, Harringay, London N8 0EP, UK
Le Chamarel
Le Chamarel [Official photo]

This tiny Turnpike Lane cafe covers Mauritius’s diverse culinary ground, which is predominantly Indian but influenced heavily by French colonialism and Chinese indentured workers. Fried snacks such as meat samossas, gateau piment, and gateau arouille, that’s fragrant and sweet with taro root, are ideal for takeaway or as starters. Rice as riz frit (a fried Chinese preparation) or biriyani can be paired with prawn rougaille, with its Provençal origins, or the spicier octopus vindaille, a cousin of vindaloo derived from the Portuguese-Goan dish of vinha d’alho.

27 Turnpike Ln, Harringay
London N8 0EP, UK

20. Little Ochi Restaurant

113 Dulwich Rd, Herne Hill, London SE24 0NG, UK
Little Ochi
Jonathan nunn

There’s no written menu in this Jamaican seafood restaurant in Herne Hill; just walk directly to the fridge, pick a fish and tell the chef how you want it cooked: steamed in a sauce made of tomato, thyme and okra, fried with a side of bammy, or in sweet brown stew with rice and peas. The fish is cooked to order and there is one chef ─ make sure there is time to wait, take a seat, nurse a Red Stripe for an hour, and then enjoy the fish. This is not a restaurant for everyone, but it’s all the better for it, offering the kind of unaffected simplicity that some people spend money going on holiday for right on Brockwell Park’s doorstep.

113 Dulwich Rd, Herne Hill
London SE24 0NG, UK

21. Kaieteur Kitchen

335-336 Elephant and Castle, London SE1 6TB, UK
Guyanese meat and rice at Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle, one of the best value restaurants in central London Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

There are so few chefs in London who oversee every plate of food in their kitchen, but Faye Gomes is one of them; every dish, no matter how simple, is blessed by little touches of care which signal that she, and only she, has made it. Previously in the ill-fated Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre’s moat, she is now in the temporary Castle Square development where she serves Guyanese stews, exceptional vegetable rices, noodles and roti, and fried fish. Her most exceptional dish is her weekend pepper pot, vinyl black with two day cooked beef, oxtail, tripe and lamb, and the bittersweetness of cassareep.

335-336 Elephant and Castle
London SE1 6TB, UK

22. Hala Restaurant

29-30 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1LG, UK