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

The Best-Value Restaurants in West London

Maharastrian snacks, rosy salt beef, perhaps the best bakery in London, and more

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West London is bougie. West London is Notting Hill (1999). West London is unaffordable boutiques, Michelin stars at The Ledbury, and the children of famous actors who get profiled in the Evening Standard magazine. West London is none of that at all.

West London is the Japanese bakeries and Polish cafes of Ealing, the Brazilian boteco bars of Kensal Green and Kilburn, the Jewish falafel and schnitzel joints that run up Golders Green to Edgware like a vein of fat on salt beef. West London is Shepherd’s Bush’s still shabby market and the line of Caribbean takeaways that runs down Harlesden. West London is four of the most important South Asian communities in the city that run in an arc from Heathrow: Wembley, Harrow, Hounslow and Southall. West London is the most exciting place to eat in the whole city right now.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Zam Zam

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731 Bath Rd
Hounslow TW5 9TY, UK
020 8759 7999

Only the Creator truly knows where London’s best biryani lies, a vibrating golden degh on a stove somewhere waiting to be opened up. Most likely, it’s at someone’s mum’s house. But the best value is at Zam Zam, in Cranford where the planes come in so low it’s possible to see passenger’s faces. Zam Zam is almost entirely unknown east of Hounslow but for the south Asian communities around Heathrow it is a legend: a small shop opposite a Hilton hotel staffed almost entirely by Pakistani women honing a chicken biriyani. The response from locals is queues out the door and improbable sequel shops dotted around: Holy Zam Zam 2, Zam Zam 3 Gift of God, Zam Zam 4: Karachi Drift. The biryani costs £3.50, £5 with curry, and is everything a biryani should be: simply a Goldilocks perfect bowl of rice, not too dry and not too wet, steaming hot from the degh, layered, subtly spiced with a building burn that can be cooled with raitha. It’s too far for most people to make the trip out, but it’s possible to sleep easier just knowing it exists.

2. Taste of Pakistan Restaurant and Take away

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

Some of the city’s most skilled, most exciting and most generous cooking is being done by chefs who hail from the west of Pakistan, where the cooking forms more of a Venn diagram overlap with Afghanistan’s focus on lamb and fat than India. Somehow contriving to be in the middle of nowhere in an area with four train stations, travelling to Hounslow’s Taste of Pakistan is like a pilgrimage for those who worship at the altar of lamb. Chapli kebabs come pockmarked with coriander seeds, stacked like pancakes, leaving behind a trail of oil rather than syrup. Charsi karahi — named ‘charsi’ after someone who regularly uses cannabis — has an acidic, pickled tang that works even better with chicken. Lamb legs can be ordered individually, and everything can be mopped up with the naans as big as torsos, which sit menacingly on hooks at the head of the table. Don’t even think of coming here without a reservation, or face the owner’s legendary clap backs to disappointed non-diners on Google.

3. Gana Restaurant

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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: dense mutton and potato rolls; brittle lamb samosas filled with nothing but mince, juice and onions; chopped kothu roti accessorised to order. And then, a trap, 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 — together at last; 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 [Official Photo]

4. Shree Krishna Vada Pav

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55 Station Rd
Harrow HA1 2TY, 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 — 70+ Maharastrian snacks inspired by Bombay and its Chowpatty Beach made for the Gujarati communities of Harrow and Hounslow by two friends from Mumbai — Sujay Sohani and Subodh Joshi — who turned to food during the 2009 recession. The food here shares a curious affinity with the snacks from the north of England and Scotland: 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. The paneer bomb, a light tomato curry of paneer, stuffed into bread and then deep fried, is an innovation any Glaswegian chippy could be proud of.

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

5. Tetote Factory

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12 S Ealing Rd, Ealing
London W5 4QA, UK

Resident in Ealing since 2011, Tetote can stake two big claims: the best Japanese bakery in the capital, and one of the best French bakeries too. It might be truer to say that Eisuke Tomita is one of London’s best bakers. Anpan, adzuki bean buns, and kare pan, curry buns, and hot dog buns stuffed with ketchup, mustard and onions are beautiful without being prissy, and consistently wonderful. Fresh fruit brioches — raspberry, blueberry, apricot — showcase the French-Japanese side of Tomita’s work, while the baguettes are on a par with some boulangeries people get on the Eurostar to visit. It’s takeaway only and any haul is best eaten in waves, making sure that the first is the custard bun, bursting in the mouth with hot creme patissiere as it is shamelessly devoured along South Ealing Road.

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

6. Dosa Express

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547 High Rd
Wembley HA0 2DJ, UK

What if there were a menu with 100 options, all of which end in eating a dosa? This very specific dream can be realised at Dosa Express, in the back of a mini mall in Wembley which also contains a Goan snack shop and a stall which carefully assembles paan (tobacco, betel nuts, and spices wrapped in betel leaf). Here it’s best to relax into chaos: queue to pay and get a number, try to grab a table before a family of six take three; everything here is self-service, except the cooking. The dosa options are arrayed on the wall in a grid of A4 sheets of paper, ranging from the traditional and the frugal — mysore masala, onion, chutney; butter, ghee — to the Desi Chinese (chilli paneer, Schezwan masala) or the ?! (Powder, chocolate and banana ice cream.) Invite some friends, order 10 and attempt to eat a whole line on the wall in a game of dosa bingo.

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

7. B & K Salt Beef Bar & Restaruant

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Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln
London HA8 6NL, UK

Before Monty’s Deli, a schlep up to Edgware was the way to great salt beef. Today, it’s still worth 45 minutes on the Northern line to visit John and Michael Georgiou’s Ashkenazi-Jewish deli, rewarded with arguably the best deli sandwiches in the city. If pastrami is the meat of choice of New York’s delis then London’s is surely salt-beef, austerely seasoned and thick sliced, perfectly rosy with flavoursome inlets of fat. Here, it’s the melt-on-the-tongue tongue that is the standout, the texture of meat fudge melded with mustard and caraway. Portions, unlike Katz’s in New York aren’t ludicrously large, which means it’s possible to save room for latkes, possibly to insert into the sandwich, or a gigantic slice of lokshen pudding for dessert.

Salt beef and chopped salad at B&K salt beef bar in west London B&K Salt Beef Bar/Facebook

8. Yasmina Restaurant and Bakery

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18 Western Ave, East Acton
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 manakish. 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 back in Lebanon. Crisp, aerated and so light that they’re in danger of floating away, the manakish are best topped with minced lamb (lahm bi ajeen) or simply za’atar and cheese, drenched in olive oil, and 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 sweet minced meat.

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

9. Aladin Kebabish

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

London is sleeping on its Pakistani restaurants. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of strict no alcohol policies; perhaps it’s that many of them are still working class hubs. Perhaps if more Londoners took measure of the cuisine, the food would change irrevocably. Schrodinger’s chaat. Aladin’s Kebabish in West Hendon is being slept on by many but it doesn’t matter to about one thousand Pakistan families: it is one of the few restaurants that come close to capturing the essence of Karachi and the must-order dishes make up the “holy trinity”: haleem, nihaari and Karachi qorma. The meat porridge of haleem contains the ghost of the strands and fibres it once was, rich and glutinous, lifted by the table addition of ginger, chillis, coriander and lemon. 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 — either chicken or lamb — is unlike any korma Londoners know, inspired by the Mughals but rich without being creamy, with spicing heavy on black pepper and a subtle acidity. One of London’s best curries.

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

10. Sam Sandwiches

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

For those who have been to New York, LA and Mexico and wonder why London doesn’t have a great torta, well this is the next best thing. At Sam’s Sandwich, the titular Sam, Samir Ladoul makes art in the medium of Algerian sandwiches. Meat comes in the form of marinated chicken, lamb’s liver, kofte patties or merguez, made fresh every lunchtime by the butcher across the street who uses Ladoul’s spice mix. Choose two of these and they will be fried with egg and chips into one scoopable mass, while discs of bread, so cushioned they spring back at the merest hint of pressure, are halved and then carefully filled 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. The sort of sandwich to stop anyone in their tracks.

Sam Sandwiches, one of the best value restaurants in west London Deliveroo [Official Photo]

11. Balady

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750 Finchley Rd
London NW11 7TH, UK

Balady is an Arabic word that can mean home, but also homeland and when applied to something like an aubergine, it can mean a local or heirloom variety. The name is written out in both Arabic and Hebrew at this Temple Fortune cafe, nodding to the complex interaction of people that has created the food it serves. That food, all made in house by the Sabbo brothers, is a labour of love and generosity. Falafel so herby the insides look like emeralds, with hot crusts that crack on teeth; sabich as hefty as cannon balls, fluffy pitta containing and soaking up freshly fried aubergine, hard boiled eggs, hummus, chilli sauce, mango pickle, and chips. This is before mentioning the absurdly good shakshuka and cauliflower shawarma, heavenly chips, or weekend specials, like cigars filled with chopped fish, kuba soup, or fish kofta stews inspired by the duo’s Moroccan grandmother.

Falafel and hummus at Balady in west London Balady/Facebook

12. Kaipiras by Barraco

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Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Pl, Kilburn
London NW6 4TA, UK

There are many reasons for the small plate explosion, but deep down people know the starter/main course/dessert paradigm is clapped and what everyone secretly wants from a menu is a succession of snacks. Enter Kaipiras by Barraco, a Brazilian boteco bar tucked away on a back street in Kilburn. All the best things are in the starter section: mandioca frita, fat chips of cassava that make a mockery of every fried potato pretender; torresmo, undersold on the menu as pork scratchings but in reality crisped hunks of fried pork belly, fat fluffed up and creamy; and calabreza acebolada, Brazilian sausages and onions that arrive shaking and sizzling in the pan. This is perfect drinking food, to be guzzled down with the three C’s: ice cold Chopp, caipirinhas, or straight cachaça.

Mixed grill, rice, and a fried egg at Kaipiras by Barraco, one of the best value restaurants in west London Kaipiras [Official Photo]

13. Mama's Kubo

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Unit 5/6, Palace Court, 250 Finchley Rd, West Hampstead
London NW3 6DN, UK

London’s Filipino chefs take divergent approaches: Some don’t mess, serving dishes as traditionally as possible. Others have taken the bones of Filipino cuisine and put new flesh on them, never claiming authenticity. Rommel Bustarde’s approach at Mama’s Kubo is somewhere in between, the food recognisably Filipino but looking outwards, tidying up and straightening lines of what is a notoriously riotous cuisine. A liver adobo is at the top of London’s pantheon: soft, creamy, honking with garlic, paired with an off menu garlic rice that can be felt on the breath the next morning. Sisig radiates like a sun, pig finely chopped, less heavy on the offal than other versions but with a strong crispy caramelisation of the heat of the pan. Pancit palabok is a cipher of a rich carbonara, with pancit for spaghetti, dried fish providing parmesan’s umami, pork rind for guanciale, egg the texture of tofu and then a whole load of prawns and squid. Finish with taho, layered silken tofu in a pool of lukewarm syrup, hitting all the comfort points of a morning bowl of porridge sweetened with honey.

Mama’s Kubo, one of the best value restaurants in west London Mama’s Kubo [Official Photo]

14. Kululu

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45 Brent St, Hendon
London NW4 2EA, UK

Kululu has only been open for a few months, propping up the counter of a kosher deli in Hendon called ... Hendon Kosher Deli. Elad and Ella assemble sandwiches the size of new-borns, sourcing challah from Just Kosher in Borehamwood that provides the barest lip service to resistance, letting the fillings speak for themselves. Pairing those fillings is an art form: salt beef, sliced thin as baloney and piled up, should be ordered simply with pickles and mustard. Egg salad was ordered with an outstanding sticky steak and onions, but even better would be sweet hot peppers, saving the egg for three huge schnitzels the width of escalopes; disregard the cold aubergine completely. The salt beef and the steak are £12 and the schnitzel is £10 plus accessories: these are proper prices for proper sandwiches, and the money is going on the superb ingredients rather than the rent. Don’t sleep on it — Kululu is easily in London’s top 5 sandwich shops and can only get better. 

15. Eram Shishlik

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5-6, Culmington Parade, West Ealing
London W13 9BD, UK

On the Ealing section of Uxbridge Road there are more Persian restaurants than you can shake a stick of koobideh at, the result of an ever westward movement of Iranians in London from Kensington to Hammersmith and all the way out into the boondocks. The restaurants here, by and large, have the same menu: the same marinated skewers, the same one or two stews, the same one or two fragrant rices. Eram Shishlik stands out not just for its strangely bougie cafe interior but for the aberration on the recited list of meats: lamb neck. It takes a huge amount of confidence to put a neck on the menu and serve it simply, knowing that people will order it regardless. Not only is it a cheap cut; when it arrives, it is quite unmistakably a neck: three fragile vertebrae surrounded by knotty meat that has been slow cooked until it comes apart in guitar strings of flesh, all wobbly fat and sinew basted in what seems like a vat of butter, onions, and saffron. It absolutely demands careful picking apart, scraping at the bone with fork and finally teeth, sucking out the marrow from the now completely fleshless vertebrae. This is cooking completely without ego: no searing hot grill, no complex marinade, just careful preparation and time. It’s the kind of exceptional home cooking everyone secretly craves when eating out.

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1. Zam Zam

731 Bath Rd, Hounslow TW5 9TY, UK

Only the Creator truly knows where London’s best biryani lies, a vibrating golden degh on a stove somewhere waiting to be opened up. Most likely, it’s at someone’s mum’s house. But the best value is at Zam Zam, in Cranford where the planes come in so low it’s possible to see passenger’s faces. Zam Zam is almost entirely unknown east of Hounslow but for the south Asian communities around Heathrow it is a legend: a small shop opposite a Hilton hotel staffed almost entirely by Pakistani women honing a chicken biriyani. The response from locals is queues out the door and improbable sequel shops dotted around: Holy Zam Zam 2, Zam Zam 3 Gift of God, Zam Zam 4: Karachi Drift. The biryani costs £3.50, £5 with curry, and is everything a biryani should be: simply a Goldilocks perfect bowl of rice, not too dry and not too wet, steaming hot from the degh, layered, subtly spiced with a building burn that can be cooled with raitha. It’s too far for most people to make the trip out, but it’s possible to sleep easier just knowing it exists.

731 Bath Rd
Hounslow TW5 9TY, UK

2. Taste of Pakistan Restaurant and Take away

369 Hanworth Rd, Hounslow TW4 5LF, UK

Some of the city’s most skilled, most exciting and most generous cooking is being done by chefs who hail from the west of Pakistan, where the cooking forms more of a Venn diagram overlap with Afghanistan’s focus on lamb and fat than India. Somehow contriving to be in the middle of nowhere in an area with four train stations, travelling to Hounslow’s Taste of Pakistan is like a pilgrimage for those who worship at the altar of lamb. Chapli kebabs come pockmarked with coriander seeds, stacked like pancakes, leaving behind a trail of oil rather than syrup. Charsi karahi — named ‘charsi’ after someone who regularly uses cannabis — has an acidic, pickled tang that works even better with chicken. Lamb legs can be ordered individually, and everything can be mopped up with the naans as big as torsos, which sit menacingly on hooks at the head of the table. Don’t even think of coming here without a reservation, or face the owner’s legendary clap backs to disappointed non-diners on Google.

369 Hanworth Rd
Hounslow TW4 5LF, UK

3. Gana Restaurant

15 Village Way E, Harrow HA2 7LX, UK
Fry at Gana in west London 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: dense mutton and potato rolls; brittle lamb samosas filled with nothing but mince, juice and onions; chopped kothu roti accessorised to order. And then, a trap, 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 — together at last; 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

4. Shree Krishna Vada Pav

55 Station Rd, Harrow HA1 2TY, UK
Shree Krishna Vada Pav in west London 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 — 70+ Maharastrian snacks inspired by Bombay and its Chowpatty Beach made for the Gujarati communities of Harrow and Hounslow by two friends from Mumbai — Sujay Sohani and Subodh Joshi — who turned to food during the 2009 recession. The food here shares a curious affinity with the snacks from the north of England and Scotland: 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. The paneer bomb, a light tomato curry of paneer, stuffed into bread and then deep fried, is an innovation any Glaswegian chippy could be proud of.

55 Station Rd
Harrow HA1 2TY, UK

5. Tetote Factory

12 S Ealing Rd, Ealing, London W5 4QA, UK
Custard and adzuki bean buns at Tetote Factory in west London Jonathan Nunn

Resident in Ealing since 2011, Tetote can stake two big claims: the best Japanese bakery in the capital, and one of the best French bakeries too. It might be truer to say that Eisuke Tomita is one of London’s best bakers. Anpan, adzuki bean buns, and kare pan, curry buns, and hot dog buns stuffed with ketchup, mustard and onions are beautiful without being prissy, and consistently wonderful. Fresh fruit brioches — raspberry, blueberry, apricot — showcase the French-Japanese side of Tomita’s work, while the baguettes are on a par with some boulangeries people get on the Eurostar to visit. It’s takeaway only and any haul is best eaten in waves, making sure that the first is the custard bun, bursting in the mouth with hot creme patissiere as it is shamelessly devoured along South Ealing Road.

12 S Ealing Rd, Ealing
London W5 4QA, UK

6. Dosa Express

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

What if there were a menu with 100 options, all of which end in eating a dosa? This very specific dream can be realised at Dosa Express, in the back of a mini mall in Wembley which also contains a Goan snack shop and a stall which carefully assembles paan (tobacco, betel nuts, and spices wrapped in betel leaf). Here it’s best to relax into chaos: queue to pay and get a number, try to grab a table before a family of six take three; everything here is self-service, except the cooking. The dosa options are arrayed on the wall in a grid of A4 sheets of paper, ranging from the traditional and the frugal — mysore masala, onion, chutney; butter, ghee — to the Desi Chinese (chilli paneer, Schezwan masala) or the ?! (Powder, chocolate and banana ice cream.) Invite some friends, order 10 and attempt to eat a whole line on the wall in a game of dosa bingo.

547 High Rd
Wembley HA0 2DJ, UK

7. B & K Salt Beef Bar & Restaruant

Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln, London HA8 6NL, UK
Salt beef and chopped salad at B&K salt beef bar in west London B&K Salt Beef Bar/Facebook

Before Monty’s Deli, a schlep up to Edgware was the way to great salt beef. Today, it’s still worth 45 minutes on the Northern line to visit John and Michael Georgiou’s Ashkenazi-Jewish deli, rewarded with arguably the best deli sandwiches in the city. If pastrami is the meat of choice of New York’s delis then London’s is surely salt-beef, austerely seasoned and thick sliced, perfectly rosy with flavoursome inlets of fat. Here, it’s the melt-on-the-tongue tongue that is the standout, the texture of meat fudge melded with mustard and caraway. Portions, unlike Katz’s in New York aren’t ludicrously large, which means it’s possible to save room for latkes, possibly to insert into the sandwich, or a gigantic slice of lokshen pudding for dessert.

Lanson House, 11 Whitchurch Ln
London HA8 6NL, UK

8. Yasmina Restaurant and Bakery

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

Tucked around the corner from East Acton station on an anonymous stretch of the Westway is Yasmina, home to London’s best manakish. 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 back in Lebanon. Crisp, aerated and so light that they’re in danger of floating away, the manakish are best topped with minced lamb (lahm bi ajeen) or simply za’atar and cheese, drenched in olive oil, and 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 sweet minced meat.

18 Western Ave, East Acton
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

London is sleeping on its Pakistani restaurants. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of strict no alcohol policies; perhaps it’s that many of them are still working class hubs. Perhaps if more Londoners took measure of the cuisine, the food would change irrevocably. Schrodinger’s chaat. Aladin’s Kebabish in West Hendon is being slept on by many but it doesn’t matter to about one thousand Pakistan families: it is one of the few restaurants that come close to capturing the essence of Karachi and the must-order dishes make up the “holy trinity”: haleem, nihaari and Karachi qorma. The meat porridge of haleem contains the ghost of the strands and fibres it once was, rich and glutinous, lifted by the table addition of ginger, chillis, coriander and lemon. 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 — either chicken or lamb — is unlike any korma Londoners know, inspired by the Mughals but rich without being creamy, with spicing heavy on black pepper and a subtle acidity. One of London’s best curries.

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

10. Sam Sandwiches

9 Shepherd's Bush Market, White City, London W12 8DE, UK
Sam Sandwiches, one of the best value restaurants in west London Deliveroo [Official Photo]

For those who have been to New York, LA and Mexico and wonder why London doesn’t have a great torta, well this is the next best thing. At Sam’s Sandwich, the titular Sam, Samir Ladoul makes art in the medium of Algerian sandwiches. Meat comes in the form of marinated chicken, lamb’s liver, kofte patties or merguez, made fresh every lunchtime by the butcher across the street who uses Ladoul’s spice mix. Choose two of these and they will be fried with egg and chips into one scoopable mass, while discs of bread, so cushioned they spring back at the merest hint of pressure, are halved and then carefully filled 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. The sort of sandwich to stop anyone in their tracks.

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

11. Balady

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

Balady is an Arabic word that can mean home, but also homeland and when applied to something like an aubergine, it can mean a local or heirloom variety. The name is written out in both Arabic and Hebrew at this Temple Fortune cafe, nodding to the complex interaction of people that has created the food it serves. That food, all made in house by the Sabbo brothers, is a labour of love and generosity. Falafel so herby the insides look like emeralds, with hot crusts that crack on teeth; sabich as hefty as cannon balls, fluffy pitta containing and soaking up freshly fried aubergine, hard boiled eggs, hummus, chilli sauce, mango pickle, and chips. This is before mentioning the absurdly good shakshuka and cauliflower shawarma, heavenly chips, or weekend specials, like cigars filled with chopped fish, kuba soup, or fish kofta stews inspired by the duo’s Moroccan grandmother.

750 Finchley Rd
London NW11 7TH, UK

12. Kaipiras by Barraco

Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Pl, Kilburn, London NW6 4TA, UK
Mixed grill, rice, and a fried egg at Kaipiras by Barraco, one of the best value restaurants in west London Kaipiras [Official Photo]

There are many reasons for the small plate explosion, but deep down people know the starter/main course/dessert paradigm is clapped and what everyone secretly wants from a menu is a succession of snacks. Enter Kaipiras by Barraco, a Brazilian boteco bar tucked away on a back street in Kilburn. All the best things are in the starter section: mandioca frita, fat chips of cassava that make a mockery of every fried potato pretender; torresmo, undersold on the menu as pork scratchings but in reality crisped hunks of fried pork belly, fat fluffed up and creamy; and calabreza acebolada, Brazilian sausages and onions that arrive shaking and sizzling in the pan. This is perfect drinking food, to be guzzled down with the three C’s: ice cold Chopp, caipirinhas, or straight cachaça.

Priory House, 10 Kingsgate Pl, Kilburn
London NW6 4TA, UK

13. Mama's Kubo

Unit 5/6, Palace Court, 250 Finchley Rd, West Hampstead, London NW3 6DN, UK
Mama’s Kubo, one of the best value restaurants in west London Mama’s Kubo [Official Photo]

London’s Filipino chefs take divergent approaches: Some don’t mess, serving dishes as traditionally as possible. Others have taken the bones of Filipino cuisine and put new flesh on them, never claiming authenticity. Rommel Bustarde’s approach at Mama’s Kubo is somewhere in between, the food recognisably Filipino but looking outwards, tidying up and straightening lines of what is a notoriously riotous cuisine. A liver adobo is at the top of London’s pantheon: soft, creamy, honking with garlic, paired with an off menu garlic rice that can be felt on the breath the next morning. Sisig radiates like a sun, pig finely chopped, less heavy on the offal than other versions but with a strong crispy caramelisation of the heat of the pan. Pancit palabok is a cipher of a rich carbonara, with pancit for spaghetti, dried fish providing parmesan’s umami, pork rind for guanciale, egg the texture of tofu and then a whole load of prawns and squid. Finish with taho, layered silken tofu in a pool of lukewarm syrup, hitting all the comfort points of a morning bowl of porridge sweetened with honey.

Unit 5/6, Palace Court, 250 Finchley Rd, West Hampstead
London NW3 6DN, UK

14. Kululu

45 Brent St, Hendon, London NW4 2EA, UK

Kululu has only been open for a few months, propping up the counter of a kosher deli in Hendon called ... Hendon Kosher Deli. Elad and Ella assemble sandwiches the size of new-borns, sourcing challah from Just Kosher in Borehamwood that provides the barest lip service to resistance, letting the fillings speak for themselves. Pairing those fillings is an art form: salt beef, sliced thin as baloney and piled up, should be ordered simply with pickles and mustard. Egg salad was ordered with an outstanding sticky steak and onions, but even better would be sweet hot peppers, saving the egg for three huge schnitzels the width of escalopes; disregard the cold aubergine completely. The salt beef and the steak are £12 and the schnitzel is £10 plus accessories: these are proper prices for proper sandwiches, and the money is going on the superb ingredients rather than the rent. Don’t sleep on it — Kululu is easily in London’s top 5 sandwich shops and can only get better. 

45 Brent St, Hendon
London NW4 2EA, UK

15. Eram Shishlik

5-6, Culmington Parade, West Ealing, London W13 9BD, UK

On the Ealing section of Uxbridge Road there are more Persian restaurants than you can shake a stick of koobideh at, the result of an ever westward movement of Iranians in London from Kensington to Hammersmith and all the way out into the boondocks. The restaurants here, by and large, have the same menu: the same marinated skewers, the same one or two stews, the same one or two fragrant rices. Eram Shishlik stands out not just for its strangely bougie cafe interior but for the aberration on the recited list of meats: lamb neck. It takes a huge amount of confidence to put a neck on the menu and serve it simply, knowing that people will order it regardless. Not only is it a cheap cut; when it arrives, it is quite unmistakably a neck: three fragile vertebrae surrounded by knotty meat that has been slow cooked until it comes apart in guitar strings of flesh, all wobbly fat and sinew basted in what seems like a vat of butter, onions, and saffron. It absolutely demands careful picking apart, scraping at the bone with fork and finally teeth, sucking out the marrow from the now completely fleshless vertebrae. This is cooking completely without ego: no searing hot grill, no complex marinade, just careful preparation and time. It’s the kind of exceptional home cooking everyone secretly craves when eating out.

5-6, Culmington Parade, West Ealing
London W13 9BD, UK

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