Ethnic eats in London?
May 26, 2011 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Good ethnic food in London. Tell me about it.

I'm headed to London in June and would like to get recommendations on what ethnic restaurants (or even grocery stores/market stalls) MeFites think are especially kickass there. Cheap, expensive, whatever -- as long as they're delicious. Extra points for cuisines that are hard to find in NYC or stateside, just 'cuz.
posted by huskerdont to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend recently moved to work in London for the foreseeable future, and he's absolutely crazy for this place called Patogh. (He's Iranian, if that gives it extra cred.) I've not been there myself, but I can vouch for Persian food being extremely good; evidently these guys do it extremely well.
posted by phunniemee at 11:08 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brick Lane is good for South Asian (you can often negotiate a free beer or snacks before heading in) and Green Street north of Upton Park station has lots of various middle Eastern food (heck, most high streets in East London do). I can't recommend specific ones as I've always been a vistor. :-)
posted by hylaride at 11:16 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

What you'll find on Green Street is not (unless I missed something in the years I lived there) middle eastern food, but asian (which in the UK generally means Indian and Pakistani). In particular there's some great South Indian food on that stretch, I used to go to one place that's just north of Plashet Road, I can't find it now, but it's the one with the fish tanks!

I disagree also that the food on Brick Lane is generally all that good. It's mostly mediocre to fine, but it does tend to cater to tourists and drunks staggering over from the city, and on the whole it's no bargain. There's great North Indian food in most parts of London (although Southall is the obvious place) I don't have a special recommendation besides the mostly delivery restaurant Curry Queen, which delivers to my parents' home in Enfield! Mmmm Curry Queen!

I'm from North East London, so my recommendations will be biased towards that side of things, but my two particular recommendations are that you head to Stoke Newington High Street and surrounding parts of north Hackney for Turkish/Kurdish food, and that you find a good Vietnamese place further south in Hackney, probably along Mare Street. I don't have individual recommendations, as I haven't lived there in several years and what's the best/what's open change often. Hopefully someone else does...
posted by crabintheocean at 12:02 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alounak in Westbourne Grove. Beautiful food, very reasonably priced and BYOB.

Check out the Spice Shop off Portobello Rd, it is amazing.
posted by fire&wings at 12:07 PM on May 26, 2011

The Borough Market is great for international foodstuff. I was starved for authentic Mexican food when I lived in England, and finding things like achiote powder was wonderful. Plenty of countries represented: eastern Mediterranean spices, Croatian truffles, Spanish smoked mackerel, German sausage, Italian cured meats, Caribbean, Indian...
posted by Specklet at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

A couple of north London ones...

Lalibela for Ethiopian in Kentish Town/Tufnell Park, also Queen of Sheba further down Fortess Road, nearer Kentish Town Station. Both very tasty.

Bintang - further down Kentish Town Road towards Camden Town, cheap as chips Malaysian, BYOB.

Right by Camden Town tube on Kentish Town road is Mango Room - yummy Caribbean, though I can't imagine you're short of Caribbean restaurants in NYC?

More curry houses than you can shake a stick at pretty much everywhere, try a few...
posted by ComfySofa at 12:26 PM on May 26, 2011

As a Pakistani in London, I urge you not to go near Brick Lane. I'll let others talk about Indian, Bangladeshi etc food (although I gather East Ham is the place to go for Keralan, or Quilon if you want posh).

Tayyab's in Whitechapel is the place for Pakistani grills. Nowhere that I've been in London does a decent Pakistani style chicken tikka (cooked over coals, not in a tandoor), but Tayyab's lamb chops are justifiably legendary. Needo's, just around the corner, is also very good, and less likely to have 100-strong queues.

Raavi Kebab on Drummond Street, next to Euston Station, has the best seekh kebabs I've had in London, and the best nihari (slow cooked beef stew). It's just across the road from Ambala Sweets, with great samosa and pakoras, as well as truly fantastic gulab jamun and other Indian sweets.

Sedap on Old Street does excellent Nyonya food, including kuih sweets (I forget the exact term) which I've been told are some of the best outside the region. It's inexpensive, but the food has great finesse. I highly recommend the curry tumis fish, and the curries generally.

Aside from the glorious and pricy David Thompson restaurant at the Halkin in Belgravia, the best authentic Thai food is probably at 101 Thai Kitchen in west London. There was another contender in the basement of a pub off the Edgeware Road where you felt you'd wandered into a Bangkok karaoke bar, and the only place in London where you can get authentic yum pla dook foo, but I can't for the life of me remember it. I first heard of it on Chowhound.
posted by tavegyl at 1:32 PM on May 26, 2011 [11 favorites]

Rasa and Anglo Asian (south and north Indian respectively) in Stoke Newington. Seconding lalibela in tufnell park. Apollo banana leaf in tooting (outrageously cheap and unprepossessing but delicious).
posted by beniamino at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tayyabs is amazing and I recommend it to all visitors. Same for Rasa and Anglo Asian in Stoke Newington. Song Que on Kingsland Road near Shoreditch has such amazing Vietnamese food I've been there twice in the past week for their pho. There are amazing Turkish places all over Hackney but any of the Numara 19 Bos Cirrik chain serve amazing and cheap dishes cooked over a mangal, a type of charcoal BBQ.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 1:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

19 Numara Bos Cirruk in Stoke Newington, Hackney Central and apparently now Dalston is Turkish food sent down from heaven. Not cheap, and the service can be a little slow, but very generous portions and delicious bread and side salads included free. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
posted by *becca* at 1:51 PM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drummond St for south Indian. Diwana is my fvourite, but there are about 10 on the street and I've never had a bad meal. MMmm, Dosa.
posted by handee at 1:55 PM on May 26, 2011

I'm not sure if they have places like it in NYC, but Abeno serves Okonomiyaki, which is a pancake/frittata type dish that is so delicious.

Also, if you're in need of something to do on a Saturday afternoon, the Brunswick has a market of food stalls - everything from Brazillian to Japanese to Indian to Spanish to Argentine... It's brilliant for just wandering around and just eating random things.

(Plus, the Takoyaki stall? Nom.)
posted by Katemonkey at 3:27 PM on May 26, 2011

There's also Abeno Too right next to Leicester Square, which is a bit more informal. Lovely.

As mentioned, there's Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. Loads of them, actually. Song Que is probably my favourite, but the others are good too. Green Papaya on Mare Street is also excellent.

Seconding that Brick Lane is useless, apart from the absolutely awesome bagel places, which are handily open late at night for a bleary-eyed nom. Though you definitely have good bagels in NYC, so don't make the trip special-like.

Re: Drummond St - most of the places there do buffets on Sunday, which is handy. Diwana is excellent, as is Ravi Shankar.

I had a fantastic meal at Muna's on Green Lanes. She does Sudanese/Eritrean food.

There's a great Lebanese place near High Street Kensington station called Falamanki. I had a stonking great meal full of beautiful food, with super-friendly staff enthusiastic about what they're making.

One of my favourite Pakistani places is a little takeaway called Majjo's in East Finchley. The food is superb, though I'll freely admit it's way out of the way.

On that note, possibly the best fish & chips in town is from Toff's, in Muswell Hill. Similarly rather out of the way, but superb, according to fish aficionados.
posted by Magnakai at 3:53 PM on May 26, 2011

Tayyab - oooh yeah, nthing that place. Avoid Brick Lane at all costs.

Actually, just avoid chains generally. Abeno is the exception - but go for Abeno rather than Abeno Too.

Ethiopian - Caledonian Road is the place to go - Menelik is my recommendation.

Turkish - Green Lanes has loads but I'd recommend Mangal Ocakbasi in Dalston.

Vietnamese - Hackney / south end of Mare Street.

Japanese - the best are around Piccadilly but I've only been there with Japanese friends and the signs / menus are not in English so can't name places, sorry.

Georgian - Tblisi on Holloway Road

Russian - Trojka in Primrose Hill

Polish - Patio in Shepherds Bush

Korean - anywhere in New Malden. Don't bother with anywhere else.

Traditional pie & mash - L Manze - Walthamstow (The pies are damned good. I can't in all honesty recommend the jellied eels, but you have to try them at least once...)

Fish and chips - you'll need a weekend trip to Whitby for the best fish and chips in the country...

posted by finding.perdita at 6:26 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Time Out London restaurant guide is your friend.
Specklet, TheDonF and I went to an Eritrean place near the Imperial War Museum(I'm blanking on the name, but it was listed in there).
posted by brujita at 8:41 PM on May 26, 2011

I went to London once and ate at an Indian spot called Durbar. The food was mind blowing and we spotted Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear there as well. Small place, reasonable prices and delicious! OMG I want to go back!
posted by j03 at 12:17 AM on May 27, 2011

> Korean - anywhere in New Malden. Don't bother with anywhere else.

New Malden is quite a trek out for a meal (it's out in the suburbs), so as an alternative there are some great Korean places in Soho: Myung Ga, Ran, Arang.

Japanese, seconding Abeno, personally I prefer the atmosphere in Abeno Too but avoid it on hot days, it can get boiling hot in there with all the grills going.

Eritrean, I can recommend Asmara in Brixton.

Indian, Japanese, Thai etc. you're spoilt for choice really, better to pick an area and then filter the list from there. Even some of the chains can be good, e.g. Busaba for Thai.
posted by iivix at 1:35 AM on May 27, 2011

I think you get the point but just also chiming in YAY for Tayyab's, BOOOOOO for Brick Lane which was a really annoying (hosts hassle you to come in) and disappointing.
posted by like_neon at 5:05 AM on May 27, 2011

Oh just saw the stuff about Korean food. Try Korean restaurants in Soho (Arang is one that I enjoy)
posted by like_neon at 5:06 AM on May 27, 2011

One more Indian suggestion: Tamarind, more of a nouveaux Indian cuisine, and more centrally located than some other suggestions. I'm not sure I've ever gone to London without eating there, and I've never regretted it. Not exactly expensive, but only the reasonable check will reflect that. A couple of other more upscale Indian restaurants are Veeraswamy and the Cinnamon Club.
posted by troywestfield at 6:12 AM on May 27, 2011

My own restaurant recommendation is Spices on Chapel Market St near King's, featuring "curries", many of them Bangladeshi. All of the dishes are tasty, but I really recommend the Achari dishes.

Borough Market is the "Whole Foods" of London market -- high quality, gourmet, but pretty expensive (even by London's standards). Apart perhaps from the ostrich burgers the food is not going to be that novel, as it is exactly the sort of food that you'd find in the deli/cheese/meats sections of a well-appointed Whole Foods. It's still worth a visit but not as interesting as the more local markets in London which cater to local immigrant groups.

For African/Caribbean food, make sure to check out Brixton Market in South London. You can also check out Dalston Market which is in the northeast. Both markets offer food in its raw unvarnished form, including piles of smelly dried fish and unusual parts of cows.

Although Brick Lane is overrated for South Asian food, make sure to stop at one of the two bagel shops there (they're both around the same, or were when I visited) for a UK-style bagel that's entirely unlike those sold in the US. You can also get some "salt beef" which is their answer to corned beef. Also, the Sundays-only Brick Lane market is worth a visit too. Although the restaurants are no longer as authentic, there are plenty of South Asian groceries selling unusual fruits and vegetables as well as gleaming steel pots that range in size from very small to very very large. Also worth popping in for a look.

Don't forget that British food is also a kind of ethnic food, which people often are a bit blind too. I'd recommend the following to get a good sampling:
  • Stop into a Sainsbury's or Tesco to get a look at what a British supermarket looks like. I believe they're the two most popular. Things to pay attention to: drinks (particularly squashes), "biscuits" (cookies) (I love the Bourbon cookies, basically a chocolate cookie sandwich with chocolate filling, and of course you can't go wrong with chocolate-coated digestives), cheese (Red Leicester, Cheshire, Lancashire, etc).
  • Go to Chapel Market, which is every day except Monday I believe. This market offers a variety of foods but always seemed to me to have fairly solid British foodstuffs. There are a number of quality breakfast joints there, which means you can:
  • Eat a full English breakfast. A far more authentic part of British eating culture than high tea and just as tasty. Eggs, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, bubble and squeak, grilled toast, and bacon if you are so inclined.
  • Eat at a Gastropub. Gastropubs are supposed to redeem British cuisine by serving up local and regional specialties using the best ingredients.
  • Savory pies. There just isn't the variety of savory pies in the US that there are in the UK. Definitely have the steak and kidney, the steak and ale pie, and the cheese onion.
  • Kebab shops. I know, I know. You have these in New York. But the ones in London are a bit different and worth a visit. Try to find one that also does fish and chips and have chips, which are completely different than US fries in flavor, texture, and shape. If they have a fryer, you may be lucky and they offer fried battered sausages, which you should not hesitate to try.
  • Mushy peas. Hardly available at all in the US, also available at most fish & chip shops
  • Explore the UK's love affair with carbs: baked potatoes filled with baked beans, and chip butties (a bun filled with french fries/chips).
  • Ploughman's Sandwich. A good English cheese, on a sandwich with lettuce, "pickle" (really a kind of relish), and butter. Very tasty and perfect when you don't have time to stop to eat. You can get acceptable pre-made versions from a Tesco or Sainsbury's.

posted by Deathalicious at 2:24 PM on May 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh just saw the stuff about Korean food. Try Korean restaurants in Soho (Arang is one that I enjoy)

I don't know whether New York has a good selection of Korean restaurants (I imagine it does) but if it doesn't I still wouldn't recommend seeking it out in London. In fact apart from South Asian food I'd recommend not going for Asian food while in London. They do have it and some of it is fine but ultimately the selection for East Asian food is so excellent in New York and the vicinity that I just can't imagine that it's worth your time going to them in London.

The cuisines that are strongest in London specifically are going to be British (obviously), South Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, African, and European.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:31 PM on May 27, 2011

Oh! The one exception for East Asian food is Asakusa just around the corner from Mornington Crescent station (one stop after Camden). Stunningly good Japanese, very friendly staff. Have the grilled mackerel with miso and the sashimi platter, or actually anything that takes your fancy (the dishes are quality and inexpensive all around). The only sushi I've had that was better was the Fish Market in Tokyo.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:55 PM on May 27, 2011

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