This weekly column suggests five restaurants to try during the weekend. There are three rules: The restaurants must not be featured in either the Eater London 38 Essential map, or the monthly updated Heatmap, and the recommendations must be outside Zone 1.
Friday 15 March 2019
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall
Colindale’s much-loved food court and shopping centre Oriental City, formerly Yaohan Plaza, had a long and tumultuous history, and was demolished in 2014. Bang Bang opened in the summer of 2017, only partially occupying the old site — the rest is taken up by a supermarket.
It’s a compact glass and steel building, with a Loon Fung food shop to its left, Golden Dragon restaurant on the ground floor, and a tiny branch of Wonderful Patisserie on the first. Facing it is a spacious food hall festooned with red lanterns, lined with kiosks selling a large selection of dishes from across Southeast Asia, with a seating area in the middle.
The quality and variety, merely okay when the centre first opened, has vastly improved in recent months. Highlights over multiple visits have included: vegetarian and halal Malaysian platters at Coconut Tree; Yaki Ya’s yakitori and okonomiyaki; delicious bánh mì made with light, crisp baguettes at Café La Viet; creamy curries and Filipino burgers at Manila Kitchen; and Janchi Korean Kitchen’s fried chicken and hard-to-find tteokbokki.
Indonesian chickpea and mushroom rendang at Makatcha is a must for vegetarians; and Very Duck specialises in duck dishes, and hand-pulled and hand-cut noodles. Black-and-gold salted egg yolk buns at Royal China One 68 are almost too beautiful to eat; and ethereal Japanese egg white pancakes at Fluffy Fluffy live up to the name.
Dessert-drinks include fun and colourful chè and halo-halo; plus Taiwanese tea-based beverages, cream cheese shakes, and the latest trends in bubble tea. A huge appetite is a must.
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall, 399 Edgware Road, Colindale, NW9 0FH.
Ealing’s restaurant scene tells a story of the communities that flow along Uxbridge Road, from Hanwell along to Acton.
A litany of Persian, Afghani, and Lebanese restaurants lines the road up to Northfields; in the opposite direction, a clutch of phenomenal Japanese restaurants jostle affably for the business of the area’s sizeable expat community. It’s telling that the superlative sushi at Kiraku — particularly a tokujo chirashi strewn with a chef’s choice that might include toro, hamachi, and crimson jewels of roe — comes from Atari-Ya just a few doors down.
The fish is passed over a small counter where diners perch like magpies, or out into the traffic of the main dining room where exceptional noodles and broths table real estate. Yaru soba and atsu-atsu udon are stand-out orders, noodles writhing and springy in the latter and languidly draped in the former, both winningly accessorised with greaseless, generous tempura of prawn that would easily stand up to Koya’s rightly lauded version.
Suraj Sweet Mart
Newsagents stack mutton rolls and idli where one might normally find chewing gum, electronic shops open up into Vedic astrology practitioners and snack shops. Nowhere else in London, apart from Elephant and Castle, has all the raw materials for a thriving mini-mall scene, where immigrant businesses forced to be imaginative eke out livings with the small space allotted to them by capital, where Goan snack shops, dosa canteens and paan peddlers all the same unit.
Suraj Sweet Mart on a corner in Wembley Central is another exercise in misdirection: a fleeting glimpse suggests barfi and sev by the pound, but a deeper look reveals some of the best value vegetable takeaway in the city. Usually three-to-four hot curries bubble away at the counter, a judiciously spiced daal or saag paneer perhaps, while portions of chilli paneer or deep fried spicy globes of gobi manchurian can be warmed up with plain rice or biriyani for £2.
Fans of Fleabag may be surprised to know that the delightfully flawed protagonist’s guinea-pig cafe was a real place on the village high-street of north London’s Dartmouth Park neighbourhood. Now owned by Istanbul couple, Ibrahim and Nihan Aksu, the cafe has been gutted and transformed into the aptly named Bold.
Gone is the shabby decor — which had to be removed twice because Fleabag production crews reinstalled the rodent portraits for series 2 filming during the cafe’s remodel — replaced with an airy dining room, a technicolour palette, plush seating, and brilliant food. “Everyone knows kebab,” says Ibrahim, “but we wanted people to know more about modern Turkish food and how it is being served in Istanbul.
” Weekends see the cafe fill with locals and their dogs fresh off Hampstead Heath, hungrily tucking into pancakes, menemen, and gluten-free porridge from the all-day breakfast menu. But it’s Nihan’s weekly specials, mezze and salad offerings that truly shine with their fresh ingredients and bright seasoning.
Among the tacos, fried chicken, and a second outpost of the excellent Nandine there’s Zephyr Burger, specialising in ‘old school’ California-style burgers. London may be somewhat saturated with meat-in-a-bun options but it’s rare to find a really decent example of the smashed style popularised by behemoth brands such as Shake Shack.
Fifty-day dry aged beef is pressed thinly on the grill creating a dark, heavily seasoned crust. Fans of the juicy, rare meat style may be disappointed but there’s a lot to be said for this method, which maximises Maillard reaction over a large surface area and leaves crisp, raggedy edges.
The burger is garnished with lettuce, optional American cheese, pink pickled onions and their excellent ‘House Sauce’ — a sweet, mayonnaise-based condiment reminiscent of the Big Mac “special”. Final words of advice: one patty is never enough so it’s best to order the double.