One of the best things about London (or any multicultural city really) is that you can try so many different cuisines without having to locate your passport. Fancy a Sri Lankan ‘dosa’ pancake? Hoppers or Dosa N’ Chutny in Tooting will sort you right out. Craving some decent Thai food? Get to Som Saa London early to beat the queues. It’s always great when places try to up the authenticity ante, either by figuring out recipe equivalents using local ingredients, tracking down specialist equipment or just not dumbing down the flavours. For this latest trio, I’ve got some destinations that are trying their hardest to transport you to another part of the world, whilst having that all-important London postcode. Happy feasting!
Hand-pulled noodle goodness
I keep this pretty quiet, but I’m obsessed with trying different kinds of regional Chinese cuisine. I haven’t managed to experience it for myself IRL yet (though Charlie’s travels have been tempting me), but fortunately there are a few places in London serving less mainstream dishes. Xi’an Impression is one of them. It’s situated opposite the Arsenal stadium just off of Holloway Road (so avoid on match days) and specialises in street food from the Shan Xi province in China. As per usual Yishyene and I ended up over-ordering, completely forgetting our vegetables and going for hand-pulled noodles, boneless chicken in ginger sauce, dumplings and a couple of traditional burgers. You really need to be able to handle your chilli oil, as the distinct flavour seemed to come through in many of the dishes (luckily I’m a fan). I found the pork burger a little drier than expected but couldn’t fault the noodle dish (this wider sort are nice and chewy) and the prices are pretty reasonable. I’ve also been to Silk Road in Peckham for typical Sichuan cuisine but I’d love to know if there are any other gems out there!
Mozzarella from the experts
Why isn’t meeting someone for a drink and plate of mozzarella a thing? A little while ago I was invited to Obicà, a casual Italian restaurant chain that actually flies in the real deal from Italy three times a week. It’s perfectly acceptable to order a plate of the milky stuff here as a starter (along with an Aperol Spritz, if that’s your kinda thing) and there’s five different kinds on the menu, ranging from the lightly smoked Affumicata to the classic buffalo. My favourite was definitely the subtler taste of the latter and after trying it, I’m now finding it hard to go back to the supermarket stuff I used to buy. Obicà also try to make their pizzas ‘healthier’ and lighter, by using a wholegrain flour, not too much yeast for their dough before leaving it to rise for at least 48 hours (this means that post-pizza bloat is less likely). The concept started in Rome and there’s a few branches dotted over London, New York and even Japan.
Straight Outta Philly
Don’t tell anyone, but it took me a while to realise that a cheesesteak wasn’t just a giant slab of cheddar masquerading as something meaty. Ooops. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically a sandwich filled with beef, cheese sauce and onions. I think I’d probably tried a dodgy version at Subway prior to hearing about the Liberty Cheesesteak Company and now I’m fully appreciative of the work that goes into creating this Philadelphian staple. When founder JP moved to London, he realised that London was seriously lacking in the cheesesteak department and decided to create his own equivalent that could be recreated on this side of the pond. It’s harder than you think, the bread needs to be soft and chewy but able to handle the hot filling plus the meat needs to be butchered in a certain kind of way. You can now buy the authentic result out of the van that sits in Spitalfields Market every day and even have a go at ordering a ‘Whole Wiz Wit’ (basically a whole cheesesteak with ‘Wiz’ cheese sauce and onions) like the Philadelphians do. It’s seriously tasty and they also do a buffalo chicken version.
Let me know if you have any other authentic recommendations in London and beyond!