12 Under-The-Radar Restaurants Worth Knowing About
Towpath Café, Hackney
A lot has changed since Towpath first rolled up its shutters on the Regent’s Canal in Hackney ten years ago – a time when everything but the toasted cheese sandwich was cooked from home across the bridge. However, it’s still a relatively secret spot that’s loved by locals. On a perch beside the east London canal, this is where to go if you want a relaxed meal in a vibrant neighbourhood. Whether you’re planning a party or a long lunch, make sure to order extensively from the regularly changing menu, which includes dishes like taramasalata, radishes and toast; brown shrimp with capers, rocket and mint; and goat’s curd and garlic.
Little Georgia, Hackney & Islington
Little Georgia comprises two authentic restaurants where you can enjoy traditional, homemade Georgian dishes – think chopped beetroot salad and hearty, autumnal cheesebread. Little Georgia Islington is the bigger of the two and is licensed, offering a selection of Georgian wine and chacha grape vodka. Over in Hackney, Little Georgia is an intimate, cosy space with retro décor. This site is BYOB and – best of all – there is no corkage charge. Both are ideal spots for those looking to try something a little different.
Founded by Pary Baban in 2016, Nandine has become a mecca for those looking for authentic, Kurdish food in London. In Camberwell, where Pary first arrived in the UK from Kurdistan in 1995 after being displaced from her home, Nandine’s menus are inspired by her travels around Kurdistan. Dining is based largely on sharing plates and highlights include smoked aubergine; aged, cracked wheat in sundried yoghurt topped with baked garlic tomatoes; and loaded Beharat fries rolled in za’atar and topped with pomegranate sauce, pink yoghurt, mint and sesame seeds. Don’t miss Nandine’s signature seven-spice chicken shish which is coated in a secret spice blend and served with za’atar flatbread and labneh amba dip.
Cadet, Newington Green
Wine bar Cadet in Newington Green is headed up by Jamie Smart – previously of Brawn – who serves a menu of considered and creative French cooking. A wine bar and shop from wine importers Beattie & Roberts and charcutier George Jephson, the space only opened this summer, but has already built a loyal following of Stoke Newington locals. It offers wine and charcuterie to sit in or takeaway, and a cave-à-manger style kitchen with daily changing menu. Dishes could include anything from chilled cucumber and hazelnut soup; tomatoes with peaches and fennel pollen; and red current and cherry clafoutis.
Okan, South Bank & Brixton
Once a relatively unknown, tiny restaurant in the middle of Brixton Village, Japanese eatery Okan now has two sites in Brixton and one on the South Bank. These days, the Japanese canteens get very busy, but you can usually beat the queues if you swing by around lunchtime or mid-afternoon. The team specialises in Osaka-style street food such as yaki soba, yaki udon and okonomiyaki pancakes. Be sure to try the okonomiyaki, served with prawns, squid kimchi and sweetcorn – it’s authentic and delicious.
The Garden Café, Lambeth
One of our favourites on this list is the Garden Museum’s award-winning Garden Café. Housed in a beaten-bronze pavilion, the restaurant’s interiors are inspired by its leafy surroundings, as is its menu, which is currently looked after by George Ryle, formerly of Primeur and Padella, who serves a weekly changing modern British and European selection of seasonal dishes: imagine hake with girolles, leeks and lardo; hazelnut cake with poached plums and chantilly cream; and doughnuts with milk ice-cream and chocolate sauce. The café is open seven days a week for lunch, with a dinner service on Tuesday and Friday.
Charlie and Frank Boxer opened their Italian deli in Vauxhall back in 2008. Today, Italo is a buzzy café where locals sit outside with small plates and coffee. A community-based shop in pretty Bonnington Square, the team aims to reflect the values of the local area. And despite its growing reputation for the food which comes out of the kitchen, and the quality of its stock (especially the pasta selection), it has remained what it always intended to be – a corner shop for the neighbourhood. For walk-ins only, this is a lunchtime gem that – at this time of year – serves the likes of Caesar salad with warm crispy lamb shoulder, kale, roasted beetroot and anchovy dressing.
Caravel, Regent’s Canal
This year saw the launch of Caravel, a restaurant and bar from Fin and Lorcan – the sons of Sessions Art Club's Jon Spiteri. On the banks of the Regent’s Canal, the brothers have restored an old working barge with the help of Holborn Studios. The result is a stylish 40-seater dining room with an open kitchen. Lorcan’s menu is inspired by his time at Quo Vadis, Oldroyd and Studio Kitchen. Expect to sample dishes such as sesame prawn toast with spiced tartare; white crab tagliatelle with fennel and garlic; and roasted hake with confit potatoes and curry sauce. Desserts nod to Lorcan’s childhood favourites – look out for blood orange jelly with honeycomb, joined by almond cake with salted caramel ice-cream.
Until recently, Nigerian-born Adejoké Bakare was still a home cook. For several years she hosted dinner parties and supper clubs, but in 2019 she won a competition to open a three-month pop-up in Brixton Village. Chishuru launched in August 2020, inspired by the food of Nigeria. After Jay Rayner visited and gave the restaurant a rave review in November 2020, the pop-up became a permanent fixture. Now, this Brixton hotspot serves contemporary West African food with a foundation of age-old recipes, techniques and spices. The kitchen offers a set menu only, priced at £48 for dinner (£45 for vegetarian) and £30 at lunch on Fridays and Saturdays.
Cue Point, Chiswick
This spot was personally recommended to us by both Jay Rayner and some enthusiastic locals. An Afghan BBQ joint in Chiswick, Cue Point merges the founders’ British heritage, diverse backgrounds and personal experiences of growing up in London. The result is an all-inclusive, multi-sensory BBQ experience that focuses on ‘nacos’, a sort of fusion filled bun. Our pick? The ones filled with smoked lamb, smoked brisket, BBQ sauce, crunchy slaw, pickled chillies, sour cream, Afghan chutney, crispy onions and pickled red onions.
The Plimsoll, Finsbury Park
This is another gem that was recommended to us by a leading food critic – this time, Grace Dent. The Plimsoll is a restored Victorian neighbourhood pub on the corner of St Thomas's and Plimsoll Road up in Finsbury Park. Built sometime in the late 1800s, the pub was named after maritime hero Samuel Plimsoll. Earlier this year, the kitchen was taken over by Four Legs – who make one of London’s very best cheeseburgers. Dinner is served Monday to Friday and is a lunch-only spot on the weekends. One thing to note: the kitchen is closed whenever Arsenal play at home.
The Eagle, Clerkenwell
The Eagle was founded in 1991 by Michael Belben and chef David Eyre, who wanted to open a restaurant but couldn’t afford to. At the time, a pub serving food was the more affordable route – and the Eagle went on to become one of the original gastropubs. Eyre summed up the style of the food as ‘on holiday all around the Mediterranean’, and that spirit remains the same today. In a traditional wood-panelled pub environment, the menu is written up on the blackboard each day in chalk and posted on Instagram five minutes before service. It could feature anything from tomato and bread soup with parmesan and basil; puy lentils topped with roasted hake; or burnt Basque cheesecake. Whatever it is, we guarantee it will be delicious.
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