When Chris Pople agreed to guest on Editer as our cheap eats expert, we were downright thrilled. Not only because he is a top blogger (The Times once named Cheese and Biscuits as one of the best 10 blogs in the world), but also because we knew he’d send us to obscure grills and holes in the wall in parts of London we always get lost in. Reading his mouthwatering recommendations made us hurry to get there, though. Here are Chris’ five top tips for belt-loosening, wallet-sparing January tucker.
Tsiakkos & Charcoal, Maida Vale
5 Marylands Road, London W9 2DU (020 7286 7896)
As a general rule, and for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, Greek restaurants in London usually aren’t worth bothering with. But tucked away in the leafy, residential back streets of Maida Vale is an unassuming little taverna that, thanks to its low prices, eccentric decor (rather like having your dinner in Steptoe’s back yard) and charming staff, is single-handedly carrying the flag for an entire nation’s cuisine. Chunky house hummus and taramasalata are a million miles away from the bland supermarket versions, and kleftiko is a vast, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, crispy on the outside and succulent within, resting on a giant mound of spicy rice, all for £12.
Silk Road, Camberwell
49 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR (020 7703 4832)
This miraculous little place serves some of the very best Chinese (Xinjiangese, if we’re being accurate about these things) food in the whole of London, at prices that can only be described as a pittance, and with an uncompromising attitude to spicing that will make you literally weep with joy. Order cumin lamb skewers (eat them immediately, before the lamb fat goes cold), fried pork dumplings (£3 for 10, handmade all day long), hand-torn cabbage (trust me on this one), and a huge steaming pot of belt noodle chicken. Then plan your next visit.
Patty & Bun, Marylebone
54 James Street, London W1U 1EU ( 020 7487 3188)
London is in burger overdrive at the moment. There are so many new places opening that it’s hard to separate the good from the cynical bandwagon-jumpers. But Patty & Bun are the real deal and, in true street-food style, have only recently opened a bricks and mortar Marylebone outfit, after building up a huge following for their mobile van. As well as knockout burgers (such as the José José with chilli chorizo relish, or the classic Ari Gold) don’t forget to try their chicken wings – soft confited flesh with perfect crispy skin – and the rosemary-salted triple-cooked fries.
Hot Stuff, Vauxhall
19 Wilcox Road, London SW8 2XA (020 7720 1480)
There’s no menu at Hot Stuff or, if there is, it’s never used. The charming guys who run the place will just, after checking there’s nothing you particularly don’t want, bring out a selection of their favourite house dishes – and, from my own experience, their favourites stand a good chance of being yours, too. The owners’ Indian East African roots are showcased in dishes such as amazing marrow curry, plump prawns in garlic and tomato, and an Indian-Kenyan speciality flat pancake studded with lamb mince, egg and spices, served with a chilli-yoghurt sauce. BYO, and pay around £15 a head.
The Heron, Paddington
Norfolk Crescent, London W2 2DN (020 7724 8463)
Under a somewhat unfriendly-looking estate pub in the back streets of Paddington is London’s most authentic, and very possibly best, Thai restaurant. Here you will rub shoulders with gangs of Thai expats as you knock back plates of terrifyingly hot laab ped (minced duck salad spiked with lemongrass, shallots, sweet basil and lots and lots of chilli), yum pla duk fuu (an unusual dry catfish salad, like a big fish biscuit) and som tam poo (papaya salad with fermented pickled crab: eye-watering, in a good way). It’s uncompromising and frequently painful but, like the country itself, rewards your persistence in spades.