Part-time kosher diner and full-time Jew Reuben Sagar seeks out the best restaurants in London.
When it comes to keeping it kosher in the capital’s restaurants, the choice isn’t immense. Whereas the rest of London can choose between the never-ending list of new dirty burger joints, steamed hirata bun basements or street food stalls, the chosen people have to be, well, a lot more choosy. By our count, there are a grand total of 30-ish Kosher restaurants, all of which pretty much fall into eight categories. Below we choose the best in class, along with the rest of ‘em.
For most of the country, kebabs and shawarma are the food of the late night stumble, the hopefully forgotten end-of-night gorge. However, a good shawarma is the pinnacle of Kosher cuisine. Pretty much every restaurant that serves meat will have it, and there is much debate as to which restaurant serves the best, which uses the best meat, the best laffa (naan), and best fillings.
For us, there is only one winner and that’s Sami’s of Hendon (we prefer this to the Golders Green version). The shawarma is good, but it’s the laffa and fillings that really stand out.
An honourable mention should also go to the legends of the field: Solly’s, a kosher classic whose edgy service divides people, and Whitehouse Express the late night haunt of Golders Green Road.
About as close to street food as Bar Mitzvah boys will get, which is well away from the street. With many of London’s jewish families coming from across the Arab world, standards are high and opinions strongly held. We’ll stick our necks out and recommend Taboon in Golders Green. Sure the decor hasn’t been updated for years and, yes, the smell of fried food follows you around for weeks afterwards, but the falafel is soft, yet delightfully crunchy and comes in fabulously over-generous portions. Delicious.
Pitta, also of Golders Green, is a firm favourite. More modern air filtration also means that customers leave smelling slightly fresher.
The kosher burger scene is limited by the restriction on the obvious burger additions of cheese and bacon. The cheese can’t be eaten with meat (the Torah says you mustn’t eat a goat in its mother’s milk) and the bacon is an obvious no-no. The kosher restaurants of London tackle this limitation in two ways, giving us a split tie for the best burger place. For its ingenuity, Edgware’s The Kitchen gets top marks for concocting delicious facon and dairy-free cheese. The facon (turkey bacon), though yummy, doesn’t really taste like bacon (we’re told), but it’s salty and smoked and is great in The Kitchen’s take on a big mac.
An alternative option can be found at Burgers Bar in Temple Fortune. Go for the Portobello, with a massive portobello mushroom, fried egg and garlic mayo stacked over a succulent patty.
With the ban on cooking meat and milk in the same restaurant, the kosher world has many a veggie friendly dairy restaurant. For many, the best used to be Isola Bella, a restaurant that won out on choice (somehow they do Thai, Italian and “Fish”), if not always taste. However, popular opinion seems to have shifted, conferring the title of best dairy restaurant upon Zest, a new restaurant in the equally new JW3 Jewish Centre on Finchley Road. The reason? Jay Rayner said it was good. That’s right, Jay Rayner off of the Guardian said it was good. No, actually, he said it was “really good”, and the crowds now follow.
The rest? Dulce Vita in Golders Green is OK. The Kanteen in Brent Cross is tasty but nothing special, and Orli is great for a Saturday shakshuka. Don’t know what that is? You’ve not been watching enough Ottolenghi.
Although not quite restaurants, the legendary kosher bakers of London deserve a place in this roundup. The awards are as follow: The Best Bagel prize goes to Grodzinski in Golders Green; the Best Pitta Bread provider has to be Mr Baker in Hendon; the Best Challah is the heaven-like stuff from Daniels in Temple Fortune; and the Best Late Night Bakery is, without doubt, Carmelli’s in Golders Green.
With prawns and pork off the menu, kosher Chinese doesn’t exactly have a head start. However that hasn’t stopped a couple of really good places from popping up. The best has to be Met Su Yan which has branches in Golders Green and Edgware and serves up a delicious crispy shredded beef. A close second is Kaifeng, in Hendon, which does a mean chicken and sweetcorn soup.
Take your parents
The upmarket kosher restaurant world boasts three restaurants. There’s Reubens on Baker Street, which has its moments, but sometimes feels overpriced. Bevis Marks in the City, which for a long time held the crown of the place to go for anniversaries/proposals/graduations/promotions. And now the nearby Restaurant 1701, which has not only taken over Bevis Marks’ former mantel as the best upmarket restaurant but has also moved into its former premises at the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City.
- Slice – Big pizzas, average toppings
- Kwok – We’re slightly suspect of any restaurant that relies solely on serving non-GM food for marketing purposes
- Pepper Grill – Average, very kosher
- La Fiesta – Argentinian meat restaurant
- Maxim – If you can get past the eye-wateringly garish decor it’s quite good
- Pizaza – The best kosher pizza in town (has a sister branch in Hendon)
- Novellino – A kosher stalwart, it closed and then came back. We’ve not been
- SoYo – It has astroturf flooring, not sure…
- King George – Just opened
- Parkside – More kosher than the Chief Rabbi’s kneidlach
- Tasti Pizza – Serves only three types of pizza. Not in that provincial Naples style, but in the do you want mushrooms, peppers or tomatoes way
- White Fish – Bland name, better food
- Adams – According to the website ‘Adam’s kids menus is the dream of every child’. Make of that what you will
For more information on kosher dining in the capital, check out the London Kosher Guide.
By Reuben Sagar.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.