Why Are These Foods So Hard To Find In London?

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 19 months ago
Why Are These Foods So Hard To Find In London?
Is London ready for deep dish pizza? Photo by A Gude in the Londonist Flickr pool

We keep our eye closely on food trends at Londonist, and recently we've been thrilled to watch some previously under-represented cuisines such as American-style BBQ and Greek food begin to thrive.

Sometimes however, we're left scratching our heads as to why certain foods just haven't become 'a thing'.

Here's a list of those we're craving, but we just can't find. Do tell us what we've missed. Or indeed if you know where we can get any of the ones we've listed!

Deep dish pizza

London has enjoyed a wave of Neapolitan pizzeria openings in the past few years which is unlikely to stop any time soon, but what about deep dish?

We often wonder why no-one has dedicated themselves to producing a really good version of this Chicago-style pie.

Characterised by a high sided base which contains lots of filling, it requires a longer cooking time than the nippy Neapolitan, so the toppings are assembled upside down to avoid burning - cheese goes on the bottom, tomato sauce on top.

There are many regional styles of pizza in the US, but we think this is the most likely to turn up in the UK first. The question is, when?

Shabu shabu

We've got plenty of Chinese hot pots, so why not Japanese shabu shabu?

This dish consists of very thin slices of raw beef which are then dipped briefly into hot stock to cook at the table. Lots of dipping sauces are served for seasoning the beef once cooked, and other ingredients are served alongside, such as vegetables and tofu.

The name shabu shabu, incidentally, comes from the sound the ingredients make when they are stirred around in the cooking pot.

Really good Caribbean food

We know this one is going to be controversial, and we hope you'll tell us your favourites in the comments.

The fact remains, however, that the number of places serving Caribbean food that is better than average is very small. The range of dishes is also limited. In terms of jerk chicken (and no we don't think Caribbean food means just jerk chicken) we've long been a fan of Tasty Jerk, all the way out in Zone 4, and for a while we often darkened the doors of Smokey Jerkey in New Cross (it sadly went downhill).

Cooking Jerk Chicken

There are a few others who have been up and coming in recent years (we feel a 'best of' list coming on) but generally, it's hit and miss.

Other dishes you're likely to find include curry goat, brown stew chicken, rice and peas, fried plantains, ackee and saltfish and so on — all fantastic classics — but we'd love to see someone really getting under the skin of Caribbean food, and raising the bar above what's widely available.

Really good Mexican food

Okay so Wahaca has done an admirable job in reminding people that Mexican food is not the same thing as Tex-Mex, which often means lots of different things baked under cheap shredded cheese, but London has a very long way to go.

It baffles us as to why Mexican food, one of the most vibrant and exciting cuisines in the world, just isn't represented here at all.

We've had flashes of brilliance, such as street food stall Buen Provecho, but that has now sadly closed.

Tacos at the sadly now closed Buen Provecho. Please come back!

We understand it's not possible to get quite the same sun soaked flavour to ingredients such as avocado, and that importing specialist ingredients is expensive, but there's still room to adapt flavours and experiment.

Most burritos in London, in case you're curious, come in 'mission style' — those huge fat logs which originated in the mission district of San Francisco.

Mexican burritos are much smaller and sparsely stuffed, typically containing only one or two fillings.

Cuban and sloppy joe sandwiches

Cuban sandwiches are available in London but most of them are terrible.

The basic idea is a ham and cheese sandwich enhanced with spiky additions such as pickles and mustard, then pressed until quite flat. The Cuban bread must be fairly easy to replicate or substitute here, and we feel like there are loads of potential variations on the classic combo of fillings.

Careful with the salami though — Cubans tend to argue over whether or not this should be included.

We think it's only a matter of time before the Cuban takes off, closely followed by the sloppy Joe — a burger bun filled with a rich mixture of seasoned minced beef. You mark our words.

Chicken parmo

This chicken schnitzel covered in Neapolitan sauce and melted cheese is popular in America, Australia and the North of England, but weirdly absent in London.

In Australia, they're so dedicated to the dish that there are entire websites documenting regional variations.

Up north in the UK, it's more of a late night takeaway job, found often spreading its cheesy lava over the base of a takeaway box next to its good mate, the pile of chips. Okay so we're not really selling this one.

Piri piri chicken

No, Nando's doesn't count. Piri piri chicken is a Portugese dish made by grilling chicken which has been marinated in lots of chilli, oregano and vinegar. It has a really distinctive smoky flavour and just doesn't seem to be something that's easily found in London, despite our Portuguese population.

Oddly, some of the best we've ever found was at a takeaway in Nunhead, although even that was hit and miss.

Piri Piri chicken.

For a really good fix, we suggest making your own using Grant Hawthorne's African Volcano marinade, available at Maltby Street market or online.


At Londonist we are sad about the absence of parkin around town.

This dense cake from Yorkshire and Lancashire is made using black treacle and oatmeal and is baked until quite hard, then allowed to rest until soft and moist. We're at a loss as to where to find this, so if anyone knows then please share your secret.

A Google search for 'parkin London' brings up pages of results about where to find car parking. Sigh.

Last Updated 24 October 2016


Chicago Pizza Pie Factory used to be in hanover square (for 22 years)
It had phones so you could ring the other tables.

It was a London landmark with quite the history.

And asking for good caribbean food in London lol.
The caribbean is a collection of islands. If you go to Harlesden or any area with a high number of carribean immigrants you'll find a ton of home cooked trini roti shops or bajan foods like flying fish in addition to jamaican staples salt fish and curries.
I think you need to eat in places a little out of your comfort zone.

But that touches on an issue with the other food you're looking for. Immigration.
London just doesn't have communities that can cook good cuban, mexican or whatever. You're never going to get a good slow cooked bone marrow or even guac on toast outside of moronic hipsters trying to improve and 'raise the bar' on foods learnt from a cook book.

North African on Blackstock road, East African / West African in Wembley, Punjabi food in Southhall, Pakistani food in Illford, Caribbean (lol) food in the den aka the front line (Harlesden, Willesden, Neasden and ungentrified south london), Kosher in Golders Green and Chinese and Korean all based around communities of immigrants.

London doesn't have these other foods because London is/was based around it's people.


Luckily I have a friend who makes superb Parkin on request!


Proper tacos do not contain guacamole...


Also 1) Singapore Chilli Crab and 2) square (Lorne) sausage

Enid Karr

Parkin (but call before you go, because you never know when menus change):


I've had Chicago style pizza in what I was told was the best pizza place in Chicago. It was absolutely disgusting.

On Caribbean food - I live in shepherds bush and would highly recommend Ochi on Uxbridge road.

Enid Karr

Parkin: Also Cafe Below in Cheapside: http://www.cafebelow.co.uk/#!d...


Good Laksa should be on this list too!


Probably a matter of time. I still remember when I would go around town searching for Philly cheesteaks and the closest I could find was Subway's freeze dried brown chunks they called steak with unmeltable american cheese. Then the explosion came. And just when I was beginning to give up on finding decent Po-Boys anywhere this side of the Atlantic a few cool places popped up of late. But you are touching on something with the whole "trend" thing. So some things just come and go, few stay and thats what sucks, it is only a matter of time before your favorite smoked brisket truck calls it quits...

On Jerk chicken, and this is totally based on the guy's mood, on Arsenal matchdays a really cool dude smokes some incredibly succulent chicken on Hornsey Road side. He tends to show up on weekend matchdays and the queues are beyond what might even be slightly reasonable..

Alistair Twiname

how about a scottish breakfast, tattie scones, square sausage and some fried scones...

Jamie Edwards

Surprised Taqueria in Notting Hill (Mexican street food) didn't get a mention; best tacos in London (but yes, pricey).

Elise Alpha

Great, now I have the munchies

Mark Wilson

I'd like to add scones to the list. It's crazy that I can't find a bakery in south London that makes either sultana or plain scones. Considering it's considered (at least by Starbucks) as the quintessential English afternoon tea staple, why are there so few places outside of the aforementioned coffee chains or supermarkets that sell them? Am I missing a really, blatant location?

Andy K

You ever had proper Chicago-style pizza pie? It is truly disgusting.


Pizza Hut used to do the pizza pie, it was called Priazzo. It was the last tasty item available at Pizza Hut and was discontinued in the late 80s/early 90s. The meatball one was best. Petition your local Hut today for its reinstatement.

Neil Harrison

As said in the previous comment...The Chicago Pizza pie factory, downstairs in Hanover square. Owned by Bob Payton (killed in a car accident some years ago). I used to eat there back in the early eighties. Very lively restaurant.

Afro Pig

Someone needs to make real cuban bread here. It's one of the best breads out there!


For me it's an American style grilled cheese sandwich. So unhealthy, but somehow satisfying.


I miss not only Chicago-style pizza (the US chain Pizzeria Unos is particularly good, and a place in Boston called Sicilias) but also New York style, e.g. extremely thin crust, where the crust is actually hard and crispy on the bottom, slightly burnt, and half soaked in grease from the pepperonis. I'm sure it must exist somewhere in London but I haven't found it yet. I also miss Cherry Peppers stuffed with Proscuitto and Provolone cheese, all soaking in a jar of oil and spices. This is from somewhere in Italy (Sicily?) and you can get it in several grocery store chains in New England. I only saw it once in London, in seven dials area in a specialty shop selling them by the ounce or something - out in the open and not in a jar. They look like this https://brooklynporkstore.com/... and they are one of the best foods on earth.


Prima Pepperoni at Pizzeria Unos is one of the great deep dish pizzas http://unos.com/menus/deepdish.... If any millionaire restauranteurs are reading this, please franchise it in London http://unos.com/unobrands.php and the Pizza Skins are great too. Mash potatoes and cheese inside a deep dish pizza crust https://40.media.tumblr.com/tu... Also, Krispy Kreme donuts are best when you can buy them freshly cooked and off of the assembly line in the stores big enough to make them onsite. The only Krispy Kremes I see in London are in a box.

Ben Yacobi

I don't think you can find very good French patisserie very easily in London. I've seen some very posh and expensive stores claiming to do it but they fall short of even the most basic real French patisserie found around Paris. Also, more Nepalese momos would be good. Amazing things.

Sarah Michelle

Anyone know where I can get good pap in London?

The Shambolic Skeptic

Oh goodness, not Chicago pizza!

Horrible stuff - pizza in name only.


The trouble with Mexican food is...the better it is, the worse it looks. Tacos are best served DIY-style like in the cafes of Monterey, but I don't suppose London rents (or the Instagram obsession) will ever allow that here.

Similarly, Chicago pizza is awesome, but it takes an hour to cook, so is unlikely to work in London.


Staffordshire Oatcakes. Why oh why not? http://www.independent.co.uk/l...

Sandeep Gusai

Cubano in Lower Marsh, Waterloo grill Cuban sandwiches at lunch time. They are a greasy, cheesy slice of heaven!


I miss the Surinamese dishes, is nowhere to find in London


For proper Mexican, go to Mestizo on Hampstead Road (nearest tubes Euston/Warren St). It's where the Mexican residents of London go, and it's amazing.

It's me, Dick.

Regarding Mexican, why are 100% corn tortillas such a rare commodity here?