Gone are the days when a Harvester and an outpost of the Chicago Pizza Company were Golders Green’s culinary highlights. The area — which stretches from Golders Green Road to North End Road, intersected by Finchley Road near the Golders Green tube station — has always been renowned for bagels and falafel, owing to its large Orthodox Jewish population. Gradually Japanese and Korean food shops and restaurants started opening, and, more recently, it’s been home to East European and Middle Eastern delis, selling everything from potato bread to pickled turnips. A lively café scene makes up for the paucity of good pubs and bars.
For a traditional taste of Israel, start with spicy shakshuka at Florentin on Golders Green Road, which also serves sabich platters and malawach (Yementine pastry with eggs, tomato sauce and tahini). Also on the menu is the popular Israeli breakfast of eggs with tuna or salmon, soft cheese and bread.
Across the road, the delightfully retro Imperial Café serves a wide range of old-fashioned, no-frills egg dishes that would make your grandma proud. Further up, sweet and savoury Belgian waffles and French crêpes can be enjoyed at the tiny but excellent ice cream parlour Bella del Gelato.
Try freshly baked bagels, bourekas (savoury Israeli pastries), salads and sandwiches from Paradise Bakery (109 Golders Green Road, NW11 8HR) or the legendary Grodzinski, which has been around since the 19th century. The nearby Reich’s bakery and deli sells foot-long sandwiches, chicken salad and schnitzel and chips to takeaway; and Maxim’s, which specialises in kosher Italian and oriental dishes, has a great selection of salads, sandwiches, soups, omelettes, pastas, pizzas, fish and vegetarian dishes.
Coming back to the tube station, stop by at the smart, spacious Novellino, a kosher Italian that serves a wide selection of pizzas, pastas and fish dishes. If meaty kebabs and mixed grills are more your thing, try Sami’s. And don’t miss Pita (98 Golders Green Road, NW11 8HB) — it may look tiny, but sells the most delicious falafel, plus shawarma, schnitzel and sabich with bagfuls of charm.
Sticking to the kosher theme, the selection of rugelach (crescent-shaped pastries) at Daniels bakery in Temple Fortune is particularly enticing, along with freshly made salads and sandwiches. It’s a spacious, pristine place with a few seats outside. Further up the Road at 2 Monkville Parade, NW11 0AL is the tiny Salt Beef Bar, which sells some of the capital’s best salt beef sandwiches, as well as latkes, chopped liver and fish kebabs. Nearby is also the massively popular Delisserie which serves New York-style grills, melts, wraps milkshakes and classics such as chicken schnitzel, beef hot dogs, pastrami sandwiches, mac & cheese, and more. If you’re after a quick tasty pizza, That’s Amore is your place.
And if you’re looking for something altogether lighter, grab delicious freshly made sushi, vegetable curry, pumpkin croquettes and miso soup at Hello Kitchen, opposite Golders Green tube station. It’s a small, cramped Japanese food shop with half a dozen counter chairs for eating in. Nearby Japanese supermarket Atari-Ya in Temple Fortune also has a small sushi bar for eating in. Or walk over to the K-Mart on Golders Green Road, a Korean food shop that sells kimbap (Korean sushi), bibimbap (rice with toppings), fried chicken and bento boxes centred on pork, chicken, beef or vegetables to takeaway.
Back at Temple Fortune, a new, family-run Gujarati vegetarian street food café Chilli ‘n’ Chocolate, has just opened. We recently enjoyed delicious pani puri with a steaming cup of masala chai, and can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu.
The iconic Charlie’s Italian restaurant opposite Golders Green tube station — once visited, never forgotten — was a local institution for years due to the eccentric Charlie Chaplin-esque owner, karaoke-style sing-songs every night and amazingly hospitable staff. It truly was a one-off. Sadly it closed, but has been replaced by Dürüm, an ocakbasi restaurant specialising in lamb and chicken kebabs and vegetarian meze. Like the friendly Turkish restaurant Likya on Golders Green Road, it’s a winner of the British Kebab Awards.
The nearby Local Friends has similarly undergone several changes over the years, and now serves a large selection of regional Chinese dishes, including lots of ‘vegetarian meats’. A cosy branch of Eat Tokyo close by is always packed; and they’ve also opened a shabu shabu restaurant round the corner (one of the foods we've recently been looking for in London). It’ll be next to the legendary Café Japan (which once boasted about being “closed due to George Michael’s private birthday party”) — although it’s currently closed for refurbishment, it’s scheduled to re-open next month with a new menu. Café Japan (626 Finchley Road, NW11 7RR) is now owned by the Atari-Ya supermarket chain.
Across the road, Sarang (887 Finchley Road, NW11 8RR) started life as Kimchee (which has now moved to Holborn), It’s a modest place with wooden bench seating serving Korean barbecue, grilled fish and ‘pot’ dishes cooked or served in bowls. Further down Golders Green Road, Old Tree serves delicious Taiwanese food, including amazing Taiwanese patisserie. Try their green tea cream puffs, mango mousse cake and lotus buns — we’re addicted to them. Carry on walking to Isola-Bella (111A-113 Golders Green Road), a kosher Italian and Thai seafood restaurant that’s hugely popular with families.
Golders Green’s best restaurant, however, is Café Also in Temple Fortune, a fish and vegetarian venue adjoining Joseph’s, a long-established independent bookshop. Le Gavroche-trained chef Ali Al-Sersy cooks contemporary Israeli and Mediterranean dishes presented with classical French flair; and the fabulous restaurant also hosts author events and live jazz. It really is worth crossing the town for.
Something special – fine dining
There’s not much in the way of fine dining in Golders Green but The Grill at 424 in Child’s Hill comes close. Winner of a Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) award, it’s a smart venue with crisp white napery-dressed tables and black-uniformed staff. It serves beautifully executed and presented classics such as crayfish tails with marie-rose sauce, and baked figs with blue cheese, toasted walnuts and honey. Its Sunday lunches are a local favourite.
Golders Green Road boasts an incredibly buzzy café scene populated by demure lunching ladies with babies in pushchairs during the day, and good-looking young revellers on a sugar high in the evenings. Newest on the scene is Macchiato Bar, a spacious Italian coffee shop that serves excellent coffees and Italian baked goods like cannoli and torta del nonna. Across the road are popular Israeli cafés White House Express and Soyo — the latter serves unique yoghurt milkshakes.
Gastropubs, pubs and bars
There are barely any pubs, gastropubs or bars in Golders Green, so the Old Bull and Bush, located opposite the Golders Hill Park, is a welcome presence. Perfect for sinking into cosy armchairs by roaring fireplaces, the 18th century venue prides itself on its extensive wine list and modern British food. And while nearby Spaniards Inn is more Hampstead Heath than Golders Green, it’s so famous it would be silly not to include it. The beautiful old boozer, immortalised by Dickens and Keats, boasts an attractive rustic beer garden and beers from small local cask breweries.
No visit to Golders Green is complete without sampling bagels with cream cheese from the spacious Carmelli bakery. It’s open until midnight most days and all night on Thursdays and Saturdays (Sabbath times vary). The iconic bakery also sells other Jewish classics such as bourekas, rugelach and challah bread — but the bagels are up there with London’s best.
Another must-try is Taboon (17 Russell Parade, NW11 9NN), a falafel takeaway with a few seats. It has a self-service counter with Israeli salad and to-die-for red and green hot sauces (don’t miss those). The falafels are freshly made throughout the day, and are some of the very best in London. Staff are friendly; and the venue is open until before midnight. Don’t be surprised if you hear people asking for 15 or 20 portions to takeaway — they really are that good.