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 little more choosy. Below we pick out 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 and there is much debate as to which restaurant comes out on top, as well as which uses the best meat, the best laffa (naan) and the 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 a legend of the field: Whitehouse Express, the late night haunt of Brent Street in Hendon.
With many of London’s Jewish families coming from across the Arab world, chickpea-ball 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 may follow you around for a couple of days afterwards. But the falafel is soft yet delightfully crunchy, and comes in fabulously over-generous portions. Delicious.
Pita, also of Golders Green, is another firm favourite. More modern air filtration also means that customers leave smelling slightly fresher.
The kosher burger scene is limited by the restriction on adding popular toppings such as cheese and bacon. 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 ingenuity, Edgware’s The Kitchen gets top marks for concocting delicious facon (that's fake bacon, FYI) and dairy-free cheese. The facon, in this case made out of turkey, doesn't really taste like bacon but it's still delicious, salty and smoked.
An alternative option can be found at Burger Bar in Temple Fortune. Go for the Portobello: beef burger served with a giant portobello mushroom, topped with a 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 and even vegan-friendly restaurant. For many, the best used to be Isola Bella in Golders Green, a restaurant that combines Italian dishes with a little Middle Eastern influence. However, popular opinion seems to have shifted, conferring the title of best dairy restaurant upon Zest. This kosher spot located inside JW3 Jewish Centre on Finchley Road combines a much-loved restaurant, cafe and bar serving kosher wines. Why so much love? It's modern, fresh, and none other than Jay Rayner said it was good. That's right, food journalist and restaurant critic, Jay Rayner off the telly and whatnot. And the crowds now follow.
Meanwhile, The Kanteen in Brent Cross shopping centre is stylish but the food is hit and miss, and Orli's Cafe in Hendon is great for a Saturday shakshuka. Don’t know what that is? You’ve clearly not been watching enough Ottolenghi.
Although not quite restaurants, the legendary kosher bakeries of London deserve a place in this roundup. The awards are as follow: The Best Bagel prize goes to the family bakery in business since 1888, Grodzinski in Stamford Hill and Edgware (you can buy a whole range of delicious baked goods online too). Brick Lane's Beigel Bake comes a close second. The Best Pitta Bread provider has to be Mr Baker in Hendon; the Best Challah is the heaven-like stuff from Daniel's Bakery 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
Since the loss of Bevis Marks restaurant, which kosher London still mourns sorrowfully, there's really one main contender for a quality kosher upmarket restaurant: the downstairs eatery at Reubens on Baker Street. Their world famous salt beef is to die for. Make that your main, but precede it with another kosher classic: chicken soup with lockshen and kneidlach (or both), otherwise known as Jewish penicillin.
If your parents are bored of continually heading to Reubens, another option is to try out Eighty-Six Bistro in Hendon instead. It's an elegant outfit with a real Parisian feel and European-inspired dishes, which differentiates it from the rest of kosher London.
- Pizaza - The best kosher pizza in town (has a sister branch in Hendon)
- Novellino - A kosher stalwart, it closed and then came back. Vast menu and generous portions
- SoYo - Cheerful, lots of choice and there's a play area for families on the mezzanine level
- Hummus Bar - Cosy, kosher and a great range of tasty Israeli dishes with an American twist (second branch in Hendon)
- Parkside - More kosher than the Chief Rabbi’s kneidlach
- Tasti Pizza - Tasty by name and tasty by nature, popular with families
- White Fish - Traditional, modern, grilled, fried, this is your place for fish. They offer sushi too
- Bagels Bar - Bagels, soups and jacket potatoes ideal for a snack or lunch stop-off
- Delicatessen - Creative, Middle Eastern food perfect for sharing