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Joshua Marcus, who runs KTM ROX Nepalese restaurant in Feltham, explains how the areas around Heathrow are the best in London for South Asian cuisine.
Passing through any airport is a chore. Bags, delays, stuffy congested spaces. Possibly worst of all though, there is a distinct lack of anything you actually want to eat. But why not use the start (or end) of your overseas trip as an excuse to sample the often-overlooked culinary delights of west London.
The South Asian cuisine in this part of London is particularly good. Few other places in London give you the authenticity you’ll find right on Heathrow's doorstep. In fact, you needn't even be en route to more exotic climes.
Honey Moon (South-Indian, Sri-Lankan)
There are places that specialise in one particular cuisine (we'll get there in a minute), but the best all-rounder award goes to Honeymoon, which takes you on a culinary stroll through South India and into Sri Lanka.
Kick things off with some crunchy mutton or veg rolls. I like to describe them as 'everything a spring roll should be but isn't'. Otherwise try the fish cutlets. For mains, there's fantastic dosa (from £5.95), traditional spicy kothu roti (£7.95) or thali plates (£8.95). Or be adventurous and try old Sri Lankan delicacies like kudal (intestine curry) or lamprais (curried rice wrapped in smoked banana leaf). The menu is huge and nearly everything is properly impressive, freshly prepared and served with a smile. There are plentiful veg/vegan options too.
It's close to sacrilege not to finish with a milk hopper (appam) or a masala tea.
Honey Moon, 53 Bell Road, Hounslow, TW3 3NX
Thakers (Indo-Afro-vegi-soul food)
A few minutes' walk up the bustling high street, is Thakers. Winning 'Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year' is no easy feat in London, but then Baba and Baa Thacker have been perfecting their craft since the 1960s. A colourful, funky little eatery which walks the line between café and restaurant, the beautiful mural that greets you on entry tells you you’re somewhere with soul.
They make one of the best chole bhatures (a North Indian speciality of fluffy breads with a chickpea curry, £6.25) I've ever had, but everything else on the menu is top notch too. Pani puri (crispy chickpea balls filled with tangy chutneys and doused (by you) in tamarind water) is as good here as I tasted on the streets of India. Buy six, 10 or 20 depending on how greedy you're feeling. Or try dahi puri, a similar deal with sweet yoghurt that goes down a treat. It's really worth trying something you've not heard of before. Anything you order will be properly authentic, properly hearty and properly delicious.
Thakers, 162 A/B, High Street, Hounslow TW3 1BQ
Shree Krishna Vada Pav (Indian street food, Mumbai)
Back down the high street is Shree Krishna Vada Pav, named after a sandwich. Vada Pav is a kind of Indian veg burger, but so much more. They are small, fluffy, spicy and incredibly moreish — best with butter. And it's yours for just £1.75. The rest of the menu is devastatingly good value too. The compact yet homely eatery serves up a multitude of Indian street foods called 'chaats'. This basically means food to be eaten with vigour, food that makes your fingers messy. Think tapas: Indian style.
Chaats are different all over North India, but Shree Krishna Vada Pav does an excellent job of bringing together those you'd find in Mumbai. Pav baji (£4.50) is a true Indian classic, and if you haven’t tried bel puri, you absolutely must.
Shree Krishna Vada Pav, 121 High Street, Hounslow, TW3 1QL
Sangeetha (South Indian)
This Hounslow West restaurant is almost a gateway to the hills of South India. Sangeetha Vegetarian Restaurant has been doing its thing for three generations in Chennai, India — so you know you're in for a treat finding them on British shores. South Indian food is a far-cry from cuisine from the rest of India, and you won't find anything like your standard British curry house fare here.
I often come for their South Indian thali; a beautiful, massive plate of rice and about eight different curries. It's a steal at £7.99, The dosa they serve here is stupidly good too — go for rava dosa if you want something new, and maybe try an utthappam if you want a pronunciation challenge. All the smaller plates are worth trying; idly and vadai are my favourites, and I always wash everything down with fresh pomegranate juice.
It's a big restaurant that still packs out at peak times, but you'll never wait long for your food.
On the same strip there is a chaat place called Chini Chor (also fantastic), and if you're around during mango season, grab a box of Indian or Pakistani mangoes from one of the fresh fruit places.
Sangeetha, 320 Bath Road, Hounslow, TW4 7HW
Just outside of Heathrow's perimeter, Southall has some of the best Pakistani food in London. There are North-Indian options that rival Hounslow's establishments too, but it's the meaty mountains of Pakistan/Afghan food that bring me here.
Dawat does things the old-fashioned way. I found this place looking for a good nihari, a stewed lamb dish. High-quality nihari is almost gelatinous in texture, somewhere between a soup and a curry, packed with lamb fat and molten bone marrow. The best ones in Pakistan claim to be hundreds of years old because the base curry is only added to every day, never fully changed. After countless disappointments, I was finally hit with that umami, spicy funk that accompanies a true nihari, on my first visit to Dawat. It's £9.50, should be eaten with chapati or Naan if you prefer, and is probably enough for two to share.
The classic curry is karahi, named after the large pans used to cook the dish. Dawat does a fantastic charsi karahi (again, traditionally you'll eat this with bread only but do whatever you’re comfortable doing). Lamb is my preference but chicken is tasty too.
I'm being unfair to the rest of the menu by cherry-picking these two dishes; I've never had anything bad here. If you’re feeling wild go for some lamb brain. It's a delicacy and if you can get past the texture, it's deceptively good.
Dawat, 177-179 The Broadway, Southall, UB1 1LX
When I first asked my best Pakistani friend in London where I'd find real Lahori tastes, he told me about Watan. It does Afghan food alongside Lahori favourites — in short: everything you need. It looks small from the outside, but tasteful décor, large windows and upstairs seating give the place a spacious vibe.
Kebabs are a huge part of Pakistani/Afghan food culture. The chapli kebab (£4) is probably the least familiar, but tastiest option — just don't look into how it's made if you're in any way health conscious (think deep fried x 10). I've heard very good things about the mixed grill too which feeds/impresses two-three people for £25.
I usually have a strict ordering system when eating out. It revolves around not eating things I can make myself, and usually chicken is the first thing to fall into this category. However, I make a big fat exception for the Lahori chargha, a succulent charbroiled chicken that makes for a deliciously show-stopping centrepiece. But you'll find delicious morsels everywhere you look on the menu here.
Watan, 183 The Broadway, Southall UB1 1LX
A walk down the strip
Before you get really confused, this isn’t a restaurant, Just a recommendation. Southall has loads of really interesting little shops along the main road (The Broadway), selling everything from quick bites to sarees. Try Naan Dokan for something quick and filling, reminiscent of North Indian naan stalls, or wander into Panji and wonder what all those delicious half cake/half sweets are.
My home away from home. A northern lad down south, the Greggs right next to the station was a welcoming breath of sausagey fresh air for me when I arrived four years ago. Feltham has had a bad rap in recent times, but it's mostly undeserved. Historically a pit-stop for travellers coming from the west, there's plenty of interesting history here. The fact Freddie Mercury and Brian May grew up on these streets is only the beginning...
Banh Mi 108 (Vietnamese)
Where to start? It’s very hard not to be bias with a spot you visit almost weekly, but Banh Mi 108 is just too good. A small menu normally shouts quality, but here we have another example of my true guiding light for high standards: the restaurant being named after the sandwich it serves.
The banh mi at Banh Mi 108 is delicious. You have to be quick to grab one though, they sell out every day. My recommendation is fried tofu (£3.50), the perfect salty companion for the crunch of fresh vegetables/coriander/chilli and warm fresh bread. Goes great with a bubble tea. You're not going to find fine dining here; this is more a café than a restaurant, but its light, vibrant interior mimics the food served; honest and simple.
Vietnam’s national dish: Pho, is genuinely the best here that I've had in all of London, fabulously consistent and deep in flavour. I love the beef (£8.50) most of all, but I often stump for chicken (£7.50). This huge bowl of noodles in broth will warm you to your heart. It's also the ultimate hangover cure, so I’ve been told…
The changing specials are always worth considering, as is a Vietnamese coffee, if you can handle the half hour caffeine high. Perfect after a long flight.
Banh Mi 108, 10 Cavendish Terrace, High Street, Feltham, TW134
KTM ROX (Nepalese)
OK, so full disclosure: this is my restaurant. It belongs to one of my best friends, we have set it up and run it together. Shameless I know. However, please check out the reviews.
Bored of the corporate world (me) and blessed with 50 years of foodie family heritage (Maneera, my pal), we decided to take the plunge and bring fresh, handmade Nepalese food to the High street.
Our food is made just as it is in Nepal. Our most popular items are momos £6-£9 (dumplings with chicken/pork or veg and occasionally buffalo meat) which are are as authentic as you get. My favourite is jhol momo (£7), the signature dumplings in a spicy sesame broth. I always recommend our pork jhir, marinated for 48 hours to give an end product that's sticky with fat and flavour. Or go for a classic chatpatey and Nepali thali.
We also make some mean burgers, which make a mess of both hands and Insta stories.
KTM ROX, 49 High Street, Feltham, TW13 4AB
Honourable mention: Namaste Gurkha. If you want more of a traditional restaurant experience, head to Namaste Gurkha. Their head chef/owner had bucketloads of experience in the Nepalese food game and is well known for providing remarkable consistency.
As the town that hosts the UK headquarters of Heinz, you just know you're in for a foodie road trip coming to Hayes. But its crowning achievement might just be its top-notch African food.
Brothers 2 (Somalian)
Somali food is a new one on my radar; it's intriguing to say the least. Colonialism led to a strong influence of Italian cooking within Somali cuisine, which is why pasta is a staple of the Somali diet. A cheap eat in every sense, you're not coming for the furnishings.
I've been told the food is authentic, if you can muster the courage to try chopped kidneys with tea (£5) for breakfast then maybe you'll find out. If not, visit for lunch or dinner and give the haneeth a try — it's gloriously slow-cooked lamb that falls off the bone. You can get a portion with spinach, mash and jabati (a type of flatbread similar to a paratha) for £13. I think it's enough for two, but you’ll probably want to try some of that Somali pasta too. You can choose from salmon, chicken, beef or lamb to have with your pasta (or rice). They are all prepared with care.
Brothers 2, 88 East Avenue, Hayes UB3 2HR
Shegar Café (Ethiopian)
Just around the corner from Brothers 2, is Shegar Café. From the minute you walk in you feel like you've stepped into someone's living room. I'm a big fan of Ethiopian food. An excuse to eat with my hands is always a strong selling point for me. Curries of meat and lentils (ranging from £5-£8) known as 'wat' are on offer here; you eat these by scooping them up with injera — a sourdough disc that resembles a massive pancake. It has a slightly sour taste, which perfectly compliments the spicy curries. My experiences here have focused around a 'Give me whatever is fresh today please!' attitude. It's not failed yet.
Stick around and find out why Ethiopian coffee makes all other after dinner coffee pale in comparison.
Shegar Café, 85 Coldharbour Lane, Hayes UB3 3EF