London is like a world in a city. Once the capital of a global empire, this great city is now home to one of the most international communities anywhere on earth, and of course that means London is also a foodie haven, serving up nosh from across the globe.
The British Capital also has a HUGE Muslim community and many eateries offer ‘halal’ to cater for the locals. This awesome combination makes London the halal food capital of Europe, and here are five amazing halal foodie haunts to prove it …
1. HALAL FOODIE MARKETS
Foodie markets are all about having fun trying the different freshly cooked platters on offer. Traditionally, such markets were a frustrating experience for Muslim Londoners as the more famous ones in Borough and Camden Town only offered a limited halal selection. Not anymore though! Almost every stall at the foodie market that pops up on Sundays inside the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, serves halal food. With cuisines as wide-ranging as Eritrean and Vietnamese on offer, this buzzing little covered market is the ultimate halal foodie fix.
The Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1 (Sundays only). Station: Aldgate, Liverpool Street and Shoreditch.
2. NORTH EAST LONDON’S ANATOLIA
Connoisseurs of Turkish food will be spoilt for choice along North East London’s Stoke Newington High Road as they step into places like The Cave for a Sultan’s Kebab in actual cave-like settings, or recline on a cushion inside a private booth at the Aziziye, deep in the belly of an Ottoman-style mosque, built using blue tiles imported from the city of Iznik. Alternatively, a bit further north on Fore Street there are the family favourites, Capital Restaurant and Kervan Sofrasi, both serving mountains of grilled meat, bulgur wheat, rice and acres of salad at very reasonable prices.
Stoke Newington High Road, Green Lane, Fore Street, N1-16. Station: Stoke Newington, Dalston and Edmonton Green.
3. THROUGH THE KHYBER PASS
An emerging halal cuisine fast establishing itself in greater London, Afghani food is growing in popularity, and East London – the historic home of migrants – has some of the best Afghan restaurants out there. The Khyber Pass, Arianas and The Darbar have slowly put Afghani cuisine on the London food map, but none of them quite compare to The Shinwari restaurant close to Ilford town centre. Inside this deceptively large restaurant, you have the option to sit at tables like a Westerner or ‘go native’ atop stunning woven rugs on raised platforms (option to draw curtains for the more conservative customer). The food here really is exquisite and leans heavily towards the Afghani staples of slow roasted succulent meat and huge flatbread.
Romford Road and Cranbrook Road, Ilford, IG8. Station: Ilford and Manor Park.
4. BRIXTON’S CARIBBEAN EATERIES
It is a little-known fact that many Caribbeans prefer to cook using halal meat. That’s why it’s always worth inquiring at a Caribbean restaurant if the meat is halal even if there is no sign outside. In deepest South London, however, there is no need. Brixton is home to one of the largest Muslim Caribbean communities in London, which means almost every restaurant around here serves halal food. Caribbean food is essentially street food, so don’t expect neat, fine dining venues; that’s just not how you eat jerk chicken or curry goat. It’s a cuisine that demands you enjoy your food without any pretence or formality. This is why most Caribbean food places in and around Brixton are eateries and cafes rather than restaurants like the wickedly name Fish, Wings and Tings, the Ultimate Jerk Centre and my personal favourite, Caribbean Spice. Just don’t expect anyone to bring you a knife and fork when you sit down!
Brixton Road, Coldharbour Lane and Electric Avenue, SW9. Station: Brixton.
5. BANGLADESHI SPICE
Bangladeshi men who migrated to London in the 1960s and 1970s completely revolutionised the culinary landscape of Great Britain. In fact, during the 1990s, the late Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, famously declared that ‘Indian’ food was the nation’s most popular cuisine; all Bangladeshi-owned restaurants were branded ‘Indian’ when they first opened in the UK because that was what the British identified most with when it came to the subcontinent. It will therefore come as no surprise that London’s most famous district for ‘Indian’ food is an area synonymous with the city’s Bangladeshi community, Brick Lane, in the East End of London, where the earliest ‘Indian’ restaurants were opened. These days, the Lane’s restaurants jostle for space with hipster cafes, but still do a steady trade. For the best anglicised version of the cuisine, head for places like Gandhi’s and The Bengal Village, but if its a taste of truly authentic Bangladeshi food you’re after then it has to be Amar Gaon or Gram Bangla. The food in these little cafe-cum-restaurants truly evoke the flavours of rural Bangladesh – heavy on spice and a preference for fish.
Brick Lane, E1. Station: Whitechapel, Aldgate, Liverpool Street and Shoreditch.