Culinary neighbourhoods: seven London hotspots for international cuisine
From Colombian in north London to Korean in the south, the capital is home to an array of international culinary enclaves.
One of the world’s most diverse cities, London is home to a thriving, global restaurant scene. All across the capital — particularly in its outer suburbs — immigrant communities have settled over many decades, bringing with them the flavours of home, which are then shared in restaurants, cafes, bakeries and more. Here in these international culinary enclaves you can eat your way around the world without leaving the city.
1. Colombian, Seven Sisters
For a taste of Colombia look no further than Seven Sisters, in north London, where you’ll find the UK’s biggest Latin American market. Seven Sisters Indoor Market, also known as Pueblito Paisa or Latin Village, is home to more than 50 densely packed units, ranging from restaurants to beauty salons. The food is mostly Colombian, but you can also find Peruvian and Venezuelan cuisine, offering everything from arepas and empanadas to fish stews and first-rate coffee. The market has been under threat of redevelopment over the past few years, but its business owners and supporters recently won a battle to continue trading.
Must try: beef empanada from Pueblito Paisa (£1).
2. Portuguese, Stockwell
There’s a reason why Stockwell in south London is known as ‘Little Portugal’. For decades, it’s been the heart of the Portuguese community in the capital, with a stretch of cafes, patisseries, bars and restaurants, mainly clustered along South Lambeth Road, offering a taste of home to the large number of Portuguese people who live here. Traditional dishes such as bacalhau (salt cod), grilled sardines and pasteis de nata (egg custard tarts) are ubiquitous, but dig a little deeper and you’ll also find the likes of arroz de marisco (seafood rice) and caldo verde (kale soup).
Must try: arroz de marisco from Grelha Douro (£32.50).
3. Korean, New Malden
On the outskirts of southwest London, in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, is New Malden. Home to around 20,000 Koreans, it’s also the location of a thriving dining scene that’s undoubtedly the finest place to experience Korean food in London. From KFC (Korean fried chicken) and spicy hotpots to bibimbap and bulgogi (barbecued meat), there’s an incredible variety on offer in the restaurants, takeaways and cafes packed along the High Street. For dessert, Bingsoo Café offers the eponymous Korean dessert, which is made from shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk and topped with chopped fruit, red beans, and jelly pieces.
Must try: Korean fried chicken at Kang Nam (£18 for a whole chicken).
4. Vietnamese, Deptford
While the Shoreditch end of Kingsland Road, east London, is perhaps the best-known enclave of Vietnamese restaurants in the capital, it’s down south in Deptford where you’ll find the most exciting spots. This enclave, between New Cross and Greenwich, is home to a longstanding Vietnamese community and an array of places to eat. Mainly centred on and around Deptford High Street, the no-frills restaurants and takeaways here offer dishes originating from all over Vietnam: hearty pho noodle soups and bun cha (pork patties with vermicelli noodles) from the north and crisp banh mi baguettes stuffed with roast pork from the south.
Must try: bun ca gio (prawn and pork spring rolls) from Eat Vietnam (£10.50)
5. Nigerian, Peckham
Venture past Deptford, through New Cross and into Peckham and you’ll find one of London’s most diverse neighbourhoods. Peckham is home to the largest Nigerian community in the UK, stemming from the first wave of immigration in the 1970s and 1980s, and the area’s longstanding array of Nigerian shops and restaurants have earned it the nickname ‘Little Lagos’. Largely centred around Ryle Lane, Queen’s Road and Choumert Road, many of the restaurants offer Nigerian BBQ suya, usually thin strips of beef covered in spices and peanuts and cooked over hot coals, as well as traditional dishes like jollof rice and pepper soup.
Must try: suya beef from Angels Bakery (£7).
6. Turkish, Harringay
London’s longest named road, Green Lanes stretches over six miles through the north of the city, from Newington Green to Winchmore Hill, passing through several neighbourhoods on the way. It’s along the Harringay stretch, where the air is fragrant with charcoal smoke, meat, sumac and onions, that you’ll find London’s Turkish culinary heartland. Home to a huge Turkish community since the 1950s, here you’ll find countless family-run ocakbasi (grill) restaurants serving traditional kebabs, mixed grills, lahmacun (Turkey’s answer to pizza), fresh dips, salads and much more.
Must try: lamb adana kebab from Gokyuzu (£13.50).
7. Greek, Palmers Green
A little further up Green Lanes, Palmers Green — and nearby Southgate — is home to a sizeable Greek-Cypriot population. You won’t find quite as many restaurants, takeaways, cafes and bakeries here as in Harringay, but the selection is superb, offering everything from traditional Greek staples such as souvlaki, moussaka and dolma to Cypriot specialities like loukanika, a pork sausage spiked with coriander and red wine. Several bakeries supply freshly baked breads and sweets such as baklava and loukoumades (Greek doughnuts covered in honey).
Must try: moussaka from Babinodas (£13.50).
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