Most of my fave locations are based in East and South London. I was born in Brixton, South London, from Colombian parents and Brixton is where Colombians first moved in the early ’70s. Now Brixton still holds the DNA of an eclectic and diverse London.
The area also has a strong history tied to the Jamaican and African communities, and we still have a few Colombian spots as well. One of them is a Colombian butcher called Las Americas which has been there since the ’70s!
My fave place in Brixton is the food market, “Brixton Village”. It has two Colombian restaurants there: El Rancho de Lalo and El Santafereño, where you can eat delicious, freshly made empanadas with an amazing home-made chili sauce called “aji”. Or, you can have a full-on meal: Bandeja paisa — not for the faint-hearted.
Next door to El Rancho de Lalo is another favorite, Fish Wings and Tings. A Trinidadian restaurant which serves the best chicken wings I’ve ever had. They come with a delicious pineapple sauce on top and they are pretty spicy — accompany that with a delicious bottle of Carib beer and you good to go! Another favorite in this joint is the oxtail stew — simply delicious.
East London is well known for its Indian and Pakistani heritage. It’s the hotspot for Indian food in Europe. One of the places that reflect this is Lahore. Opened in 1972, it’s one of the many Punjabi spots you can find and I like it cos it isn’t too crowded, the lines are short, and the service is just better. My fave dishes in Lahore are the lamb chops which are deliciously tendered on a mix of spices, and the dry meat dish which is a slow cooked pulled meat. There is also a wide variety of vegetarian dishes such a Sag Paneer, among others. Also: it’s pretty cheap (and you can bring your own booze).
Fifteen minutes walk from Whitechapel there is Shoreditch and Brick Lane. Not many people know this, but the area was previously known as Bangla town for its Bangladeshi community in the early ’70s. Now it’s the hot spot for creatives and trendy professionals. There are still loads of cheap and amazing food places in the area though, but you have to choose carefully or you will end up disappointed.
One of my fave spots in Shoreditch is Cook Daily in Boxpark. I’ve been going there since it was only a small cargo container packed with delicious vegan and Asian-inspired dishes. That was years ago. Not to mention a street fighter arcade machine next door. My go-to dish here is the Highgrade. It’s an essential dish for any pot head and consists of brown rice, stir fried veg, hemp bbq sauce, hemp crumbles and fried plantain. Add some siracha and you good to go! Interesting fact: this spot is favorite for grime local legends such as JME (Skepta’s brother) and the guys from BBK. Now the place is three times bigger than before and is always rammed with locals. A little hidden gem if you need a break from meat.
On Saturdays from 9 to 5 p.m. there is a food market in London Fields in Hackney called Broadway market. In there you can find a variety of food stalls and trucks. Most of the main restaurants in the city start up here, spots such as Butchies (fried chicken burgers) and Black Bear Burger — this latest one is my favorite burger in town, FYI.
Pizza in London has never been that good compared to NYC or Italian pizza. In the last seven years though there’s been a hype about American-style pizza in the city. Spots such as Paradise Slice Pizza and Voodoo Rays, where you can buy a huge slice for £4, implement that NYC dollar slice vibe. However, my fave pizza place in the city is in Stoke Newington (which is in Hackney) called L’Antica Pizzeria da Michelle. The first one was established in Napoli in 1870 and is a bit of an institution, but they set up a place here in London last February. As such, the pizza here is more of a Neapolitan affair. Deliciously made with fresh mozzarella de buffalo. There are only two options on the menu to keep it classic: margarita and marinara. Simple and delicious. Walk-ins only.
Editor’s notes: Transcript has been edited for clarity.
- Special Thanks: Santi Arbelaez