Tag Archives: food

Top five London restaurants for delicious dumplings

My friend Barbara, food expert and traveller, has just written a mouth-watering book: Dumplings: A Global History. She’s eaten her way from her native northern Italy to the yurts of Mongolia, sampling everything from gnocchi to wonton. Just like the dishes she describes her book is stuffed with tasty morsels: anecdotes of her trails, the evolution of exotic dishes, ceremonial feasting, rituals and recipes. Lucky Londoners can follow in Barbara’s footsteps without heading for Heathrow:  I’ve asked her to share her top five London dumpling restaurants.

New Culture Revolution, Angel, Islington

Food writer Barbara Gallani checks out the dumplings at New Culture Revolution, Islington.

Over steaming bowls of jiaozi at New Culture Revolution near Angel station Barbara explained how most world cuisines include some form of dumpling: dough made from ingredients including flour, bread and potatoes, and served in broth or with a filling. They are usually basic “comfort food”, but can also be highly refined and require complex preparation. Barbara’s top five cover them all, as she explains below.

Asian New Culture Revolution, Angel. “Everything here is home-made, including the broth. The dumplings are chunky and packed with tasty, simple ingredients. I usually order the jiaozi or what Americans call pot stickers—wontons that are steamed then pan-fried.”

Italian Locanda Locatelli, Marylebone.  “The ravioli here change with the seasons. Locatelli always uses the best and freshest ingredients. My favourite is the ravioli brasato, filled with tender meat—usually beef—that has been slow-cooked for around 12 hours. All the dishes are rooted in Italian traditions, but Locatelli cooks them in his own style, making the flavours really jump out. I also recommend Jamie’s Italian in Covent Garden. The ravioli-making machine at Jamie’s entrance is a good sign!”

Polish Zamoyski, Hampstead. “Zamoyski is a neighbourhood restaurant that has been serving dumplings for decades rather than years. I usually have the very reasonably priced 12-course set menu. Try the uszka (“little ears”) pierogi stuffed with mushrooms or the ruskie, filled with cheese and onions. The restaurant is also known for its excellent beetroot borscht soup and long list of flavoured vodkas.

Pierogi from Baba Jaga

Pierogi ready for the pot, from Baba Jaga, East Finchley.

“You can find pierogi to cook at home in the many Polish delis dotted around London. My favourite is Baba Jaga in East Finchley, next to the Phoenix Cinema. Boil the pierogi in broth for five minutes and serve with a knob of butter.”

West African African Torch Restaurant, Tottenham. “This is a small, simple, authentic restaurant near the station. They serve delicious dishes with fufu, an unfilled staple in a stew of meat, fish or vegetables. The dumplings are quite substantial, and are mainly used to mop up the tasty soup.”

Hungarian Gay Husssar, Soho.  “Head here for a taste of real Hungarian dumplings, just like the ones I had in Budapest. The décor is exquisitely old-fashioned and the waiters attentive. The menu includes large fish dumplings (halgaluska) served with dill sauce and smaller wheat-based dumplings (galuska) teamed with a deliciously thick vegetarian goulash of paprika and mushrooms.”

The restaurants above are Barbara’s long-standing favourites, but new places are springing up all over town. One of her lunch favourites is the Japanese gyoza dumplings in a vegetable soup at the Strand branch of Itzu. So keep an eye out for the onward march of dumplings: Turkish manti, Austrian knödel and more.

Fast dumplings all over town: Japanese gyoza at Itzu.

Fast dumplings all over town: Japanese gyoza at Itzu.

Dumplings: A Global History by Barbara Gallani. Reaktion Books, The Edible Series. Published on 15 April, £8.79. Pre-order and find out more at https://www.facebook.com/barbaradumpling.

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London Slant: Prepare for takeoff on a gastro-journey into the unknown

What sort of crazy person would stump up £50 weeks in advance for an unspecified dinner at an unknown London location anywhere between Highbury and Croydon?

It turns out there are lots of us about. I was lucky to get a slot: tickets disappeared with a swoosh.

And so, one evening at 6pm I was anxiously awaiting a text to tell me where I’d be eating that night. Please, please, don’t let it be Croydon, I thought—a one-hour-plus schlep back home. I couldn’t believe it when my phone pinged with instructions to hot-foot it to a location ten minutes from my front door. My secret themed dinner, part of a season of wacky gourmet evenings by event organisers Gingerline, was off to a flying start.

Planet Gingerline

Arrival at the entrance: let the evening begin.

The given address might have been my stomping ground, but it wasn’t easy to find. After circling around a dilapidated community centre I eventually arrived at the appointed place. I shuffled down a concrete ramp, into the basement of a disused council building that had been kitted out like Thunderbirds.

Planet Gingerline

Our flight attendant hosts, who provided drinks, dinner and dance.

An orange-haired flight attendant checked me in. It was cocktails all round before I and my fellow 80 or so ‘travellers’ took our seats at tables ready for our journey into outer space. Safety instructions for the gastronomical voyage were issued and with much whooshing and juddering we were off.

Planet Gingerline

One of the innovative courses: a mix of unexpected tastes.

My heart sank when the first course arrived in polystyrene containers. But when I started eating I realised it was all part of the spacey show—not a foretaste of packaged food to come. Amazingly, the concoction of goat’s cheese lollipops and a salad with dressing served in a syringe was rather good.

Next up was a dish called UFO: a seafood ravioli with a roast pepper coulis and a dash of cumin—mmmmm. Now I started to concentrate on the food. An illuminated glass dome arrived, showcasing a duck confection in billowing dry ice. Then came chocolate with explosive ‘space dust’.

In between dishes we were led behind the scenes on sundry research missions: the evening rocketed past at the speed of light. All too soon we were ordered to prepare for landing, urged to keep the event a secret so as not to spoil the surprise for others—and disgorged back into the east London night.

Gingerline is taking bookings for its next series, somewhere along the Jubilee line, from today. Previous dinner scenarios have included a magical wood, a gothic Christmas and a casino. What will they come up with next?