London's best takeaways

Forget tired pizzas and clumpy chow mein – let Time Out's food critics guide you through the finest takeaway meals the capital has to offer

© Rob Greig

Whether you're in a bit of a rush or just prefer the breezy ambiance of a local park to a stuffy dining room, sometimes grabbing a bite to take away beats the full sit-down meal experience. 

If the picks below don't float your boat, check out our guides to London's best pizza and London's best burgers

Best takeaways in central London

The Modern Pantry

This is no ordinary takeaway. Anna Hansen and her team are keen to bring the restaurant experience to Clerkenwell homes, and as such, most of the dishes on the Modern Pantry’s restaurant menu can be packed up and delivered within the local area (about a 2-3 mile radius), at restaurant prices. Hansen’s exciting, frequently changing menu of genre-bending dishes might include such as miso-marinated onglet (beef) steak and cassava chips, or orange and five-spice-cured duck breast with a smoked anchovy tart. Even the signature sugar-cured prawn omelette is available, though of course it will taste better fresh from the pan in the restaurant. Still, there is much to choose from, and the colourful flavour combinations of the salads, pies, pizzas and sweet treats are also found in the Pantry (around the side from the main café and restaurant) where food can be swiftly packed up into boxes for takeaway, too. If you’re not fortunate enough to live within the delivery area, you can call ahead then collect your food to go – but allow at least 30 minutes for the order to be prepared.

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Farringdon

Jerk City

The Caribbean restaurant and takeaway that some wit called ‘Mr Jerk’ in 1998 underwent binary fission in 2006. One twin (now next door) morphed into a rum bar and smarter restaurant, but this original location – now called Jerk City – kept the faith and continues to do a very busy trade in takeaways, especially at lunchtimes when a queue often snakes out the door. The dishes are West Indian classics such as rice and peas, Jamaican saltfish and ackee, or roti (chapati-style flatbread) served with various stews such curried goat, oxtail or mutton. Oddly enough, the signature dish of jerk chicken isn’t the strongest dish, but a lot of the loyal customers order it for a taste of home. We recommend the soursop drink, when they have it: creamy, rich, aromatic tropical fruit, and sweetened to smooth out the natural citrus-like sourness of the fruit. We find the portions generous: a proper West Indian might disagree.

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Soho

Ibérica Marylebone

This multi-tasking tapas bar, deli and restaurant has just introduced a takeaway service; eco-friendly boxes and soup containers come from London Bio Packaging. Sure, takeaway tapas might seem a little odd but with dishes such as mojama (cured tuna) salad with orange; home-cured sardines with chilled gazpacho; or fabada stew with morcilla, chorizo and pancetta, it’s hard to resist the idea of enjoying them in the comfort of your own home (or office). Restaurant prices, though.

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Fitzrovia

Niven's

Niven’s slogan is ‘food to go’, emblazoned in a logo comprising of three takeaway boxes stacked on top of each other. There are the expected deli delights, such as fantastic sandwiches (bread from The Flour Station) with tempting fillings (chorizo with piquillo pepper and sour cream, crayfish with rocket and chipotle mayo) and super salads. But save your appetite for the range of takeaway hot food, perfect for post-work sustenance: aromatic Moroccan lamb stew, roast chicken rubbed with harissa, ricotta and spinach canelloni.

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Clerkenwell

Scandinavian Kitchen

This quirky Scandinavian eatery offers a delectable range of open sandwiches, and healthy smörgåsbord treats. There’s also meatballs (perfect with mountains of refreshing apple and beetroot salad), Danish liver pâté, hotdogs and outstanding cakes (kladdkaka – chocolate cake – or Danish strawberry layer cake). The staff are laid-back (yet efficient) and can pack even the most elaborate open sandwiches snugly and neatly in recycled cardboard boxes for takeaway.

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Fitzrovia

Beatroot

This quirky Berwick Street vegetarian café has fantastic array of both hot and cold veggie dishes, such as moussaka (herby, comforting, juicy), pasta bake with properly creamy béchamel topping, or vegetable curry with aromatic whole spices and coconut. Salads for hotter days are far from hairshirt, with nutty sesame and beetroot salad given an edge with a sharp cider vinegar dressing, or a surprisingly moreish potato salad with vegan mayonnaise (made from soy milk). Big boxes of filling fare start from £3.90 and the largest option is £5.90; the staff do their best to cram as much food into them as possible.

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Soho

Umai at Japan Centre, St James's

The entire front area of the Japan Centre’s new location is given over to Umai, the centre’s prepared food department. The large chillers are full of bento boxes, cartons of sushi and ready-to-heat rice and noodle dishes. But we like the deli-esque counter on the right that serves hot food – ramen, soba or udon, katsu curries and even Chinese dim sum. All packaging is eco-friendly and biodegradable.

Bodean's

All you need to do is get the barbie (or oven) ready when you get home – Bodean’s ‘Home and Away’ BBQ meats (available at all its branches) are vacuum-packed and already pre-smoked and cooked through, so it won’t be long before you’re digging into burnt ends, baby back ribs and pulled pork in the comfort of your own home. Or, if that’s too much effort, the Soho branch’s deli and takeaway section offers a lot of the same, including soups, salads, burgers, hot dogs and hot deli sandwiches.

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Soho

Bevis Marks the Restaurant

One of London’s best kosher restaurants offers a takeaway service, and very attractive it is too for people working late in the City. You can request most dishes from the à la carte for either pick up or delivery (minimum charge £10). Dishes cover a wide spectrum of styles and influences, from traditional Ashkenazi dishes such as chicken soup with matzo balls or salt beef with frites and a beetroot-horseradish sauce, to more fusion dishes such as maple syrup-cured salmon and seared tuna with mango salsa. Everything is helpfully packed in microwaveable containers.

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City

Canela

Most of this Brazilian café’s menu can be ordered as takeaway, from the daily hot specials (which can range from the traditional feijoada – pork and bean stew – to grilled chicken with rice) to various quiches and bacalhau (salted cod) dishes. Throw in a few springy pão de queijos (cheese breads) and a can of Guaraná Antartica and you’re all set for Carnival.

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Leicester Square

Kurz & Lang

Fat bratwursts nearly the length of your forearm, mountains of mouthpuckering sauerkraut, dabs of mustard and cubes of fried potatoes – yes, this is a fantastic takeaway idea, particularly for the late-night pack, trudging by exhausted after some overtime at a nearby Farringdon office. Kurz & Lang is usefully open until at least 11.30pm most nights, and are open non-stop from Friday through to Sunday morning. Along with the sausages, it does German beers as well. Let’s just say you could do far worse than to grab a ’wurst from here.

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Smithfield

Best takeaways in north London

Melrose & Morgan

This is the sparkling new branch of the long-established Primrose Hill deli is located a pleasant ten-minute stroll from Hampstead Heath. Going with the philosophy of simple, well-cooked food made with quality fresh ingredients, the deli (and its small kitchen) changes its menu daily. There’s always a verdant array of colourful salads, with ingredients such as kohlrabi, asparagus, radish and peas; a limited number of main dishes could include crab cakes with lime aioli, roasted salmon with garlic mayonnaise or chicken escalopes with salsa verde, all packed up in plain white takeaway boxes. A well-stocked fridge has a good range of heat-up-at-home tucker, with plenty of tempting pies and a daily changing soup to choose from. Pop in to see what’s available, or log on to their website to have a gander at the day’s specials.

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Chalk Farm

Tamada

If you’re nuts for Georgian food, this St John’s Wood restaurant offers an impressive roster of traditional stews, dumplings and plenty of walnut-based dishes – a signature of the cuisine. Badrijani is a scrumptious – if not very sexy looking – starter of sliced aubergines layered with a tasty paste of walnuts, onions and herbs; lamb chaqapuli might not be served in its piping hot oven-proof dish, but its aroma (heightened by its coriander-laced sauce) and flavour (a sharpness attributed to plum and wine) still shines thanks to confident cooking. By getting the food as takeaway, you might miss out on the warm hospitality and all-Georgian wine list, but the food will transport you somewhere a lot more interesting than your living room. Where else can you get heart-stopping kuchmachi (braised pork lungs, livers and hearts with onion and Georgian spices) in a plastic takeaway container? Just make sure you phone in your order in advance; we didn’t, and so had to wait wait 40 long minutes while our order was prepared.

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Kilburn

Ottolenghi

You won’t be able to get the hot food served in the restaurant to take away, but with the vibrant range of filling salads, quiches and other ambient treats, you’ll find something delicious for a summer’s supper. All takeaways are packaged in stylish white cardboard boxes with wooden cutlery and napkins provided if you’re planning on an impromptu picnic.

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Islington

Pacific Plaza

The loss of the Oriental City shopping centre in 2008 – and with it, its excellent pan-Asian supermarket, massive food court, bakery and various family-run shops – left a gaping hole in Colindale. To add insult to injury, the planned works for the eventually vacated building never came into fruition. But a former tenant has brought the OC back to life as Pacific Plaza, which is slowly developing after opening at the end of 2009. Located in the Wembley Retail Park, flanked by a Joysleep furniture centre, it’s not the nicest place to drive up to. But inside, the modest food court currently boasts a handful of excellent purveyors of Asian and Oriental cuisine, including excellent Malaysian food from Selemaru (nasi lemak is a highlight), Korean food from the boastfully named Hot Korean stall, or unusually, Tibetan momo (dumplings) from Darjeeling Momo (currently only open on weekends). Japanese food is well represented too, with NP Star Snack Bar selling takoyaki (savoury grilled balls filled with chopped octopus) among other nibbles, and Nambu Donburi-Ya selling traditional Japanese rice bowls with various toppings (‘donburi’). There are more kiosks planned to open up in the near future, so expect more cuisines such as Vietnamese and South Indian making an appearance. An excellent place to consider takeaway, as a pick-and-mix style of ordering is entirely possible. You can also head down to the ground floor where a Japanese bakery, Tetote, rustles up freshly baked breads (plain, filled and in all shapes imaginable) daily.

Nonna's

The deli arm of York & Albany is offering pretty-as-a-picture picnic boxes filled with food from a menu devised by Angela Hartnett and her crew. As long as you order 24 hours in advance, the basket-shaped cardboard box is packed with one main course, two side dishes and and one dessert per person. Mains include confit duck leg with sweet and sour dressing or roast chicken with truffle mayonnaise; side orders feature the likes of cardamom and saffron spiced rice and caponata with sourdough and pine nuts; desserts are traditional and simple, with classic strawberries and cream available alongside lemon posset and chocolate mousse with honeycomb. Also included are fresh baguettes, a bottle of mineral water, small containers of olive oil and vinegar, and wooden knives and forks; the entire box of goodies is tied up with a thick satin ribbon – lovely if you’re planning to march up Primrose Hill for a picnic. You can also order from a list of six wines (three red, three white) – but they’re priced from £12-£24. The advance ordering rule might not exactly be convenient for a spontaneous picnic, but it is worth considering for a lazy weekend supper.

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Camden

Trojka

Handy for Primrose Hill, this is where you can collect blinis for starters, ‘Gypsy’ latkes for mains. Or perhaps chilled Ukranian borscht topped with smetana (soured cream) followed by golonka (braised pork with sauerkraut and mash), though we’d like to see you try balancing that on your lap. Trojka’s cakes are well-known, too – Hungarian chocolate torte, say – so take your pick. The cost is already low for diners eating in; for takeaway, they’ll knock 20 per cent off the menu price.

Best takeaways in east London

Istanbul

In Turkey, it’s quite the thing to finish a big night out with a visit to an iskembecisi (tripe restaurant). These cafés – some smart, some more like transport caffs – specialise is iskembe, the tripe soup which Turks consider to be a useful palliative after you’ve been drinking. The version served at Istanbul Iskembicisi, open until 5am, is a very mild version, with little of the offal aroma that some find repugnant; instead, the watery, chowder-like broth is served with sachets of vinegar and seasoning to pep it up. The little chunks of white, steam-cleaned beef stomach resemble clams at first glance. If tripe doesn’t take your fancy, the vegetarian mücver – fritters of courgette, very light-textured with lemon and herby flavours – is outstanding. There are also the usual array of beautifully prepared Turkish kebabs, but Istanbul Iskembecisi is primarily a smart restaurant, not a mere kebab shop, so take advantage of the many other excellent snacks, from the fresh Turkish breads to ayran, a yogurt-based drink that calms the stomach.

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Dalston

Zengi

Zengi offers an unusual menu that has Syrian and northern Iraqi dishes flanking Middle Eastern staples. Owner Sam, who hails from Iraq, is happy to explain the more unusual dishes to novices; that way, you might find yourself with boxes full of slow-cooked okra stew (bahmia), Arbil kufta (a minced lamb kebab laced with fresh herbs) or Mousel kuba (thin slices of cracked wheat wrapping an almond- and sultana-studded lamb mince mixture). The restaurant is open late (but place your order before 11pm).

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Brick Lane

Albion at The Boundary Project

Rather whimsically, the British home-style cooking of Terence Conran’s Albion caff can now be enjoyed at… home. Most items from the regular menu can be ordered as takeaway through a dedicated hotline (listed below), and is ready for collection after an hour. Sides of mushy peas, minted new potatoes or cauliflower cheese can be slapped on to orders of chicken and crayfish pie, Barnsley pork chop or kedgeree. Of course, the order simply wouldn’t be complete without a serving of sticky toffee pudding.

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Brick Lane

Little Georgia

Solid Georgian cooking in a little nook of east London. You might be tempted to stick around and pull up a chair in the cosy dining room filled with vintage gramophones, fairy lights and serious portraiture; if you can’t, getting the food to take away is a good idea. The kitchen might lack a sense of urgency at times, so best call ahead for treats such as kharcho (beef stew with ground walnuts) or rich, flavoursome Georgian borscht.

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Haggerston

Needoo Grill

Both Needoo Grill and Tayyabs are prime examples of East End Pakistani restaurants, and both are good bets if you’re looking for big flavours and filling portions. Choose carefully: Needoo’s lamb chops aren’t quite on the same level as Tayyabs’s, but then their smoky tarka dal is simply exquisite. Either way, you will get a lot of masala for your buck. Both are willing to do delivery, but send your food via cab – so be wary that costs can skyrocket depending on where you live.

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Whitechapel

Square Pie

We’re guessing the rate of takeaways has skyrocketed during the World Cup. Square Pie gets their foot into this opportunity by way of World Cup-themed flavours; special edition pies such as rabbit with carrots, thyme and leeks represents England, while Germany gets a goulash-filled pie. Flavours will be pitched against each other in a tournament, with diners voting in their favourite to go head to head in the ‘final’ – apparently England have won three years in a row (funny, that). Like all Square Pies, they come laden with mash, boiled peas and gravy – the ultimate comfort takeaway.

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Spitalfields

Best takeaways in south London

Cah Chi

New Malden, near Kingston, is the home of London’s Korean community, and its many cafés with their bold, fiery flavours. If that’s a trip too far, Cah Chi in Raynes Park – one of the best Korean restaurants in London, run by the Cho family – has a branch in Earlsfield, run by the daughter, Judy Cho, which caters almost entirely to non-Korean customers. As a consequence some of the more exotic dishes (such as the pigs’ ears casseroles, pig’s liver, blood pudding) are omitted from this branch’s menu, but at least this way you’re not in for any unwelcome surprises. In the style of true Korean home cooking, Cah Chi make their own fermented soy bean pastes, used in dishes such as ga-ji ku-l (grilled aubergine topped with sweet ‘miso’ paste, £5.50). They also make their own kimchi, the Chinese leaf stained red from chilli, the sour, salty taste also from fermentation. This hot condiment is used in dishes such as the kimchi, pork and tofu spicy stew (jji-gae, £6.70), which the staff put into a lidded bowl for takeaway – and double-seal the red liquid contents with cling film, just to be extra safe. Side dishes, called panch’an, also appear in little plastic tubs in your takeaway bag, like treats: kimchi of course, but maybe also sweet aduki beans, or potato salad. If you’re not thinking or economising by not ordering steamed rice at £1.50, take into consideration that this is short-grained, slightly sticky oriental rice – the perfect foil to the spicy dishes.

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Earlsfield

Roti Joupa

Trinidadian food is hard to find in London, but fortunately you can find good roti, one of the staples dishes of Trinidad and Tobago. Roti is the Indian name for flatbreads made from unleavened wholewheat flour. The roti was brought to the West Indies from India by indentured labourers in the eighteenth century, and it remains a signature dish of Indo-Trinidadians. Since then, the flatbread has evolved into various forms,such as the ‘dhalpoorie roti’ – with a thin layer of dhal sandwiched in the middle, in this case slightly sweet ground lentils. The rotis themselves look like chamois leather, and have a similar elasticity. They’re usually served with a filling like a wrap, but if you’re doing a larger order or travelling far, owner Vash Mathura or his team pack them separately for you. Another, more paratha-like roti is called the ‘bus-up-shot’ (ie ‘busted-up shirt’) in Trini slang. To go with your roti you could try the tender chunks of meat in goat curry, spicy potato curry, channa aloo (chickpea and potato), or an orange pumpkin dish that’s almost a purée but chili-hot. Although it’s Caribbean customers who hold this place in most esteem, Roti Joupa’s rotis also attract a lot of customers brought up in Sri Lankan and South Africa. Very cheap, too: dhalpoori £1.50, bus-up-shot £1.

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Clapham

Café East

Friends of pho travel from afar to get a taste of what could be the closest thing you’ll find to the real aromatic soup back in Vietnam. Eating in is always a joy, but for takeaway orders, don’t worry about soggy noodles, claggy bun (vermicelli) or overcooked meat by the time you get home – staff meticulously package all the components of their excellent pho (flavoursome broth, springy flat rice noodles, fresh herbs and toppings ranging from prawn to chicken and beef) and bun (rice noodles, grilled meats, salad, nuoc cham dressing) into separate containers for you to reassemble when you get home. Well worth a detour.

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Surrey Quays

More

Theodore Kyriakou and Paloma Campbell’s brasserie serves big flavoured, creative food. Everything on the menu (apart from, naturally, ice creams and sorbets) can be packed up for takeaway: roasted poussin with a radicchio, French bean and crispy bacon salad followed by sour cherry, rosewater and semolina cake and yoghurt cream, perhaps? Allow 20-30 minutes between the time of placing your order and collecting it, and make sure you don’t confuse it with a similarly named venue opposite, where More is less.

Le Bouchon Bordelais

Sometimes the craving for roast chicken hits midweek, but who has the time to buy a chook, prep it, and wait the agonising 45-90 minutes for it to come to skin-crisp perfection – all after a long day at work? If you’re not prepared to stoop to eating factory-farmed supermarket or dodgy takeaway chicken, LBB’s ‘poulet emporter’ is a cut above. It’s priced at £8.95 for a half chicken, and comes with garlic butter, green beans and gratin dauphinoise. If you don’t feel like poultry, the classic French menu also offers the likes of braised ox cheeks, duck confit and fish soup with rouille and croûtons. You need to order before 6pm, though.

Masaledar

This East African Asian restaurant in Tooting reopened a few months ago after being spruced up by new owners. It’s still the pick of local ‘Indian’ takeaways, with the bonus of surprising affordable East African options such as mogo (cassava) chips (£3.25), masala fish, or the Pakistani/North Indian Muslim dish called nihari – lamb, slow-simmered on the bone.

Recipease

It’s takeaway with a twist at Jamie Oliver’s aspirational Clapham food shop – you’ll have to put a tiny bit of legwork in by way of cooking the assembled ingredients at home. Collect mains such as Italian-style sausage and bean stew, South Indian prawn curry or a ‘fantastic’ fish pie. For a tenner, you can choose a main plus a salad, side or pud for two people.

Adulis

This self-proclaimed ‘Little Eritrea’ is a treat, serving an extensive Eritrean menu consisting of traditional injera bread (made in-house daily) and tsebhi (stew) combinations. Vegetarian dishes are excellent too, azifa (spicy lentil stew) and shiro (spicy ground chickpeas) making our hitlist. Ghemberi (succulent Red Sea prawns) served with a piquant tomato and onion sauce on a bed of rice is a good choice.

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Kennington

Best takeaways in west London

Mosob

A short saunter from Westbourne Park tube, Mosob offers a friendly introduction to the intensely spiced cuisine of Eritrea and its tangy injera flat bread.The soft bread usually serves as both plate and utensil to scoop up morsels from a communal shared platter, the crumpet-like bread’s sour taste complementing the rich dishes. Try zigni lamb stew (£6.95), thick with dried red chilli powder and tomatoes, or zilzil qulwa (£8.50) – charred shreds of beef with caramelised onions and peppers, doused in spiced butter. The meat-free Lenten dishes include shiro, a silk-textured roast chickpea mash; timtimo, soft yellow and red lentils; and hamli, which is sautéed cabbage greens with garlic. Request a little pot of ajibo (75p), a delicate, crumbly cheese. If your taste buds dare, sample awaze, the fiery chilli dipping sauce. The welcoming proprietors are happy to explain and recommend dishes in this sparklingly clean restaurant, where the Abbay family recipes reign.

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Westbourne Park

Mandalay

The Ally family’s long-established restaurants is one of the few highlights along the northern drag of Edgware Road, and is currently the only restaurant in London where you can sample the intriguing cuisine of Burma. A rich mixture of influences from China, South East Asia and India is what sets Burmese apart from other cuisines available in the capital. It’s a tiny restaurant that books up quickly, so when you want a fix of khauk-swe (thin egg noodles in a spicy coconut sauce with either chicken or prawns), mohingar (vermicelli in a spicy catfish sauce tinted with lemongrass, shrimp paste and ginger) or pickle-style lamb (the meat is marinated in vinegar) we suggest you get it packed up to enjoy at home.

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Edgware Road

Abu Zaad

This Syrian restaurant is our current favourite of the Edgware Road Middle Eastern restaurants. Although not a late-night option (it shuts at 11pm), its dishes are unusual, made with great care, and come in generous portions at very reasonable prices. A bowl of fattet hommos comprises chickpeas, crisp fried pieces of flatbread and garlicky yoghurt, garnished with paprika and chopped parsley, served warm. Another vegetarian, main-sized starter is the hara isbah, pasta strips cooked up with tamarind and lentils, mixed up with more of that crisp fried bread, then topped with fresh coriander leaves and big chunks of red-hued radish pickle.Of course, the grilled meats are good too – minced lamb kebabs, for example, can be eaten wth a side order of freekeh (green, roasted wheat from the Levant).

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Edgware Road

Tosa

Venue says: Kushiyaki (grilled skewer) specialist Tosa offers a serious menu of Japanese izakaya-style dishes for takeaway. You can get the skewers if you like, but we doubt they’d taste as good at home as they do when fresh off the charcoal grill; instead, go for the excellent small dishes such as maguro natto (chunks of raw tuna with sticky fermented soy beans), seared salmon with ponzu sauce (pepped up with aniseedy shiso leaves) and refreshing seaweed salad (four varieties of seaweed) with a zippy sesame-based dressing. There’s also sushi and sashimi, and soba or udon (we like the chilled versions with an umami-packed tsuyu dipping sauce). Onigiri (rice balls) might be more of a lunchtime snack for young ’uns in Japan, but we like them as a filling end to a meal.

Kushiyaki (grilled skewer) specialist Tosa offers a serious menu of Japanese izakaya-style dishes for takeaway. You can get the skewers if you like, but we doubt they’d taste as good at home as they do when fresh off the charcoal grill; instead, go for the excellent small dishes such as maguro natto (chunks of raw tuna with sticky fermented soy beans), seared salmon with ponzu sauce (pepped up with aniseedy shiso leaves) and refreshing seaweed salad (four varieties of seaweed) with a zippy sesame-based dressing. There’s also sushi and sashimi, and soba or udon (we like the chilled versions with an umami-packed tsuyu dipping sauce). Onigiri (rice balls) might be more of a lunchtime snack for young ’uns in Japan, but we like them as a filling end to a meal.

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London

Sufi

Venue says: Enjoy a variety of home-cooking stews, grills, dips and traditional hearty dishes such as lamb shanks with dill rice.

Sufi is one of the few Iranian restaurants in London that is widely regarded among aficionados as being a good substitute for the home kitchen. Here you’ll find authentic dishes such as ash-e reshteh (a creamy mung bean and noodle soup with whey, fresh herbs and sautéed garlic) and perfectly sweet-and-bitter fesanjan (chicken with pomegranate juice and ground walnut sauce). They hope to resume their delivery service in a month or so, but for now it’s pick up only for takeaways. But it’s worth the extra legwork.

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London

Comments

2 comments
Dotschko
Dotschko

A great new delivery is Red Dog American Sandwiches on Hoxton square. They deliver on Sundays too.

Elspeth
Elspeth

Would love to receive info on all of the above!