We are all familiar with the Lebanese restaurants peppered across Edgware Road, but exploring the streets off the main road reveals how this hyper-diverse part of London has created mini communities. Naturally, this in turn creates a demand for their home food. Kurdistan has no menu, no food pictures on the walls or counters, but you’ll find it packed with locals. English is rarely heard inside and every person who walks in is greeted like an old friend.
It’s a wonderful and intimidating place to walk into. I walk up to a waiter to ask what a Kurdish breakfast is (as it was 10am) and he told me lentil soup, or ‘Nisk’, which I saw two ladies eating. So I asked for some and it came with a quarter of a raw onion, a slice of lemon and a huge naan-like bread (£3). The salty lentil soup was warming, the onion an obscure addition, and the bread freshly made.
Perhaps next time I’ll try a flatbread with za’atar and cheese, or some liver and onions which was being prepared for lunch, who knows. But don’t you love London for having places like these?
£14 (2 people)
59 Church Street, Marylebone, London NW8 8EP
Open Monday to Friday: 10AM-9PM
Open Sunday: 10AM-6PM
This restaurant is not bright, there is no courtyard and it’s not a club. But as far as I’m aware, it is unique in that it has an all-you-can-eat à la carte dim sum offering – something of a rarity in London and certainly a bright idea (only available Mon-Fri 12-4.30pm). Dim Sum aficionados? You may have just found heaven.
The décor is elegant and classy – ceiling high vintage wine cabinets on display. The standard à la carte menus are presented on iPads, with items including Braised Shark’s Fin (£48), Braised Abalone on Rice (£36) and Iberico Pork Pot Stickers (£12)…it’s just that sort of place. But the all-you-can-eat dim sum menu at £18pp presents much better value and less pretentiousness, although it’s a meagre paper menu. Pfft.
The selection available to choose from is slightly smaller than the average dim-sum restaurant menu, but more than enough to not feel limited at all. The dishes are all-round on par with the best in Chinatown. Special mention must go to the mooli croissants, dough stick cheung fun and Shanghai dumplings. Steer clear of the stodgy chestnut patties.
£56 (2 people)
43-45 Baker Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 8EW
020 7486 6998
Bright Courtyard Club: Website / Facebook / Twitter
Only by looking at the entrance of the small café at Baker Street it feels like this place is somewhat unreal: seems like it was drawn in the city landscape canvas or carefully cut out from an old-fashioned sepia photography and glued to the NAME street. When you turn out to be inside the place, the magic continues: as Lewis Caroll’s Alice, who went after the White Rabbit into the hole, you are invited to follow the stairs to the downstairs level. There, the cosy interior with vintage lamps, beautiful photographs on walls, and a cosy fireplace create the atmosphere of a warm countryside house.
The menu, which is happily affordable, represents a trendy combination of organic salads, hot dishes, and desserts, including soft and moist cardamon-buns. Having its sister restaurant in Japan, Monocle also offers a variety of fusion Asian cuisine: try grilled-sandwich with deep-fried shrimps and chips on the side and a delicate green-tea cheesecake with white chocolate flakes, – and you will be left craving for more.
£15 (2 people)
18 Chiltern Street London W1U 7QA
0207 725 4388
The Monocle Café: Website / Menu / Twitter
On a glorious sunny Saturday afternoon, no city shines brighter than London, and not many parts of London are more of a testament to that fact than James Street off Oxford Street. With its cobblestone pavements and courtyards filled with al fresco diners feasting on crepes and pizza, James Street combines London vibrance with the joyousness of Rome.
Thus, it’s not very surprising that amongst these by-lanes brews one of London’s best coffees. So subtle is Workshop Coffee Co’s presence that I walked past it 3 times before realising it was in front of me. Let this not fool you though, as their coffee certainly makes its presence felt. The Machiatto I ordered left my taste buds happily knocked and jolted around and the high levels of acidity gave this coffee an awesome kick. The texture of the coffee was thick with the right amount of foam to make it feel smooth on the tongue. Also, the beans they used in making the coffee (their own brand) created a fantastic aroma, leaving an aftertaste so memorable my sushi dinner tonight tasted like Machiatto.
Considering there are 2 and a quarter seats available, it can be quite the challenge to get a place to sit at Workshop Coffee Co. People generally seemed to squeeze their stools into available pockets of air, however I found that one such pocket was sacred and must never be touched by a mere mortal. Despite there being an empty stool near the napkins, for some reason any time someone would try sit there, the baristas would drop whatever they were doing and sprint across the 1 metre long kitchen to tell them (politely of course) to move elsewhere. Aside from this mysterious ritual, the baristas couldn’t be more friendly and inviting. I actually felt like ordering more just to make them happy.
While the by-lanes of James Street really do spoil you for choice, I would strongly recommend that you let yourself get spoilt instead by what truly is a special coffee at Workshop Coffee Co.
75 Wigmore St, London W1U 1QD
020 7487 4902
Workshop Coffee Co: Website / Facebook / Twitter