Restaurant turnover in London is rife, but these three restaurants in Stoke Newington have done remarkably well and are much-loved by locals. They always have a buzzing atmosphere and reliably great food inspired by flavours from Tel Aviv, Kerala and Spain. All are ideal for date nights or meals out with mates, or families with older kids. Let’s dig in…
By Tiziana Murgo
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What do Scotland and Spain have in common? Escocesa (which means Scotland in Spanish) is the appropriately named North London restaurant where fresh seafood from Scotland and typical Spanish recipes come together in a lively atmosphere. As so much fresh Scottish seafood is shipped to Spain, the owners here thought why not make use it of in London, creating traditional Spanish tapas?
The place is bright and airy in the room at the back, cosier and darker it you sit at the counter and lovely if you can grab a stool at the pavement counter on warmer days. If you are going for a solo dinner or couple, I would definitely recommend the counter, where you get the most of the whole experience, watching the chefs while they create their plates, talking to them or just observing how they easily slide dishes after dishes after dishes. It is a mix of the Spanish style counter tapas dinner and the Japanese sushi spots. This restaurant makes an ideal spot for a date as it not too pretentious nor fast dinner, but it is also somewhere you would take your parents or grannies. Last week we met a brave dad having lunch with his two under two’s while mum (we were told) was gardening. They do have highchairs if you need them.
The style of the menu is the one of the typical tapas bars, with small dishes, mainly seafood, served quickly at your table one after the other as they get ready. Good choice of wines and liquors too. If you are after some particularly good value for money you cannot miss the great chance to have fresh Scottish oyster for £1 each, weekdays before 7pm. Also not to be missed is the paella at weekends, daytime – there’s a choice of Valenciana (mainly meat), Mariscos (fish), or arroz negro (fish, with black rice).
RASA N16 / TRAVANCORE
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South Indian cuisine means: Dosas (savoury paper-thin crepes), Idlis (rice cakes), and curries made with coconut. South Indian food is very different from North Indian cuisine and it is often vegetarian.
This is the case with Rasa, the very well established Keralan restaurant in Stoke Newington, North London. On Church Street in Stoke Newington you will actually find two Rasa restaurants, practically across the street from each other. Rasa N16 is all vegetarian and Travancore offers a mix of vegetarian and meat/seafood dishes. These cheery, consistently good restaurants are so well known among locals, many practically know the menus by heart.
With its pink entrance this iconic eatery cannot go unnoticed. The bright exterior gives way to a very exotic interior and you are going to forget you are in London as soon as you walk in.
The menu is endless with plenty of vegetarian choices, but coconut is pretty much in every dish. Plantains are also very popular and they are a great option for children and people who prefer non-spicy meals. While a lot of Keralan food is mild in heat, some can be spicy, but the waiters are very helpful in explain not only the ingredients of every dish but also how hot it can go. What I have noticed (and I didn’t expect) of the south Indian cuisine is that it is much lighter than her northern sister; still a lot of deep-fried little plates, but there is not as much butter and cream. I have been told that all meals in South India end with a cup of chai (tea) or filtered coffee (with lot of sugar and milk), so go for it!
Also, a complete meal is not complete in India without payasam (the sweet). Definitely go for the Mango Halwa (the chef’s specialty made with mango puree and cashew nuts and raisins) or the more classic banana dosa. I would recommend booking for dinner for groups of two or more as the place can be full any night of the week.
THE GOOD EGG
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There are many good reasons to visit The Good Egg in Stoke Newington: breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. Depending on the time of the day this Jewish/Middle Eastern café and restaurant will have plenty of choices for your palate and for your eyes too. In the morning pop in for a cosy, slow and soft breakfast with choices from morning buns to cinnamons buns and of course their specialty, the world famous babka. If you get early in the morning, as I do sometimes after school drop off, you could also be one of the lucky ones to assist to the final preparation of the babka, when they take it out of the oven, let it cool off, put the final syrup and serve. Breakfast buns are amazing, warm and soft and they are exactly what you need especially in these winter months. I am lucky to leave close enough to pop in just after a run or walk in the park, but I have to warn you that this just offsets all of the morning workout (and probably the whole week). Drinks are on the menu too of course and you could just stop by for a take away coffee or latte. If you go for juice (they have fresh grapefruit juice!) ask it without ice as they tend to overload it.
Brunch/Lunch Menu changes seasonally but the recipes and the ingredients are still typical of the Middle East. Shakshuka, flat bread with za’atar, Sabih (fluffy pita stuffed with fried aubergine, eggs, tahini and zesty accoutrements), bagels and smoked fish, and zingy sauces and dips. The authentic flavour and smells of the Middle East are all there.
We have not been at the Good Egg for dinner yet but there is plenty of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, plus you can opt for the “It is what it is” menu, when you let the chefs guide you through the menu, £40 per person, fizz included. The space here is not exactly child friendly – the seats are narrow and the room between tables is not much. It can be a struggle with a pushchair but it can be done in off-peak times. But generally unless you are accompanied by a very well-behaved child try to enjoy this meal with grown ups or with a good book. Be warned it’s very busy here on weekends but you can book ahead.
Lead image from The Good Egg.