5 Meals For A Fiver: Finsbury Park
From freshly blistered naans, to tabbouleh and falafel-stuffed wraps, to generous plates of Somali rice. Here’s how to spend £5 in N4.
A fiver, like Gary Lineker’s politics and 10pm bedtimes, tends to feel quite reasonable. Especially when it’s for a meal and not a sharing plate consisting of one borlotti bean that went to Steiner school. That’s why we’ve started 5 For A Fiver. Because there are plenty of brilliant and generous eating options within the realms of £5 across London, you just need to know about them.
These 5 are from Finsbury Park, an area that spans the bottom end of Seven Sisters Road, plus a bit of Stroud Green and Blackstock Roads too. It’s an area of north London rich in north and east African options, as well as the footfall of permanently dissatisfied Arsenal fans looking to eat their pain away.
Your £5 Options
Zamzam is permanently closed
Your order: Bariis iskukaris with chopped meat and soup (£5)
A plate of bariis iskukaris at Zamzam - a Somali vegetable rice dish packed with sweet peppers, spiced potatoes, soft peas, a handful of raisins, and other bits that taste like they’ve been bathing in a wonderful tub of chicken stock, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin (among other things) - is one of the best things you can eat around Finsbury Park. It comes with a pile of caramelised chopped beef and goat and, for £5, you can get a tasty potato and carrot soup too.
Your order: Any naan (30p-£4)
Aside from Arsène, Baban is the most loved name around this part of north London. The reason? His naan is sensationally delicious. To the point that when I lived around the corner, every meal became structured around the presence of a freshly baked, bubbling and crisp naan or three. And you’ll often find a queue of people thinking the same thing circa 4pm. They’re meals in themselves too though: a chilli cheese combo is always good for a couple of quid, as is a Kurdish kebab.
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Your order: Merguez baguette (£4)
Often filled with locals inside, hovering and joking by the doorway, or outside moped helmet in one hand and a hefty baguette in the other, La Casbah is a little Mediterranean cafe that encapsulates Blackstock Road’s energy. The most popular menu choice is a beef mince baguette, fried within an inch of its life on the hot plate, with an egg cracked in, before being mixed together with chips and chunks of onion, all stuffed into a soft baguette liberally spread with Tunisian harissa paste and mayo. It’s a big boy. But it’s the merguez you want. The spicy sausage has a much better punch of flavour, plus sausage and chips in a sandwich is always, always, a winner.
Gadz Coffee Bar
Your order: Falafel wrap (£5)
Falafel wraps aren’t as easy as they seem. They err between stodge and less internet-worthy versions of the cinnamon challenge, but Gadz’s is almost spot on. The freshly made warm falafel is both crisp and soft, the tabbouleh salad has crunch and a sweet but sharp hit of vinegar and pomegranate molasses, and then the whole thing is (perhaps controversially) stuck under a panini grill. You probably want to ask for a generous helping of hummus and tahini just to be on the safe side of moisture, but all in all, it’s a delicious, fresh option.
Your order: Hot doubles (£2.50)
The sibling to one of our favourite spots in Clapham, the north London branch of this Trinidadian takeaway is a two-second walk up Stroud Green Road and a consistently good way to break a fiver. Hot doubles - chewy baras filled with a warming channa that’s equal parts cumin and comfort, topped with dashes of both hot and a fruity tamarind sauce - is the go-to.