The Best Bread In London
An old, dumb, and wholly incorrect restaurant adage is about not filling up on bread. It’s stupid. Bread is obviously the greatest invention of all time. Why do you think the idiom about sliced bread goes how it does? The thing is, there’s also a lot of bad bread out there as well. Stodgy and sad, it takes up room like a man spreader at rush hour. So if you want to double down on bread, which you absolutely should, then you want to make it worthy. From fresh naan to sweet soda bread, this is officially the best bread (you can get from restaurants) in London.
Soda, sourdough, and focaccia
Unquestionably the best bread plate in London and, in fact, the whole entire universe. Noble Rot’s bread means more to us than most of our friends, family, and exes. A tricolore plate of brown tones in the form of a tri-carb of slices (soda, sourdough, and focaccia), this is bread that once eaten is reordered. And reordered. And possibly reordered again. But which is the best on the plate? The focaccia or the soda. No offence sourdough. The former… is a marvel. Crisp on the crust and about 90% oil, this focaccia has not merely adopted the olive oil it was cooked in but was born in it; moulded by it. The recipe is from The Sportsman, the renowned Whitstable restaurant where former head chef Paul Weaver worked, while the soda bread is à la another legendary seafood restaurant in the shape of Bentleys. It’s a black treacle recipe. Sweet and crumbly and cake-like, with a smear of salted butter it makes us wonder: what is the point of menus? Because when bread—the king, the empress, the czar of all foodstuffs—is this good, you need nothing else.
Flatbread, pitta, and occasional challah
There is breadth in Oren’s offering. Breadth. You can can’t spell breadth without you know what. The Israeli-influenced spot in Dalston serves many brilliant breads, essential to mopping up its many delicious dishes. There are stone baked flatbreads, blistered with little black bubbles and covered in olive oil and mushed tomatoes. There’s homemade challah, its glaze gleaming in the candlelight, waiting to be torn apart. And then there’s the pitta. Grilled to a blackened char, the juice of lamb fat running through it—on the (hot) rocks, if you will. Warm and pillowy, it’s even more irresistible combined with the luscious house hummus.
Normah’s roti, like the finest croissant from a Parisian patisserie, is a flaky and buttery thing. The Malaysian stalwart’s bread is made to be shredded apart, its multiple layers soft and crumbly, all to hold the sauces of beef rendang and other curries. Or, in our opinion, best used as a makeshift and delicious napkin. Like all great bread craftspeople, chef Normah knows that while her rotis may only be seen as vehicles for other more substantial or saucy things, it’s a lovingly kneaded and slapped bit of dough that separates the wheat from the chaff.
Garlic and cheese naan
You’ll find Ararat’s bread all over London. In little corner shops, local supermarkets, and maybe even in your mouth at a restaurant—you just might not necessarily know it. The small Pakistani bakery on Ridley Road throws hundreds of flatbreads on a daily basis and we like them straight from the source. Out of the oven, bubbled and chewy, topped with a load of garlic and cheese or, even better, an meat. The fact you can pick them up for a quid or two, wrapped and ready to launch into is an enormous bonus. If you’re looking for a sit-down session with Ararat’s flatbreads in a restaurant, look no further than Bubala.
Grilled flatbreads, bread and butter
You shouldn’t fill up on bread in a restaurant. That’s what _they_ say. They being a sanctimonious internet egg, a distant relative you see at a wake buffet or, perhaps, the person you plan to spend the rest of your life with. Whoever it is, they’re wrong. And they’re really very wrong when it comes to Brat. The wood-fired bread here is something we wouldn’t mind eating for the rest of our life. It comes in different forms. There are the grilled flatbreads: palm-sized pockets of hot air, dough, and blackened craters topped with three luscious bathing anchovies. And then there’s the bread and butter: crusts singed to a smoky crack, drizzled in oil, with a dollop of creamy burnt onion butter. To quote ourselves, “it tastes like it’s been grilled and churned by a deity.”
photo credit: Baban's Naan
A bowl of bananas down the market. An indeterminate number of hot wings from bossman. Three freshly made naan slapped in the tandoor and slid out warm and bubbling. What do these three treats have in common? They’re all just £1. Much as we love the hot wing haggle, it’s Baban’s Naan we want to talk about. During our time living in N4, our naan intake was truly off the chain thanks to the tiny shop on Blackstock Road. Its naans would elevate the most bang average of weeknight curries into something quite delicious. We still prefer them tandoor-fresh though. Slapped in, shifted around, and slid out. Piping hot, exhaling bubbling heat, sprinkled with za’atar, and wrapped with kubba and salad, or whatever else takes your fancy.
“FM(L), this bread will seduce you.” Not our words but the words of LisaJemma, a 69 reviews-strong contributor to TripAdvisor. Punny skills aside, Jemma knows her stuff. Because great things can always be made greater, so it’s no wonder that FM Mangal’s already delicious flatbread—warmed over the ocakbasi and ready to be dunked, dipped, and mop all in its path–is made even better by a little sizzle and spice. It’s first whacked on top cooking kebabs to soak up some of their fizzling fats, before being smeared in spices. Glistening from the grill and smoky from the spice mixture, this isn’t a single basket problem.
First thing’s first: Balady doesn’t make its own pita. They get it in from Taboon on Golders Green Road, but that doesn’t matter. Not one iota. Because firstly, they have the good sense to realise that Taboon’s pittas are the best in the business. Fluffy and cavernous pockets that are begging to be filled with a pick ‘’n mix array of falafel, aubergine, hummus, amba, and more. Of course, you can also go straight and pair fresh warm pitta with a 2oz tub of hummus and just go at it. Tear it off and get some aubergine and tahini to soak up while you’re in the swing of things.
A slice of bread is not a slice of toast. Deep, right? We’ll leave that with you for another second. The reason we’re thinking this is because the number one rule of bread in restaurants, the one to live by, is that bread should _always_ be torn. At Zeret that isn’t a problem. Not just because injera doesn’t come in slices, but because injera is made to be torn and grabbed, and felt between your finger tips. Rather than come in small rolls ready to pick up, Zeret’s platters come on one enormous, UFO-like injera, soft but not stodgy, sour but not tart, and ready to be devoured from the outside edges in.
In the words of Omar Little, if you come at the king you best not miss. Admittedly, he wasn’t talking about missing out on Roti King’s luscious roti canai but who cares? The flatbreads made at this legendary Malaysian spot are no secret. In fact, they stay with you. Buttery finger stains at the top of your jeans, rogue drips of curry on your t-shirt. That’s what Roti King’s roti canai is: a flaky velvety vehicle for sauces.
As far as blackboards go, there are rarely, if ever, any mistakes on the one at Quality Wines. Big plates change but the sections that read salumi and snacks do not. This includes the £3 focaccia plate, a three-slice gesture to the God of EVO. Yes because, you guessed, the focaccia from this blackboard comes from the same school as Noble Rot’s and The Sportsman’s before it. It’s not the school of hard knocks, it’s the school of big glugs. Gleaming to the point of appearing polished, with a galaxy of craters and crevices to hold that oil, it’s one of the finest focaccias around.
Complimentary flatbread and cacik
Call us tight, old-fashioned, or any number of other things (behind our back, please) but you just can’t beat free bread. Free. Bread. It just sounds right, doesn’t it. Traditional Turkish restaurants are now one of the only reliable endorsers and providers of free bread in London and Gökyüzü’s has a special place in our heart. The manner in which the still-warm-get-it-in-my-face flatbread arrives on your table here—wordlessly and with some immediacy—never fails to make our heart flutter. The fact that it comes with a plate of cacik and dressed salad too, well, it’s just like people of a certain generation say: sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
Big special bread
One of our favourite genres of bread—of which you should now be realising there are many_is the whole table bread. You know, an injera, or a naan, or a Persian flatbread that’s so big, so shamelessly gargantuan and all-encompassing, that it may as well have its own seat at the table. Or better yet, a table to itself. This is the genre of Patogh’s big special bread. It’s slapped inside the oven before emerging as a giant sombrero-sized disc topped with sesame seeds. It’s textures on textures too. Shatteringly cracker-like on the edges and wafer-soft and tearable in the middle. A perfect pairing to anything.
Complimentary bread and butter
There isn’t a word in the English language that does justice to describe the combination of free, seemingly unlimited, and delicious carbohydrates. Irresistible, yes, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling, the je ne sais quoi, of woofing down the first basket of Brasserie Zédel’s still-warm, completely addictive sliced baguette, before catching the eye of a member of staff, looking down at the empty basket, looking back to them, nodding, and mouthing T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U. Again. Again. And again.